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BLOODSPORT, 1988
Movie Reviews!

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  MOVIE POSTER BLOODSPORT, 1988
Movie Reviews

Directed by: Newt Arnold

Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Donald Gibb, Leah Ayres, Bolo Yeung

Review by Travis Seppala

SYNOPSIS:

Army Captain Frank Dux, who has spent his life training in martial arts with a former Ninjutsu world champion and legend, heads to Hong Kong to compete in the Kumite fighting tournament. He is tracked down by a paid of government police who want to bring him back to the United States (and U.S. Army) before he gets himself hurt or worse in the brutal full-contact competition.

REVIEW

I've seen this movie about 7,463,212 times (give or take) on TBS over the last couple decades. Interestingly enough, I've never once seen it from beginning to end. Every time I've seen it on TV it's already in the middle of the tournament, usually at the match where we see Jackson get nearly killed by Chong Li and Chong Li points at Dux and says “You're next!”

I happened to find the Jean-Claude Van Damme “collection” (it just has “Bloodsport” and “Time Cop”... not much of a collection if you ask me) at Borders for like a dollar so I thought “Sure, I'll watch this classic martial arts movie and review it for WildSoundMovies.com!” Let's just say you guys owe me big time! Numerous fighters of various backgrounds train hard for the coming Kumite, an illegal underground single elimination full-contact martial arts tournament. One fighter (seen kicking a speed bag) is Captain Frank Dux of the United States Army. He's signed to take a leave to go to this tournament, but unfortunately for him his superior officers have found out what his plans are during his leave. They send an MP to bring him in (presumably to cancel his leave) but Dux escapes and goes AWOL.

Before leaving for Hong Kong, Dux stops at the home of his martial arts teacher Senzo Tanaka, a world famous former Ninjutsu champion. While in the home of his teacher, Dux has a lengthy flashback that shows the audience how he came to be a martial artist... As a teenager, Dux broke into Tanaka's house with two other boys who try to steal a katana on display in the living room. Dux gets caught and when he tries to explain that he wasn't stealing it, Tanaka cuts off the bill of Dux's hat. Dux does not flinch. Impressed, Tanaka decides to teach Dux, but ends up using him more of a punching bag for his son Shingo. Years later, when Shingo has died, Tanaka reluctantly agrees to train Dux instead. Over the course of time, Dux goes from being a terrible fighter to being good enough to better his teacher while blindfolded.

Back in present day, Dux goes to Hong Kong for the tournament, not knowing he's being tailed by two government agents (played by Norman Burtman and a young Forrest Whitaker). Once in Hong Kong, Dux makes friends with another American in the tournament: the overweight biker Ray Jackson. The two are inseparable for the rest of the 3 days they're in Hong Kong. Before the first round begins, Dux meets American reporter Janice Kent who is in Hong Kong in hopes of getting coverage of the illegal (but world renowned) martial arts tournament. Dux and Janice start a relationship which seems like it might hold Dux back from becoming the first Western fighter to win the tournament. He has much bigger problems when it becomes evident that the top seeded fighter in the tournament is the current champion, Chong Li who is notorious for crippling and sometimes killing his opponents.

“Bloodsport” is a cult classic. There's no denying that. It was made for just over $1million and grossed over $11million in the United States alone and shows some seriously badass fight sequences and is based on the supposedly true story of Frank Dux (although, according to the Los Angeles Times, Frank Dux's stories of his background in the martial arts tournament is completely fabricated and even the tournament itself never took place and, under investigation, had Dux's own home address as it's location!

However, “Bloodsport” is a cult classic for it's awesome fighting... not so much for the acting, story, or quality of film making, all of which are severely lacking!

The acting in this movie is absolutely horrendous! Everyone in the film (even Forrest Whitaker) sound like first time actors just trying to remember their lines let alone have any sort of realistic inflection to their voices. Everything is either so bland it's painful to watch, or so over the top it becomes unintentionally hilarious (depending on the scenes and who's in them).

The editing in this movie is disjointed and useless. The worst offender is the large flashback scene where we find out Dux's background and how he became a martial artist. The interspersed in the lengthy flashback are brief shots of present day Dux staring off into space remembering... as if the editor was afraid that we the audience would forget that the unfolding events were a flashback. It's obvious it's a flashback, so why do we need all those short cuts of Van Damme looking like a deer caught in headlights?!

The fighting is excellent though... at least in MOST of the movie. During the tournament, the fighting is brilliant and intense and it's the whole reason “Bloodsport” became such a popular movie in the first place. In the flashback sequence where we see Dux training, his sparring with Tanaka looks so slow and unrealistic. I can't decide if the problem in those scenes is bad fight choreography, mistimed editing, or a combination of the two.

So by all means, watch “Bloodsport” to see some excellent martial arts... just don't expect an excellent movie... or even an adequate one for that matter. Terrible movie with amazing fighting. I guess it's a good thing that's all I ever saw on TV... in fact, if you decide to watch “Bloodsport”, you're probably better off just skipping the first 3rd of the movie and just soaking in the martial arts tournament. You'll enjoy the film much more that way!

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BLOODSPORT, 1988