Until its last fifteen minutes, Bloodsport is just another bargain bin DVD purchase from your local Big Lots. The martial arting is quite good, and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s physique is certainly something to be marveled, but the movie as a whole is only decently mediocre. The script was likely written by an undergrad in a freshman seminar, and the acting was clearly not the top priority. The movie only exists as a vehicle for sweet fighting action, but the story’s premise is completely wasted.
Bloodsport is all about an underground fighting competition (the Kumite) in Hong Kong in which the world’s best compete every five years to be the ultimate champion. Think of the potential! We could have gotten an eclectic band of fighters that had drama in and outside the fighting area, with intense stakes for each match. In Bloodsport we only meet an American and a generic Middle Eastern guy outside the arena, and the latter just wants to rape a reporter who Van Damme then has to save (and bang. Obviously). The big bad is from South Korea and is greatly intimidating without having to say anything, but having an entertaining group of characters is forgone. Get someone to write a better version of the script and Justin Lin to direct, and we’d have an instant hit at the box office.
But I’m not here to totally disparage Bloodsport. In fact, I encourage everyone to see this movie as soon as possible. You won’t know why until the last fifteen minutes, but once a certain move is made by Van Damme’s antagonist Chong Li in the final match, you’ll understand the gloriousness of this film. A better display of an actor giving in completely to his emotions has never been recorded to film. Van Damme gets blinded, and the results are quite possibly the greatest movements imprinted on celluloid. Look below for the proof.
[00:00-00:12]- Take note of this sweet arena. That platform they’re going to fight on wasn’t bent in the middle the whole time, just for this fight, making it extra special.
[00:13-00:15]- Dual flexing shots, proving that these two truly are bad asses and worthy of the final fight.
[00:16-00:37]- Notice the only non-diegetic sound is a single cord ringing? This climax is so built up with intensity that we don’t need an overbearing soundtrack to pump us up. Effective storytelling, man.
[00:38-00:52]- Chong Li solidifies himself as badass villain with the pec flex, then threatening to “break” JCVD. Yes it’s terrible ADR, but the oddly edited shot of the knee bandana give our hero the motivation to destroy Chong Li for almost killing Ray. JCVD will not stand for bloodlust!
[00:56-01:00]- Just to solidify Chong Li as a monster, he snot rockets onto the mat. Has he no decency?
[01:04-01:06]- Quick kick to the throat by JCVD, who starts off the match flawlessly.
[01:08-01:14]- Using the referee as a springboard to launch a flying kick! Is that even legal! What a move by JCVD to stay on the offensive. And he even helps up the poor ref, after heavily flex-shouting of course.
[01:15-01:42]- Now we get a short sequence of the two feeling each other out. Jabs and kicks are exchanged to no real effect. Pan the crowd for some reactions shots…wait, is that Forrest Whitaker? Yep, he’s totally in this for some reason.
[01:43-02:06]- Chong Li gets his first big hits on JCVD. Not enough to keep him down for long, but to send the message that this fight won’t be an easy one.
[02:07-02:24]- The crowd chanting Chong Li reminds us that the man in red trunks is the hometown favorite, probably because this beast has won the Kumite championship twice in a row. Clearly ready to depose Chong Li, JCVD goes into his flying kick/flex-shouting combination. Only years of practice allow him to flex so well.
[02:37-03:01]- Now JCVD goes heavy on the offense, starting with a front flip over a charging Chong Li. Then comes a clearly impossible move involving JCVD kicking Chong Li’s face with a swinging leg over his own shoulder. I keep watching this move over and over, and I can’t help but think they’re using a stunt leg from below camera. But maybe JCVD is just that flexible. Either way, a series of gut punches and a face kick later, Chong Li lies on the ground. This is when things take a turn for the awesome.
[03:06-03:20]- Chong Li pulls some powder out of his jockstrap and throws it in JCVD’s face. A pathetic, dirty move in any international fighting circuit, but the referee doesn’t see it. This is exactly why we need instant replay.
[03:22-:03:30]- JCVD is blinded by the powder and can only punch Chong Li after feeling the enemy’s leg on his torso. Now begins the sequence, the sequence that makes this entire movie worth watching ten times over. Brace yourself.
Continue watching the clip until the end. But when you’re done, go back to 04:39 and watch until 05:24 on repeat until your Internet goes down from an acting overload. Ask yourself how JCVD could have been overlooked for an Oscar. The world can be so unfair sometimes.
I can only imagine director Newt Arnold told Van Damme his children had been brutally murdered seconds before cameras began to roll. Van Damme commits every ounce of himself to portraying absolute agony. The fighting in the movie is great, but none of it can touch the entertainment of this climactic scene, including Van Damme’s patented split move. The Library of Congress should induct Bloodsport into its ranks just for this scene. Future generations ought to be shown this movie to understand the amazing range of emotions people can endure. Plus, the scene in question is an amazing tribute to the resiliency of the human race. Van Damme gets blinded, and (of course) goes on to win the match and the championship. He overcomes the loss of sight to put a beat down on Chong Li, proving that we are capable of doing incredible things when we’re able to zen out and trust our instincts. Although we can’t repeatedly kick our problems in the stomach until they unconsciously fall over, we can call upon the memory of our dying Asian karate mentor to guide us through tough times. There is a dying Asian karate master inside all of us, and the strength to overcome any obstacle resides in the same place.