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  Bloodsport It's Kicking Off
Year: 1988
Director: Newt Arnold
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Donald Gibb, Leah Ayres, Norman Burton, Forest Whitaker, Roy Chiao, Philip Chan, Pierre Rafini, Bolo Yeung, Ken Siu, Kimo Lai Kwok Ki, Bernard Mariano, Bill Yuen Ping Kuen, Lily Leung, Joshua Schroder
Genre: ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: The latest annual Kumite contest is about to be held, a secret martial arts competition that attracts the greatest fighters in the world to its Hong Kong home. One of those fighters is a newcomer, Frank Dux (Jean-Claude Van Damme), an American soldier who is doing a spot of training in his army camp's gym before he leaves for the big event. However, he is ordered to see his superior officer and tells the soldier who is to accompany him that he will do that, only he needs a shower first. But this is a trick so Frank can escape, and before going to Hong Kong he must visit his old mentor for one last time...

Bloodsport was the oddly amateurish film which introduced the world to the irrepressible Belgian Van Damme and his fancy moves, and kickstarted the vogue for kickboxer movies that cluttered up the shelves of the world's video stores for about five years afterwards. It was based on the real life Frank Dux, a genuine martial arts champ who acted as fight coordinator on the film, bringing his skills to make the film look as authentic as possible. For all that, it all still resembled a live action version of the computer game the fictionalised Dux and his new friend Jackson (Donald Gibb) play at one point.

Before our hero reaches the tournament, he must treat us to a lengthy flashback as he stands in his mentor's living room reminiscing, honestly, he must be standing there for about twenty minutes gazing into the middle distance. This flashback apparently casts the young Huntz Hall as a teenage Dux, who learns from Mr Tanaka (Roy Chiao) the power of the fighting techniques which he has to use for good (helping a kid being bullied is one we see). When he grows up he is matchless, or so he thinks, but being the hero he isn't arrogant, merely stoic. And has the strongest Belgian accent of any American you care to name.

Dux does make it to Hong Kong after all, but he has a pair of American agents on his tail, played by Norman Burton and Forest Whitaker (who might have been well cast as one of the fighters, but never mind). Can he outwit the law and still compete? Well, what do you think? There's also love interest for Dux in the shape of journalist Janice (Leah Ayres), just to prove that while this Dux may like to spend his time getting close to half naked men, there's nothing remotely homosexual about that, no sir. Dux "wins" Janice from an overbearing contestant thanks to his lightning fast reflexes, and what woman could resist that?

As for the combat, there's a tendency for the rounds to last about thirty seconds, which may indicate the strength of the most powerful fighters, but rarely makes for a brawl the viewer can get behind: Rocky this isn't. The big baddie is our old friend from Enter the Dragon, Bolo Yeung as a burly Korean who has won the previous few tournaments and is not above cheating to get his way. Jackson exhibits the old saw of pride before a fall when he appears to knock this guy out, but then gets his head kicked in (and nearly dies!) as a returning favour. When Dux gets to meet this villain in the ring for the finale (nothing if not predictable, this film), they seem evenly matched, but the Korean throws dust in Dux's eyes to blind him temprorarily, an irritating development for those who would rather see Dux compete in a fair fight. Pretty much what you'd expect, Bloodsport still has its fans, plus Van Damme does the splits about fifteen billion times if you like that sort of thing. Music by Paul Hertzog.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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