At The Movies: Bloodsport (1988)

bloodsport1988

Bloodsport

★★★☆☆

1988 • 92 minutes • Universal Studios

When it comes to the two major bad movie podcasts, The Flop House and How Did This Get Made, I’m a Flop House woman through and through. It’s always a delightful surprise whenever a new episode turns up in my Overcast app (my podcast application of choice), even though the podcast comes out every other Saturday. I listen to every episode twice, and some, especially the gutbustingly funny Labor Day episode, more than that. I’ve even been to a live show, which goes to show you the power of the hometown advantage.

Nonetheless, I am quite fond of How Did This Get Made, their rowdier Los Angeles-based counterpart, if only because of the infectious energy of Jason Mantzoukas. (The prim suspicion of June Diane Raphael is a close second in my heart.) I nearly cried laughing on the subway listening to Mantzoukas describe exactly how Xanadu went wildly overbudget. Despite their common genre, comparing the two podcasts is like comparing apples and oranges; the energy is just so different.

And that is nowhere more apparent than in their live episode on Bloodsport, which made me laugh so much that I had to seek out the film.

Bloodsport is the film that launched Jean-Claude Van Damme’s career—although it’s not his first film. He plays Frank Dux, an American military officer who goes to Hong Kong to participate in the Kumite (the bloodsport of the title) to… avenge the death of his sensei’s son? His motivation is unclear, but who needs things like character motivation and plot when Van Damme is kicking butt and doing the splits?

Despite being a late eighties film (so often a hit and miss period for me), Bloodsport is nonetheless exactly the kind of eighties movie that takes me to a very special place. It’s hard to describe, but imagine watching television at three in the morning in a wood-paneled basement as a preteen in 1985. That’s about as close as I can get you to my peculiar brand of eighties-induced nirvana. I don’t know if it’s because I was bitten by a radioactive I Love the 80s as a wee lass or if it’s because I have a significantly older sibling. Bloodsport achieves this through its mediocre production values and utter commitment to its premise—or, to be more specific, commitment to the (allegedly!) tall tales of Frank Dux.

Yes, Bloodsport is based on a true story. Blake J. Harris writes the companion oral histories that accompany each episode of How Did This Get Made (which is so awesome!), and he spoke to the real Frank Dux. I haven’t read that article yet—I’m… saving it, I guess? I dunno—but I like to think that this is what gives Bloodsport its cult classic status. If you go into Bloodsport blind, savoring its utter camp (like a flashback that lasts the entire first act or the fact that being drawn and quartered is considering a viable training method), the reveal at the end of Dux’s (allegedly false!) Kumite record will blow your mind.

It’s by no means essential, but it’s fun to watch with the right company.

I watched this film on Netflix.

2 thoughts on “At The Movies: Bloodsport (1988)

  1. How Did This Get Made is, by far, my favorite walking-to-work podcast, and the reason strangers on the street think I am smirking at them. Have you listened to the episode where they talk through A View to a Kill? It is a thing of beauty.

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