To kick off the Cool Summer 2019 festivities, I thought Hong Kong was a good a place to begin. Much of my youth was spent fantasizing about ninjas and devouring any martial arts magazine or movie that I could get my hands on, and one of the biggest movies of them all was Bloodsport, starring a young Jean Claude Van Damme and those cringe-worthy splits.
Bloodsport is one of those movies that I seemed to have on endless repeat back in the 80’s. I don’t know how many times I watched it, but it was a lot — a whole lot — but it’s probably been over 25 years since I sat and watched it all the way through. Last night, I revisited the Kumite with the AWOL Frank Dux. You’ve all seen the movie, so I’m not going to summarize the plot, but rather relay a few thoughts on viewing the movie after such a long hiatus.
You know you are in for a good time when you see this pop up on your screen…
And if you really want to set the mood, listen to Stan Bush’s “Fight to Survive” anthem from the movie.
If that doesn’t get you punching the person sitting next to you on the couch, then I don’t know what will.
The writers of this movie rewrote the script for Rocky with a martial arts storyline, and moved it from Philadelphia to Hong Kong. This movie is probably what most people think of when they think of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) on the big screen.
Frank Dux (pronounced DUKES) goes AWOL from an American military base to fight in an underground, full-contact fighting championship called the Kumite. A young Forest Whitaker is one of the feds that goes all the way to Hong Kong to bring him back, with the use of some archaic tasers!
The majority of the movie is one fight scene after another, which is why my teenage self couldn’t get enough of it. The plot may be shallow, but the fight scenes run deep — and dark.
There are the two scenes that always come to mind when I think of Bloodsport:
The infamous splits…
…and the cheapest shot ever filmed. How is that even legal?
To be honest, I remember the fights being much more brutal and gory than they actually were. This movie is tame compared to anything that you might find on Netflix today. Sure, there was a broken bone scene and a couple of deaths in the ring, but you’ll see worse than that in most modern TV dramas. It’s R rating seems a bit out of whack knowing what appeared in plenty of of 80’s PG movies.
Random thoughts while watching:
- I had completely forgotten about the scenes of Frank Dux as a child and being the punching bag for Tanaka’s son — reminiscent of Mr. Miyagi and Daniel-san.
- The stereotypes are pretty atrocious. There’s no way would this movie be remade the same way today.
- I couldn’t stop picturing Donald Gibb (Jackson) as his character in Revenge of the Nerds, and was waiting for him to utter “Nerds!” the whole time.
- JCVD is ripped.
- Chong Li is a truly frightening villain.
- The lead female character, played by Leah Ayres, looked very familiar, but I couldn’t place her in anything else. She had a Christie Brinkley vibe in some scenes.
- The end scene shows that this movie was based on the true story of Frank Dux, the self-proclaimed “father of MMA.” We didn’t have the internet back then to dispute this fact, but there are <ahem> a few dissenting opinions out there about this guy.
The acting is bad. The writing is laughable. But despite all of this, Bloodsport stands the test of time and is still totally enjoyable and watchable.
Did this movie live up to my memories of it? Yes.
Did I enjoy it? Yes!
Should you rewatch it? Absolutely.
This summer, I am going back to the 70’s and 80’s with the Cool, Cool, Cool Summer 2019. Follow along and let me know if there’s something you think I should revisit.