Today! Because I ain’t your pal, dickface –
Directed by Newt Arnold
Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Donald Gibb, Bolo Yeung, Forest Whitaker, Leah Ayres, Roy Chiao, Norman Burton
“Bloodsport?!” I can hear you reasonably asking. “Are you kidding me? This list is bullshit!” Maybe! But not because of Bloodsport, junior! You want list outliers, here is an epic – I’m not even really a Van Damme fan. I want to say I saw Kickboxer once, and maybe Universal Soldier, but that’s it. However, for whatever reason, I watched Bloodsport to death in the early ’90s. Clean cut Frank Dux beating ass through the Hong Kong death match tournament! And were it just that, I’m probably not sold. I’m not a huge kung fu movie fan in general, but this thing had other outstanding elements – the great funny sidekick work of Revenge of the Nerds’ Donald Gibb as Jackson, the random rare Oscar winning Van Damme co-star in the form of a young Forest Whitaker, and the tremendous villainy of Bolo Yeung as the lethal Chong Li. Dude!
Is it a great movie? No, but come on, that’s not the point. This was on the tail end of an ’80s replete with Stallone/Chuck Norris actioners of greasy guys shooting it up in foreign locals and then kicking ass when the bullets ran out. This movie almost – almost! – works as a parody of the decade’s Rambo-esque adventures, with Van Damme’s square hero vs. buff Asian super fighter, but with more humor and friendship and revenge and intrigue. It’s pretty extreme and ridiculous and pumped-up macho nonsense a lot of the time but oh, it’s kind of based on a true story. Kind of. Frank Dux is a real guy, who claimed a lot of this happened, but the evidence is specious at best. Still, it all works together to produce a very fun punch ’em up.
The only significant nomination this movie ever received was Worst New Star for Van Damme from the Razzies – unfair! His later career and commercial work prove Van Damme a genuine talent! And Dux v. Li is a classic throwdown! But I think the biggest misses to remedy here today are Best Brick Breaking, done not in the tradition karate styling of whacking a stack downward, but Jackson’s smashing one across his forehead, crumbling it to bits. Classic!