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Film / Bloodsport

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Kumite! Kumite! Kumite! Kumite!

Bloodsport is a 1988 martial arts action film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. The inspiration comes from martial artist Frank Dux (pronounced "Dukes"), who claims to have entered a secret and deadly martial arts tournament in the Philippines called the Kumite − although the film relocates it in Kowloon Walled City instead. 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:

  • Actor Allusion: Bolo Yeung is readily identified as an opponent of Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon, here as the villain, and many of his lines come almost directly from that movie. "Very good, but brick not hit back."
  • Artistic License – History:
    • During the flashback at the beginning, one of the kids is seen wearing a "Bartles and Jaymes" t-shirt. But the film is supposed to be set in or before 1980, according to the caption at the end, so the flashback has to take place even earlier, when Dux was a teenager, and the "Bartles and Jaymes" brand only came out in 1985.
    • Ray and Dux are playing Karate Champ, which came out in 1984, which also doesn't tie with the stated time frame.
  • Artistic License – Martial Arts:
    • Screenwriter Frank Dux claims that the story is based on his own accomplishments, but the choreography (which Dux is also credited for) is obviously not based on any fight that took place on planet Earth.
    • Kumite (組手 "grappling hands" in Japanese) in actual martial arts terminology is the part of karate training where a person trains against an opponent, as opposed to Kata, the karate forms and exercises meant to be practiced alone, and Kihon, which refers to the basic and fundamental techniques that form the foundation of most Japanese martial arts.
  • Artistic License – Politics: At the beginning, Chong Li is wearing a headband with the flag of South Korea, but the flag gets the colors of the Yin and Yang wrong.
  • Attention Whore: While many of the fighters enjoy the attention from the crowd, none are as grandiose as Chong Li.
  • 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.
  • Bathroom Break-Out: Dux escapes from the military base through the window of the shower room. He lets the shower flow so that the guard thinks he is still having a shower.
  • Big "NO!": From Dux as Chong Li prepares to stomp Jackson.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Ray Jackson. He's a macho type who doesn't take shit from anyone, but he's less a martial artist than an straight up brawler, winning as much by raw strength/toughness as technique. Despite this, he does surprisingly well in the tournament, and even might have beaten Chong Li if he hadn't screwed around when the latter was on the ropes.
  • Blood Sport: You know, "Kumite...Kumite...Kumite!"
  • 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 Gun: Frank Dux demonstrates the Dim Mak, a powerful palm strike, by breaking a brick. In the quarterfinal of the tournament, he applies this technique against the Hawaiian sumo wrestler. And it fails to work, so he has to follow up with a cheap shot.
    • The rules state that a fighter is eliminated by knock-out, ring-out, or surrendering by saying "Mate". The last one only occurs in the finals when Dux forces Chong Li to do so as revenge for his stomping on Jackson.
  • 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.
  • Crowd Chant: Kumite! Kumite! Kumite! Kumite!
  • Cruel Mercy: Rather than kill him, Frank makes Chong Li say Matté. 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.
  • Damsel in Distress: Hossein tries to force Janice to go to his bedroom. Dux steps in to save her.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Chong Li, "You broke my record, now I break you!"
  • Dull Surprise: One reviewer at the time said that Van Damme "manages to combine the physical grace of Baryshnikov with the acting range of a turnip".
  • Establishing Character Moment: The film starts with brief scenes introducing various fighters, including Chong Li, and Jackson.
  • Even the Rats Won't Touch It: The two American agents sent to bring Frank back to the US are eating in a Hong Kong restaurant, exclaiming about how good the food is. Later in the scene, however, their liaison from Hong Kong refuses to eat at that restaurant, and when they go to leave they throw some meat to a stray dog that has been watching them. The dog reacts by just whimpering and turning away.
  • Flung Clothing: Dux starts out wearing a traditional gi top; It's damaged in an early fight and discarded in this manner.
  • Friendship Denial: Ray Jackson has this memorable phrase:
    "I ain't your pal, dickface."
  • Glad He's On Our Side: "I'm glad you're on our side."
  • 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.
  • A Handful for an Eye: Chong Li is on the verge of losing the final match, so he takes a capsule of powder from his shorts to blind Frank Dux. The ploy is successful until Dux finds his focus and remembers his blind-fighting training.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Of the below Training from Hell.
  • Heroic Second Wind: In the climactic battle, Frank Dux has the upper hand, so the deceitful Chong Li throws powder in his eyes and blinds him. Though initially incapacitated and completely unable to hit Chong Li, a flashback involving his friends and old master reminds him why he is fighting, and after calming his mind, he recalls his blind fighting training. He then receives a Theme Music Power-Up and defeats Chong Li soundly.
  • Idiot Ball: Jackson grabs a huge one by not finishing off Chong Li after he manages to knock him down.
  • In Medias Res: The film starts with a brief introduction of the Kumite and some of its participants. Then it switches to Dux's backstory (his training by Tanaka). Then we see Dux arriving in Hong Kong.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Chong Li taunts Dux with Jackson's headband just after defeating him. During the finale, he also wears it to piss Dux off.
  • It's Personal: After Chong Li seriously injures his friend, Jackson, Dux has a personal motivation to defeat Chong Li. Chong Li wants to "break" Dux because he broke his record.
  • Kick the Dog: Chong Li delivers a few of these, most notably snapping the neck of an opponent who he'd already viciously curbstomped. The judges turn their backs on that last one.
  • 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.
  • 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 where he shows his ass.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Justified, as Frank is the son of French immigrants. Actually, the kid version seen in a flashback has an even thicker accent.
  • One-Word Title: Bloodsport.
  • 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!!"
  • Past Victim Showcase: "You are next." Said to Dux after Chon Li kills his semi-final opponent.
  • Pec Flex: Chong Li does one to intimidate his opponent and mug for the crowd. This was actor Bolo Yeung's specialty.
  • 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.
  • Ring Out: Knocking or forcing your opponent off the raised fighting platform is an Instant-Win Condition.
  • Self-Defenseless: Some agents try using a taser on Frank Dux, but he blocks the wires with a trashcan lid and deflects them towards the nearest agents, stunning them.
  • Share the Male Pain: Jackson's reaction to Dux's splits style meditation.
    "That hurts me just lookin' at it."
  • Shout-Out: Several to Bruce Lee:
    • Frank Dux convinces Tanaka to break tradition and train him, by echoing Bruce Lee's philosophy toward martial arts.
      "You told me to use any technique that works, never to limit myself to one style. To keep an open mind."
    • Dux's coin switch trick is a stunt Bruce Lee was known for.
    • Chong Li echoes Bruce Lee's "Boards don't hit back" statement from Enter the Dragon after Dux performs an improbable brick-breaking stunt to prove he was legitimately trained by his legendary master. Not to mention that Chong Li's actor (Bolo Yeung) was a memorable bad guy in Enter The Dragon, too.
    • Chong Li's first opponent uses a Jeet Kune Do stance.
  • Smug Smiler: Chong Li spends essentially the entire movie with a contemptuous sneer on his face.
  • Static Stun Gun: Helmer and Rawlins carry tasers on them hoping they don't have to use them on Frank to bring him back to the US. At the hotel, Helmer threatens Ray with his if he tries to intervene.
    Helmer: You wanna shit 50,000 volts, asshole?
  • Stout Strength: Ray Jackson and Pumola, the gigantic sumo wrestler. Neither have a physique anywhere near as chiseled as Frank's, but you can't call them weak.
  • Strong as They Need to Be: Shingo, the son of Frank Dux's mentor Senzo, is younger than Frank and he beats him up effortlessly when they first meet when he is a young teen trying to steal Senzo's sword, however later he is shown having trouble fighting an overweight bully who beats him despite not using any martial arts against him.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Helmer and Rawlins, the two policemen who want to bring Dux back to the US. They just do it because Dux deserted from the army. They do not even intend to punish him: they just want to bring him back because they are afraid he could be wounded or killed and so he could not fight anymore in the US army.
  • Tasty Gold: One of the Kumite staff in charge of wiping blood off the fighting platform notices Hossein's gold tooth lying there after his loss to Frank. He quickly grabs it, bites it and, after being satisfied that it's gold, pockets it with a big smile.
  • Title Drop:
    Ray Jackson: That's why they call this thing Bloodsport, 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 a rope from the limbs.
  • Training Montage: The intro with various fighters preparing for the Kumite.
  • "Ugly American" Stereotype: Jackson spends some of his free time in Hong Kong drinking and hitting on the local women, contrasting with Dux meditating when he's not evading the authorities.
  • 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 (though in the tournament itself he actually does pretty well until he has the misfortune of fighting the Mighty Glacier and gets caught in a bear-hug). 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. He actually puts Chong Li on the ropes and probably would have won if he didn't stop to gloat and let Chong Li recover.
  • 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.
  • When You Snatch the Pebble: Taken one step further in Bloodsport. When Hussein is propositioning Janice, and meeting with no small amount of resistance, Dux steps in to resolve the situation with a wager: Hussein holds a coin (a U.S. quarter) on his outstretched palm. The objective is for Dux to grab the coin before Hussein closes his hand; the winner of the bet gets to take the girl home with him. After taking the bet, there is a brief pause, Hussein gives the go signal and closes his hand, grinning as he proclaims "Ha! You lose, American ass!" He opens his hand to reveal that Dux not only got the quarter from Hussein, but he also put a Hong Kong coin in its place.
  • 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.
    • Shidoshi's English also has a fair amount of grammatical errors as he is a Japanese immigrant.
  • Your Eyes Can Deceive You: Frank is forced to utilize it when Chong Li tosses some kind of powder in his eyes.