By Christian DiMartino
Bloodsport is a great film because it is such a terrible one. The magnitude of its awful delivers nothing but sheer joy.
Two things must be confessed here. The first being that, aside from this movie, I do not believe that I have seen another film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, which doesn’t sound right considering the plethora of movies I have sat through, great and horrible. The second being that Bloodsport makes me want to see the other ones. Not because he is a good actor, necessarily, but because he is someone who could be very entertaining. People say Schwarzenegger isn’t a very good actor, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Yet Schwarzenegger is better than JCVD, who here comes across like a muscular Tommy Wiseau, but in this case, he got a proper movie career… if you call it that. That being said, he is entertaining.
Sounds like I’m trash-talking, and in ways I am. So, why 3 stars? I have written harsh reviews for terrible movies over the years, and yet THIS movie, which I admit is terrible, gets 3 stars? Yes, because here is a movie that delivers greatness in awful ways, and awfulness in great ways. It’s honestly awesome, in the way that it oozes with cheese, terrible writing and acting, and a plot that might’ve been plausible but, in the hands of this crew, is in a whole new milky way of silly due to its execution. It’s so bad, it’s great, and these things don’t happen by accident.
Van Damme plays Frank Dux, an American martial artist serving in the military. Now, wait wait wait… an American? I get that it’s a little too early into the synopsis to be pointing out the problems but… an American? I just… do not see how that is possible. The guy pronounces “bank account” like “bankhacauhn.” But I digress. We see how Frank came to be, which is shown through flashbacks that display how he learned to fight. This, in my opinion, is where the laughter first ensues. Not only is the accent of the younger Van Damme hysterical (as hysterical as, say, the idea that he’s an American), but throughout the flashback, it continuously cuts back to Van Damme, pulling the same face, as he reflects upon it. Typically, when a flashback occurs, we see the thought occur, and then we proceed to the flashback. Not here though, no no, we must see just how deep in thought Van Damme is, even when he’s… deep in thought.
Anyways, Dux has been trained most of his life to compete in the Kumite, which is essentially the ultimate martial arts tournament- people can get seriously injured, or die, yada yada. I, for one, was more enamored with the fact that the people involved in this movie must really love the word “Kumite.” It feels as if they looked for ways to incorporate it into a sentence, and they love the word so much that they even wrote a very 80’s song about it, set to a very cornily enthralling 80’s montage during the… Kumite. Again, I digress. Dux says “Boy, bye” to the army and travels to Hong Kong to compete in the… dammit, I have to say it again, Kumite. Amidst battling in the… Kumite, Dux has trouble outside the… Kumite, involving a group of army officers who try to bring him back in, but also he must battle against the villainous Chong Li in the… Kumite. This Chong Li, in terms of the… Kumite, is a big meanie, and after a certain point in the plot, for Dux, the… Kumite is personal.
Bloodsport is indeed a bad movie, but it’s the best kind of bad movie. One that brings laughter and joy, and yet it’s honestly awesome in just how gloriously bad it is. It’s clear that this film was trying to cater to Van Damme’s crowd, and in doing so, perhaps ironically, they catered to me as well. The film is spectacular in its muscle-headedness, not to mention its 80’s-ness. In trying to make a badass action flick, Van Damme and Co. succeed, more or less, in making a badass action flick, but also a film that is gloriously corny, ridiculous, and over-the-top, and in a strange way, it almost enhances the badassery. You may laugh at it, or you may laugh with it, but chances are, you will laugh. Bloodsport is at its best when its at its worst, and luckily for us, its at its worst a pretty good chunk of the time.
Streaming on Netflix