Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema: we’re on a mission from God. And that mission is to bring you a weekly catalogue of the best of the worst that cinema has to offer you. Broadcasting live from the free Wi-Fi signal we picked up sitting behind that McDonald’s, each week we pick a deliciously awful film and tear it apart piece by piece.
But then we remember how much we actually love it, and try, futilely, to convince you why. We’ll top it off with a tasty treat for you to enjoy while watching that will go with the film like peanut butter and ketchup. So grab a spork and let’s get started!
This week’s treat? Bloodsport! Bricks not hit back this time!
What Makes It Bad?
OK, so here’s the deal. JCVD plays the hero, obviously, a military man of some sort named Frank Dux. Dux is apparently pronounced “dukes” as opposed to “ducks” which happens to rhyme with “sucks,” which I’m sure is just coincidence. When he hears that his martial arts trainer and father-figure Tanaka has fallen ill, he decides to represent the Tanaka clan in the prestigious but lethal Kumite tournament in Hong Kong. It’s something he’s always wanted to do to honor Tanaka, and now seems the time. The military learns of his intentions and tries to stop him, but Dux runs off to Hong Kong. Luckily, they send their best men to track him down, including the great Forest Whitaker, who sports a neat flat top and wanders around wondering why he agreed to be in this film. Frank lands in Hong Kong and meets up with Ray Jackson, the only other American fighter. Ray is arrogant and blustery and draws the ire of Kumite champion, Chong Li. When Ray reaches his match with Chong Li, he is bested and Chong puts him in the hospital. Frank uses his desire for revenge as motivation as he prepares for the final showdown with Chong Li.
Pay no attention to the fact that this is more or less the plot of Kickboxer with a few details mixed around. In Kickboxer, JCVD is the corner man for his brother, Eric. When Eric is badly injured by a Thai champion, JCVD vows revenge, goes through an extended training montage, and then shows up to kick ass. But Bloodsport is different, because the training montage is in a flashback at the beginning and Frank and Ray aren’t brothers. Otherwise…
When Frank first enters Tanaka’s home, we’re treated to an extended flashback sequence. We see that Tanaka caught Frank breaking into his home with some friends, and offered to train him in martial arts alongside his son, Shingo, in exchange for not calling the police. Young Frank took to his training like me to a cheeseburger. The training montage is made up almost entirely of JCVD running around and sweating a lot while Tanaka scowls at him. At least, that’s what the editing would have you believe. Here’s how I assume the screenplay was written for this section:
EXT. TANAKA HOME – DAY
FRANK’s training continues on a hot summer day.
SMASH CUT TO:
TANAKA scowling even harder-er!
Now that’s some damn fine screenwriting!
When young Frank beats up some kids at school that are picking on Shingo, he “thanks” Frank by saying “Some day, I’ll fight in the Kumite and make my father proud.” They then shake hands and walk off as the kids in the background clap. That’s an actual scene! In an incredible feat of quick storytelling, the very next scene we see is Frank at, like, 20 comforting Tanaka after Shingo’s untimely death. It’s a flashback within a flashback. Bloodsport has Inception-level flashbacks. That’s some impressive shit!
In the flashbacks, young Frank is wearing a San Francisco Giants hat and a New York Giants jersey. It’s like somebody told a wardrobe assistant that they needed Giants clothes and that person had never seen professional sports before. It’s such a weird combination to see, it just boggles the mind. I really want to hear the story of how that wardrobe occurred and why no one on set spoke up to say, “hey guys, those are DIFFERENT GIANTS!”
Frankly Frank’s wardrobe throughout the entire film is just ludicrous. Mostly he wears a singlet-type shirt tucked into light colored pants pulled way up past his bellybutton. After the first day of fighting, Forest Whitaker and his buddy finally catch up with Frank who is inexplicably wearing a gold blazer like he’d just won the Asian Masters or was up for induction into the NFL Hall of Fame. He flees the scene and we’re treated to a nice running-through-Hong Kong montage, replete with golden jacket whipping in the wind. And if you’re curious, JCVD was apparently a bikini brief man back in 1988.
Speaking of montages, this film features somewhere near a dozen. Almost all of the Kumite fights are presented in montages and, of course, all of the montages are set to kicking 80s songs. There’s even one where JCVD “trains” by doing the splits out on his balcony overlooking Hong Kong.
Most of the fighters are one-off’s never to be seen or heard from again. However, one of the competitors, an African gentlemen, is showcased two or three different times. This is perhaps because his fighting style involves scrambling around on all fours, slapping both his opponent and himself and generally doing his best gorilla impersonation. There’s pretty much no way to describe this without sounding racist, but there you go.
JCVD’s signature move is to slide to the floor doing the splits and uppercut his opponent square in the nuts. Where is the honor in that? Even Eric Cartman, unarguably a terrible fictional character, finds no honor in testicular and penile trauma. Yet JCVD sees no problem with serving up the low blow. Thankfully he only does this once or twice in competition, but we see him training by doing the splits throughout the film. He appears to be meditating, but he’s actually thinking about sinking his fist deep into some other dude’s junk. Fighting!
Why I Love It!
Frank is surrounded by lovable buffoons like his fellow American competitor and Mick Foley lookalike contest winner, Ray Jackson. He’s the typical blustery American: big and loud and arrogant with a massive beard that rivals my own. Ray may be my favorite character. He gets some of the best lines in the whole film. Favorites include: “That’s why they call it bloodsport, kid!” “Time to separate the men from the boys” and “I ain’t your pal, dickface!” He even calls out the champion, Chong Li, for no apparent reason, after his first fight. Ray may be the greatest sidekick of all time.
Frank’s idea of saving the damsel in distress involves betting the girl on his ability to snatch a quarter from the bad guys open palm before he can close his hand. Betting with humans is fun and a totally acceptable way to go about being the hero!
The damsel in question is a blond-haired doe-eyed investigative reporter trying to track down information on the mysterious and secretive Kumite tournament. For virtually no reason at all, Frank decides to help her. This is counter-balanced by the fact that there’s no reason for this city girl from the States to have even heard of Kumite in the first place or have any interest in it, let alone risk her life by flying to Hong Kong alone and proceed to piss off a bunch of Asian badasses by asking around about Kumite with all the subtlety of a brick through a stained glass window.
Of course, Bloodsport features an incredible 80s soundtrack. The crown jewel of this musical accompaniment is probably “Fight to Survive” by Stan Bush, the chorus of which just shouts “Kumite” over and over. Songwriting at its finest!
I remember when I was 8 or 9, my best friend told me about this film. He used the words “compound fracture,” something I’d never heard of at the time. I quickly discovered that it meant a broken bone where the bone rips through the skin. So, of course, I had to see this movie! That was the big selling point and I waited patiently until Chong Li reared back and sent a devastating blow to his opponent’s leg that, as promised, splintered the bone and sent it shooting up through the skin. It was disgusting and awesome then and it is still badass today. You don’t want to mess with Chong Li!
When Frank arrives to fight in the final round of the Kumite, he’s ambushed by Whitaker and his buddy. But he escapes by grabbing a trash can lid and deflecting their taser darts at two Hong Kong police officers. Brilliant!
But seriously, the best part of this film is JCVD. The man is an unrelenting badass and he’s always fun to watch. The Muscles from Brussels certainly doesn’t disappoint in this film, despite it being one of his earliest roles. He looks like he’s about 16, though the magic of IMDb and subtraction tells me that he was actually 28 during this film. But that doesn’t stop him from kicking a lot of ass. Thankfully, the film is paced pretty well, balancing the ridiculous montages with a goodly amount of fight scenes. You watch these kinds of movies to chew bubblegum and watch JCVD kick people and there’s plenty of bubblegum to go around.
Maybe the best part of the entire film occurs at the end. The movie ends on a freeze frame, of course, and if you didn’t see that coming, then I’m not sure you actually watched the film. After the freeze frame, the following text appears on screen: This motion picture is based upon true events in the life of FRANK W. DUX. Awesome! This is based on a true story?! Are you kidding me?!?!? Somewhere in Hong Kong there is actually an underground full contact Kumite tournament? That’s easily the best news I’ve heard all day.
Junkfood Pairing: McDonald’s Chicken McNugget meal, Super Sized!
I could make up something about adding sweet and sour sauce to make it kinda like Chinese food and the french fries are kind of American for an East meets West type of thing, but honestly, there’s pretty much no food in this film and nothing to draw on for a junkfood pairing. And a McDonald’s Chicken McNugget meal sounds great right now! So grab yours to go and enjoy!