| Bloodsport (1988) |
It seems to me that there just aren't any really good martial arts movies that are not totally repetitive or cliched and for the longest of times I just couldn't believe there were any truly outstanding fighting movies.
It may have a dozen sequels and sound no different to the limitless other pointless violence rip-offs, but Bloodsport is a martial arts competition movie that sends all others to the dust. And don't let the fact that Jean Claude Van Damme stars as the main lead put you off. Those who are familiar with him may or may not agree that the majority of his 90s action movies to put it bluntly sucked.
Basically a secret contest that will unite the world's very best fighters is taking place in Hong Kong and it is full contact and possibly deadly. Frank Dux (Van Damme - his character actually exists in real life and is supposed to have made this film as an account of what really happened in his lifetime) has been trained by a ninjitsu expert whose son is dead and left Japan because of the war and after a series of flashbacks is ready to leave the army in order to make his shidoshi proud.
This film is cheesy and does have bad acting but it has got this feel to it that is totally unique. There is a story to it and it really does sum the friendship between men up, which is a central theme to many of Van Damme's movies. Donald Gibb plays Ray Jackson a fellow American fighter with a macho attitude who enters the Kumite with Dux and ultimately become extremely good friends. Bolo Yeung plays Chong Li the lethal South Korean champion who literally cripples and sometimes kills his opponents in battle and we all know that he and Dux were born to fight for supremacy.
The fight scenes obviously can't be compared to modern ones where cgi and special effects are used but that is what makes them so realistic. And 90 percent of all the fighters are total novices compared to Dux (you wonder how some of them even got invited) but it has some comic moments. The two police officers sent to take Dux back (one of which is played by Forest Whitaker who is the star of the Last King of Scotland) are quite light hearted which really adds to the atmosphere along with the nostalgic old cheesy 80s music.
The only major flaw of this movie is the female reporter (Leah Ayres) who really does get on my nerves by using the usual shaming language to the "bunch of guys who have to prove themselves by 'beating each others brains out'). Although she appears to genuinely care about Dux's welfare she is quite hypocritical as she is seen having seduced a businessman so she could get in, clapping and cheering over those men getting their brains beaten out.
But overall this movie really captures the essence of male bonding and if not for that the fight scenes will keep you coming back for more and more. It is the kind of film you can watch everyday and not get bored. One of a kind!
- Reviewed by Mr. Doesn't Give a Damn
Rated: R in USA, 18 in UK, 14A in Canada due to martial arts violence.
Duration: 1 hour and 32 minutes