Film / Bloodsport

Bloodsport is a 1988 martial arts action film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. The inspiration comes from martial artist Frank Dux, who claims to have entered a secret and deadly martial arts tournament in the Philippines called the Kumite. Dux's story is widely suspected of being a hoax, as no part of it has ever been confirmed, and some claims are outright impossible.

Starting with his childhood he accidentally earns the (mild) respect of an Asian martial arts master, Senzo Tanaka, who uses him merely as a living practice dummy for his son. When the son dies in an accident, Dux convinces Tanaka to teach him his secrets. As an adult Dux grows into a very talented, precise and flexible warrior. Learning of the Kumite, he skips out on some military obligations to participate, bringing him into conflict with his superiors.

This film provides examples of:

  • Artistic License Martial Arts: Screenwriter Frank Dux claims that the story is based on his own accomplishments, but the choreography is obviously not based on any fight that took place on planet Earth.
  • Asshole Victim: The Arab/Middle Eastern fighter who tries to force Janice to "go to his room" becomes Frank Dux's first opponent in the Kumite. It doesn't end well for him.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: The film is based on Dux's claims of winning the Kumite, but there is no evidence that Dux fought in a Kumite or that it ever existed in the first place. Many aspects of Dux's story have been debunked or shown to be outright impossible.
  • Big "NO!": From Dux as Chong Li prepares to stomp Jackson.
  • Brick Break: Dux demonstrates the Dim Mak ("death touch") for the judges to prove Tanaka was his master by breaking the bottom brick in a vertical stack with an overhead strike.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Frank learns specifically how to fight while blinded with Tanaka.
  • The City Narrows: The Kumite takes place in a hidden arena inside Kowloon Walled City - specifically because Hong Kong police are unwilling to enter. Even the unit that attempts to arrest Dux before the climax is a dozen-strong group of military police - and they still back off once things look like they will get rough. Notably, this film is one of the few to actually shoot scenes inside the city.
  • Cruel Mercy: Rather than kill him, Frank makes Chong Li say Matte. No fighter before Dux was able to beat him, but making him pretty much say uncle was especially humiliating. Frank was even prepared to snap his neck for refusing.
    • Janice even lampshaded it to Jackson that Frank doing that to Chong Li was worse than just defeating him.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: For an invitation-only tournament of the world's top fighters, most matches are surprisingly short. This is especially amusing when Chong Li breaks his previous record with a 14-second KO, only to have Dux come right along and do it in 12.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Chong Li, "You broke my record, now I break you!"
  • Flung Clothing: Dux starts out wearing a traditional gi top; It's damaged in an early fight and discarded in this manner.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Good Cop - Helmer, Bad Cop - Rawlins
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Jackson's fighting style.
  • Groin Attack: This movie features one of the most infamous examples ever put on film.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Of the below Training from Hell.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY":
    Lin: That must make you Frank Ducks.
    Frank Dux: No, it's Dux.
    Lin: Oh, right! Like "put up your dukes."
  • Kick the Dog: Chong Li delivers a few of these, most notably snapping the neck of an opponent who he'd already viciously curbstomped.
  • Martial Arts and Crafts: The African jungle-style fighter uses knife hand chops to knock fruit from trees.
  • Martial Arts Headband: Worn by a few fighters. Notably Chong Li wears a blood red one.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Bolo Yeung, who plays the sadistic Big Bad Chong Li is a sweetheart in real life and him and Van Damme became life long friends and occasional co-stars after appearing in the film.
  • Mighty Glacier: Pumola, the big sumo wrestler. He can take a lot of punishment and if he gets his hands on you it's likely curtains but he moves like molasses.
  • Mighty Whitey: Yup.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Van Damme is topless for much of the movie, and then there's the hotel room scene...
  • Open Shirt Taunt: In a legendary example, Frank Dux baits Paco this way, during the climax of the semi finals of the Kumite. Begins with, "Come on! Come on!!"
  • Pec Flex: Chong Li does one to intimidate his opponent and mug for the crowd. This was actor Bolo Yeung's specialty.
  • Rated M for Manly: Indeed.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Dux does double duty as the blue half to both Jackson and Chong Li's red.
  • Replacement Goldfish: With some convincing on his part, Dux becomes one to Tanaka after Shingo's death.
  • Share the Male Pain: Jackson's reaction to Dux's splits style meditation.
    That hurts me just lookin' at it.
  • Shout-Out: Chong Li echoes Tang Lung (Bruce Lee)'s "Boards, don't hit back." statement from Way of the Dragon after Dux performs an improbable brick breaking stunt to prove he was legitimately trained by his legendary master.
    Chong Li: Very good, but brick not hit back.
  • Stout Strength: Ray Jackson and Pumola, the gigantic sumo wrestler.
  • Title Drop:
    Ray Jackson: That's why they call this thing Blood Sport, kid.
  • Token Romance: Janice could've been written out of the film entirely without any real impact, qualifying her fling with Dux as this, especially when you see just how serious she was about it; growing friendliness aside, she shows up on the arm of one of the high-roller audience members after Dux tells her off just so she can stay and continue covering the Kumite.
  • Training from Hell: Dux suffers a few insane training moments including having his legs stretched out in the air while hanging on rope from the limbs.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: There are three black characters in the film; two of them are fighters, one who's little more than a sneering "gangsta" archetype whom Frank defeats in one hit, the other practicing some kind of monkey-inspired "martial art" that involves lots of Unnecessary Combat Rolls, swinging from trees, and splitting coconuts instead of bricks. The third is Forest Whitaker, playing the "good cop" trying to drag Frank back to the US before he can get himself killed in the Kumite when he's not snarking about Chinese food or making pratfalls.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Jackson. His style isn't very refined, to say the least, but he is capable of knocking some fighters out with a single good placed punch or headbutt.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Dux. Between the fight scenes, training scenes and bedroom scenes it's easier to count how many times you see him with a shirt than without. On the villains' side, the most clothing Chong Li wears is a cooldown robe.
  • You No Take Candle: You can tell English likely isn't Chong Li's first language from some of his taunts:
    Chong Li: Very good, but brick not hit back.