I don’t talk about it enough on this site, but I really have a huge thing with bad movies. One of my favorite television shows of all time is Mystery Science Theater 3000, which I started watching at a young age, letting me foster a deep love of truly terrible cinema. To me, movie quality kind of goes on a parabola, where there are legitimately good films that I enjoy seeing, bad movies that are not fun to watch, and bad movies that I enjoy seeing. They’re just a lot of fun. It may be a little mean to just mock ineffectual movies, but I can’t help it, it’s a whole lot of fun. I once saw a quote from Roger Ebert about the subject that I truly love. “People trying to be funny are never as funny as people trying to be serious and failing.” Now, while I don’t necessarily think that this perfectly jives with my point, because I don’t think that bad movies are funnier than comedies, but there’s certainly something to the idea about bad movies being so funny, because people are treating it so deadly seriously. Some of the best bad movies that I’ve ever seen take themselves way too seriously, and one of the best purveyors of wonderful bad movies was good old Canon Films.
Now, before we get talking about Bloodsport, we should talk a bit about Canon Films. If you don’t know about them, they’re amazing. There’s a terrific documentary about the company called Electric Boogaloo, and everyone should 100% check it out. It was a low-rent movie production company that specialized in terrible direct to VHS movies, usually starring Chuck Norris or Charles Bronson, ran by two insane Israeli men named Yoram Globu and Menahem Golan. They’re true visionaries in the world of bad movies, and they’ve made some true masterpieces of crappy movies over the years. And one of the greatest was a little martial-arts work of art called Bloodsport starring the Muscles from Brussels himself, Jean-Claude Van Damme.
The movie has a shockingly simple plot, all revolving around a secret and insane martial arts tournament in China called Kumite, and our…”American” competitor Frank Dux (sadly pronounced Dukes and not Ducks). As we learn from a flashback with a child actor somehow worse than Van Damme, Dux was trained by a mysterious martial artist who is obsessed with the mysterious Kumite competition, and is now doing everything he can to honor that sensei and win the Kumite competition. So Dux and a whole bunch of weird stereotypes with their own crazy fighting styles head to China, along with two Army Criminal officers who are trying t find Dux for going AWOL from the army, head to China and get fighting!
And that’s basically the rest of the movie. There’s a love plot shoved in where we get some gratuitous Van Damme butt-shots, but that barely matters. Honestly, neither does the Army thing, other than it being hilarious that the younger, more loose-cannon of the two being played by Forest Whitaker. Because none of that matters. Honestly, there could be no plot to this movie other than setting up the reason that all of these men with insanely disparate techniques are beating the hell out of each other. Because after we set up some of the plot, and introduce the villain of the piece in a ridiculous previous-champion named Chong Li, it’s just a whole lot of crazy fighting. We get drama when Frank’s oafish pal is put in a coma by Chong Li, but besides that it’s just some dudes beating the wholly crap out of each other until Frank finally becomes the champion by making Chong Li call uncle.
So yeah, this movie is no masterpiece of cinematic art. But that doesn’t stop this from being of the funniest, goofiest, and just generally enjoyable movies I’ve ever seen. I put the movie on Netflix with the intention of multi-tasking and getting a little writing doing, but I was quickly sucked in, and just couldn’t take my eyes away. This was a cinematic train-crash. I zipped through the runtime, a dopey smile on my face, tweeting out the slew of stupid lines. Hey, speaking of which, let’s check out a few of them!
Like vines, children need training.
It’s time to protect your nuts guys.
He’s the American shithead who makes tricks with bricks.
I ain’t your pal, dick-face.
You wanna shit sparks?!
Seriously, this movie is amazing. It turns out I didn’t have a whole lot to say about it, but I just want to end by saying everyone should watch this movie. It’s a roller-coaster of joy.
Bloodsport was written by Christopher Cosby, Mel Friedman, and Sheldon Lettich, directed by Newt Arnold, and released by Canon Pictures, 1988.