Bloodsport (1988)

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Jean-Claude Van Damme stars in his breakout role as Frank Dux (pronounced “Dukes”). Dux is an army captain who was trained in martial arts by a childhood friend’s father. In order to bring honor to his teacher after his son dies, he travels to Hong Kong to fight in an illegal martial arts tournament called the “Kumite.” There are fighters from all over the world, and the tournament itself has a notorious reputation for being brutal and deadly.

Bloodsport is a movie dripping with borderline racism (sometimes extremely blatant) and toxic masculinity. The characters are not much more than stereotypes and poorly written caricatures. And there are numerous plot holes and things left totally unanswered. (How does his childhood friend die? What exactly is it that he does in the army?) But I think the biggest weakness this movie has is it’s totally nonsensical timeline. Event after event after event happens and then Dux says,”I’ll meet you for dinner tonight.”  When does he get trained for this tournament? In the two days before he leaves or sometime while he’s in the army? There’s no clear markers as to when anything happens.

Not to say there isn’t some genuine fun in this movie, such as the fight scenes. Considering that Bloodsport is a movie based around an illegal full contact martial arts tournament, it’s a really good thing that these scenes are entertaining. They’re full of unrealistic blood, definitely physically impossible fighting movies, and gratuitous slow motion, all set to an 80’s-tastic soundtrack.  It’s fighting movie cheese at its peak.

But as the two dimensional love interest Janice asks,”What is there to understand about a bunch of guys who have to prove themselves by beating each other’s brains out?” I don’t really think the movie ever truly answers this question, try as it might. The goals of honor and revenge aren’t fleshed out enough to mean anything, and you’re just left with bloody violence. Bloody violence that’s overblown and entertaining in it’s absolute ridiculousness, but still just pointless violence. And “That’s why they call this thing bloodsport, kid!”

-Alli Hobbs

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One thought on “Bloodsport (1988)

  1. Beautiful analysis. These films satisfy something primal in men; a chance to devolve to a state of maleness that echoes through the core of masculinity from the very dawn of our being. Maybe the marginalisation of masculinity in modern society can explain the popularity of beards!? – Man connecting to the last remnants of what powers his very essence. 🙂

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