Bloodsport (1988, 92m, 6.8, 33|74%) is a cult martial arts action film made in the typical American Hollywood style, where the lines delineating good and evil are simple and audiences gather to either watch the fight scenes or the cute hero. It portrays the now-tired storyline of the young Westerner trained by an exotic, mysterious Asian sensei (among a few other cultural stereotypes), but nevertheless gets a plus for being quite diverse in its casting of fighters. I remember friends talking of this movie when I was in school, but now understand why films like Rocky ended up taking the cake.

A young boy, Frank Dux, is trained by his Japanese mentor in the rites of ninjutsu and honour. The movie quickly moves all obstacles out of the way so young Frank can take part in the Kumite, an underground, no-holds-barred fighting competition where it seems more glory and not honour is to be won. The competition starts with Frank breaking the Kumite KO world record and ends with Frank winning, of course. The movie closes with text indicating it was all based on a true story, albeit a little research into the real Frank Dux leads to equal amounts stories and incredulity, with even a best-of reel from the real event of the real fellow popping up if you’re lucky. More interesting trivia for me were that a young, 18-year old Jean-Claude Van Damme was nominated for a Golden Raspberry for Worst New Star (losing out to none other than Ronald McDonald in this horrible flick), and that Bolo Yeung, the actor playing Dux’ archnemesis, was 50 at the time of filming. This sure does explain his pec-flicking ability though.

The most memorable scenes in the movie — as in Van Damme’s career — seem to always involve splits

Okay, rating time. A total of ★¼ for this bad boy. Neither character nor plot development exist, complexity rests at a steady zero, and recommendability is negligible — I only watched it to catch up with my generation and to finally get all the cultural references about splits that have been dropped here and there since… but that will probably fade in a generation. It was motivating, however, to watch the fight scenes and seeing all the rippling muscles and athletic fighters did stir a little fire under my butt to want to pump out some extra push-ups right then and there, so a meagre half point here as well as another ¾ of a star for originality. Though not nearly fresh, the Muscles from Brussels and his adductors have made it into common jargon enough that I was sufficiently intrigued to spend an evening with him. Still, watching his truck ad just about sums up all the main points of the film. If you’re looking for motivation, go see Rocky. But first, go watch that truck ad.

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