Bloodsport Still Making Testosterone and Action 35 Years Later
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Bloodsport Still Making Testosterone and Action 35 Years Later

Sometimes films are considered art because of their outstanding acting, spectacular screenwriting, outstanding cinematography, or cultural influence, and other times a film is simply Blood sport.

What this silver screen icon lacks in some of the aforementioned categories, it makes up for in martial arts glory, pure ’80s nostalgia, and a shot of testosterone straight into the viewer’s eye. This is the film that made Jean-Claude Van Damme an overnight success – after spending several years on shelves and having to be re-edited – and legend has it he landed the role by showing up at a restaurant where Film Cannon’s Menahem Golan, his future boss, was out and kicked the man in the head to show off his skills. What they created together became a staple in film libraries in many households, a foundation of the genre, and an inspirational work for many.

story in Blood sport is an instant win because it’s about fighting tournament. It’s easy to fall in love with a good movie with a martial arts bracket and watch the hero engage with different opponents, rise to the top to face his rivals, and win it all. Frank Dux (Van Damme) quits the military to win a series of underground fights for the honor of his teacher, Senzo Tanaka (Roy Chiao), who is on his death bed. He must evade the authorities through the streets of Hong Kong, befriend other fighters, and face the ruthless Chong Li (Bolo Yeung). It’s simple, clean, and has a positive ending.

The event in question is called Kumite. That’s a good word. Say it a few times out loud, you will appreciate it. Kumite roughly translates to “free fighting,” which is perfect for competition in what is supposed to be a series of unrestricted contests where people can be scarred for life or even killed. The current champion, Chong Li, he did that to a guy once, “Yeah, kicked that poor bastard in the throat. Guy died right on the platform. Chong Li stood there and watched him die.” Tournaments like this were unseen, unthinkable, and only held every five years, so it felt prestigious to those who participated and witnessed it. It attracted a lot of different fighters of various styles from around the world, the ‘best of the best’ deal, but that’s another film.

It’s not all fighting, though, there’s a love interest in the form of Janice Kent (Leah Ayres), a journalist who does anything to get skinny in Kumite. Dux also bonds with Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb) and Victor Lin (Ken Siu), who serve as fellow fighters from America and connectors for North American fighters respectively. Jackson is like the best friend we all have, but constantly apologizes to others for him. They make a great team and I would pay to see a friends comedy about them just experiencing Hong Kong together after winning what Lin calls, ‘The greatest Kumite ever.’

However, the best relationship in the film is between Dux and Tanaka. Their history was stilted, harsh, and not as affectionate as the master would have liked with his biological son, but with the death of his offspring, Frank had filled that role. We see intense training, respect and growth between the two characters. It’s not hard to see why Dux wanted to prove himself to Tanaka. As someone whose father died when I was just a year old, I thought this part of the film was the more interesting. The two met when the young Dux and his friends tried to steal a ceremonial sword from the Tanaka residence and it made the ending even more meaningful when he won a similar sword for his Kumite victory, resulting in what his teacher wanted.

The real martial arts in Blood sport solid, delivered by a group of guys who know what they’re doing (with some dancers mixed in), but there are plenty of movies in the genre with better choreographed fights. In the end, the film excels less in technical execution and more in presentation and drama in combat. It’s all about the journey, and each of these fights serves to radiate style and achieve a goal. There’s less art in the individual fights and more focus on Dux’s struggles and the spirit behind them.

What makes Blood sport What’s even better is how it showcases multiple martial arts disciplines, mixing things up and giving these various characters layers of personality that are hard to match in a film like this, in many cases the fighters barely speak a word. This is something that is hard to do outside of martial arts movies, add that extra fingerprint, and somehow they excel at making every challenger, even if we never see them win, feel they have their own skills and deserve to be in the tournament. .

Some additional credit goes to the fact that these skirmishes are all done without stuntmen, meaning there is some official contact going on in some of these matches. Many praised the film for being able to sell the fight at such a high level and draw people in, with most of the credit going to JCVD ​​themselves. Her work to make scenes look as good as possible and her training in dance and ballet help make her moves look perfect for every shot. According to Van Damme, he also worked to save fights in the editing process. These people fit well together, as two of them would help the actor with the film Kickboxers as well.

The soundtrack helps secure some glory for the film, too. The score was composed by Paul Hertzog and is an excellent accompaniment to many scenes where songs by Stan Bush and Michael Bishop are not played. There’s no reason not to get pumped at the sound of “Fight to Survive”, further proof that Bush did kill him, even beyond Transformers. The overall sound design is solid for a film this time around with the reported budget (a number disputed in some places), but Blood sport rock with quality surround sound.

This project received attention also because it was considered to be loosely based on real events. Frank Dux is a gentleman who claims to have lived a very wild life, but there are those who think he is a fraud. There’s even a statistic at the end of the film for Dux that sounds incredible unless you do some basic math and give it a little thought. There’s been a ton of back and forth about Dux’s legitimacy over the years, but either way, his story has made for a far better film that has created a legacy of its own.

Blood sport it certainly helped propel some towards the martial arts film genre and take on the activity as well, in one form or another. I remember liking these movies and wanting to be like JCVD. I got involved with a Karate class, but my instructor ran away with his secretary while I was getting ready to test my yellow belt. Another life lesson I guess.

JCVD and Blood sport also provide a lot of inspiration for Mortal Kombat, another favorite of mine, and bottom line, Johnny Cage is only alive because of this movie. There are also several moments that live on as clips, references, memes, and autographs to the actor himself (all those splits). Most remember Dux getting blinded in the end and using his training to succeed, it’s an incredible moment, or he would have fallen for that stylish mad streak. The real Frank Dux said it was supposed to be to the bladder, but the angle made everyone think it was a dick shot (cooler this way, Frank).

What will always stick in my head is the old man shouting “Okay, USA” or my friend responding to everything I say he doesn’t like with GIFs of Chong Li. It’s a classic ’80s action movie, 90-plus minutes of muscle men trying to destroy each other with a bit of storytelling, some kickass montages, and a great song to back it up. I tried watching the sequels, but best not to mention too many of them (especially part four). No, there will always be something special about the original Blood sport is – lightning in a bottle. Just the memory of me sitting on the floor watching it on TBS and being inspired, even though it’s simple, not well acted, or a lie, Blood sport it still means a lot to me and many others 35 years later.

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