The Art of a tournament is full kombat and with a K. I remember watching ‘Enter the Dragon’ and how this movie introduced martial arts and one form called kung fu too mainstream. The speed, the style and the phenomenon called Bruce Lee. And what continued along was the philosophy as well. That’s for some other time. I want to get your attention to Bloodsport. The vehicle that shot the career of one Jean Claude Van Damme. J.C.V.D has had a long but semi-illustrious career yet he was once a household name. I recently came across the fact that JCVD appeared in the practice suit for the initial shots of the Predator. But it was the art of Bloodsport that garnished in his flexibility and flexed his muscles to the big screen. He had already not made a mark for himself as a breakdancer in the background, but there was much more to come. No Retreat No Surrender introduced his splitting style to the screen but BloodSport set the wheels in motion.
JCVD plays Frank Dux a U.S Army Captain deserts his unit to go to Hong Kong. He is trained in the art of Ninjutsu and intends to participate in a secret underground full combat competition called Kumite. Frank wants to honour his sensei (who lost a son previously to the tournament) and Dux has a history with the Tanaka clan. He arrives at the tournament where he befriends an American Fighter and a local agent before entering a tournament. He also rescues a beautiful reporter who wants to know more about the tournament and its functioning. The tournament, its participant especially one Chong Li form the crux of the players representing different styles. Chong Li is the former winner of the tournament (Portrayed by Bolo Yeung, who steals his lines from Bruce Lee) forms an antagonistic relation with Frank. The final showdown between Frank and Bolo is worth.
The story of an underground tournament has appeared numerously on screen, which could be why Frank made up a story as well. But this movie was more about Marketing and Jean Claude Van Damme. The movie was yet another B-movie in making with the mix of Hollywood and Asia amongst the numerous projects, Chan was already making his mark in China and was soon to go global. Hollywood already had a definition of its quintessential action stars in Arnold, Sly, Bruce Willis and many more. And popped up a JCVD, he had the martial arts style, he had the good looks and the action star poster boy physique. This resulted in the marketing campaign which worked across the East. Having Bolo Yeung amongst the midst was a blessing as well. This must have worked well during promotions as well. The blend of martial arts and competition on screen has been around for a long time. The westernization occurred after Lee stormed the U.S and global box office. Chan would follow suit, but he had a very different blend of martial arts and humour. BloodSport has a story weaved around a competition with blood, guts and glory. And this was followed by Kickboxer before Van Damme became the Universal Soldier with a Hard Target. This kind of story is very linear in format and always needs to have a very positive feel to it. The characters will seem one dimensional but its always the action which works, yet many sequels that followed didn’t do well. Even a JCVD directed version starring an additional Roger Moore didn’t do well. Some films need to be around a specific place and time and just work right. A sequel to Hard Target or even Time Cop may not work. Maybe a reboot could do the trick but not the sequels. BloodSport was no Rocky or The Champion but still, you enjoy the last bout. And it’s got a nice soundtrack on the ears as well. Just like a few from the Synth age of the 80’s. But that’s for another day.
By Screen Jives