Throwback Thirty – Bloodsport (1988)

il_570xn-1411671634_eu8k5_star_rating_system_2_and_a_half_stars I’ve been off work is week and it’s been so nice. A week without stress and being able to do whatever I wanted. Unfortunately, I have to go back tomorrow and am really not looking forward to it. I had every intention of getting an early night but, naturally, I put off writing this ’til the last-minute. But, hey, the way I’ve been this week the fact that I’m writing this on the right day is something to be praised. And, as TBT films go, I’m super excited about this one. I don’t think I really have a favourite genre of film but, if pushed, I’d definitely say that terrible sports movies are up there. Emphasis on the “terrible”. Good sports films are all well and good but they take themselves a bit too seriously. I like the dreadful ones like Mighty Ducks 3 and Little Giants where the acting is horrible, the storyline is full of clichés, and the sport is an after thought. So, taking this into account, my pick for this week’s TBT film is an absolute doozy. I mean not only is it all about a full contact underground martial arts competition but it stars Jean-Claude Van Dame in a role that almost netted him a Golden Raspberry award. What could be better than that?

In Blood Sport Jean-Claude Van Damme stars as Frank Dux, the real life martial artist. The film itself is based on the unverified claims that Dux made over the years about his success as a martial artist. The film’s narrative follows Dux as goes AWOL from the United States army to travel to Hong Kong to take part in an illegal martial-arts tournament. He intends to win the tournament in honour of his ninjutsu mentor Senzo Tanaka but is followed by two officers intent on bringing him back before he can compete. Thankfully, Frank makes it to Hong Kong, befriends another American competitor (Donald Gibb), woos a journalist (Leah Ayres) wanting the inside scoop on the Kumite, and pisses of the current champion (Bolo Yeung) by beating his world record KO time. It’s quite an eventful first day all in all.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that there will be any doubt how the films ends but, really that doesn’t matter. Sometimes it’s not about the journey but how you get there. Bloodsport does everything it’s supposed to do and does it really badly. Yet, I still managed to love it. The acting is all really bad and Jean-Claude Van Damme is particularly dire. Any time he required to show any kind of emotion he struggles to hit the mark. He is monotone and robotic. But it’s also oddly engaging. He’s so stiff and uncomfortable on-screen that is adds a whole new, unplanned, dimension to the film. He also has zero chemistry with his love interest but, let’s be honest, we’re not here for the romance.

We’re here for the fighting. And, though I realise that I’m not an expert in choreographing fight scenes, these ones do seem to be a little dodgy in their execution. You know how the original Star Wars trilogy seemed really action packed when we were kids but then the prequels came along and the fights became super exciting? This is definitely nearer A New Hope than it is The Phantom Menace. But it was the 80s, I guess, and it’s not as if it’s an absolute snooze fest. I mean if you want an honest to goodness blood fest then this isn’t the film for you. However, if you want The Karate Kid with grownups then it could be a fairly exciting premise.

Watching Bloodsport now it’s hard to see why it made Van Damme such a star. It truly is a dreadful film. The plot is so uninspiring, the acting is awful, and it takes itself way too seriously. Van Damme takes himself way too seriously. There are far too many scenes where he can be found meditating and showing how great a martial artist he is. Which, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just Bloodsport feels like the worst place to do it. As if a super talented poet has gone onto Big Brother in the hopes of increase readership. It’s not the right vehicle.

It is, however, a fucking hilarious film to watch. I love a bad film and will happily go out of my way to track down terrible B movies. This is one of the ultimate. There is so little to enjoy and praise about this film but that, in itself, becomes something to praise it for. Yes, it’s dreadful but, if you can get beyond that, it’s a worthwhile watch. It truly puts the “terrible” into the terrible sports movie genre.

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