Over the years Jean-Claude Van Damme has made tons of movies. He's had box office success, flirted with Hollywood, and been slammed back into the pit of direct-to-video. But ask anybody who enjoys kung-fu flicks (or, Heaven forbid, one of his fans) what his best movie is and you're more than likely going to hear the following: Bloodsport.
Marking his first starring role Van Damme plays the role of American solider Frank Dux who decides to head off to Hong Kong to take part in an underground martial arts tournament called the "Kumite". It's a yearly event where fighters from all over the World gather in order to pit their skills against each other in violent, often bloody, battles in the middle of a squared ring.
Dux wants to compete to bring honor to his sick sensei's family, but the U.S. government has a different opinion on the matter sending two agents (Norman Burton and a young Forrest Whitaker) after him to try and bring him back. Also in the mix is brash, obnoxious, and grizzly bear-ish fellow American Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb, best known as "Ogre" from the Revenge Of The Nerds movies) who Dux befriends and cute reporter Janice Kent (Leah Ayres, who's really just here to give the movie a weak love interest) who wants to infiltrate the Kumite and get the story of her life.
After many rounds of fights, Jackson ends-up being badly injured by last year's champion, the imposingly muscular Chong Li (Bolo Yeung, as awesome as ever despite getting about three lines total) which sends Dux on the oh-so-clichéd martial arts movie quest for revenge (after some cheesy flashbacks to their friendship while a crappy "emotional" song plays on the soundtrack) - something that is made even more ironic when you consider that this is supposed to be based on the real Frank Dux and his experiences.
Bloodsport is about as dumb as they tend to come and that's really no surprise considering it was produced by the mighty 80's B-movie studio Cannon (who pumped out tons of movies similar to this including the American Ninja series), but it also is one Hell of an entertainingly mindless time that does the one thing right movies like this need to: it's wall-to-wall action and minimal plotting.
It's also packed to the brim with all the expect things from the opening scenes that show them setting up the tournament and gives us a glimpse of fellow fighters training, flashbacks and a handy montage to the young Dux learning his karate skills as well as how to control pain and use his mind as a weapon, and a build-up to a final showdown that doesn't quite deliver (but is none-the-less worthwhile).
Dux also served as the fighting co-coordinator and since the films release his past claims of winning five kumites in a row and losing zero of 329 battles have come under speculation - watch this movies and you'll see why.
Followed by three sequels. (Chris Hartley, 2/15/06)
Directed By: Newt Arnold.
Written By: Sheldon Lettich, Christopher Cosby, Mel Friedman.
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Donald Gibb, Leah Ayres, Norman Burton.