It’s important for me as a reviewer to view films on the merits of their genre. It would be unfair to assume BLOODSPORT would come anywhere close to CITIZEN KANE, but with that said, it’s still as bare-boned and paint-by-numbers as you can possibly get.
The “acting” debut of martial arts sensation Jean-Claude Van Damme, BLOODSPORT exists only to show off his prowess in the ring. Which I might add is quite impressive. Out of the ring? Well that’s an entirely different story.
Speaking of story, BLOODSPORT is actually based on the real-life exploits of martial arts champion Frank Dux. I can only imagine that his life was a tad more nuanced than the flimsy way it’s portrayed in this film.
The screen story finds Van Damme (as Frank Dux), taking an unsanctioned leave from his military unit to travel to Hong Kong. He’s there to take part in the Kumite, an illegal underground kickboxing tournament. Winning this would honor his mentor. Plus he would be the first “white guy” to ever win.
But the military has spent a lot of time and money on Frank and they’re not happy about him possibly getting hurt or perhaps even dying during the Kumite. Not until they get a proper return on their investment. So they send two MP’s after him (one happens to be Forest Whitaker).
Frank also catches the eye of the fetching Janice (Leah Ayres), a go-getter reporter out to make a name for herself if she can just find an in to the tournament. They begin a passionate affair and soon it’s “the story be damned” because Janice is not happy about him possibly getting hurt or perhaps even dying during the Kumite. Not until they make sweet, sweet love one more time.
So with so many people not happy about him getting hurt or perhaps even dying during the Kumite, Frank must decide whether he’s going to go the distance.
SPOILER ALERT: He goes the distance and… wait for it… he wins!
I honestly can enjoy movies like this, but BLOODSPORT feels more like a logline than an actual story. There’s no real character development and all the characters are dull and generic. To make matters worse, Van Damme just can’t carry the film as an actor and it seems like everyone else in the cast has been instructed to match his performance level for fear of overshadowing him.
But, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the fight scenes are fairly impressive and Van Damme is an amazing athlete. It’s easy to see why he became an action star, it’s just a shame that for his first outing they didn’t give him a little more meat on the bone… before it was fractured with a well-placed kick to the shin.