It might look like torture. But to Frank Dux? It’s training…
Welcome back to another edition of “Cheese-tastic Classics”, the series where I go through those movies that are so bad they’re good in a delicious, delectable way that can only be defined as “Cheese”!
This time? The 1988 Cheese-fest “Bloodsport”, the movie that introduced the world to the “Muscles from Brussels” himself, Jean Claude Van Damme! It’s the story of honor, stretching, and an underground fighting championship known as the Kumite!
It’s a cheese drenched spectacular that every self-respecting connoisseur should have in their repertoire… click through to read all about it!!
Frank Dux: Shingo and I were close friends. Brothers. And you and Mrs. Tanaka have treated me like a son. What will happen now?
Tanaka: No more training. Stop now.
Frank Dux: [shakes his head] But you have so much to teach.
Tanaka: You don’t understand. During the war, I lost my first family. My son, daughter, and wife. I left Japan because of the war. War was wrong. I came to America to start over, to have a new family, and a son. For 2,000 the teachings passed, father to son, father to son. When Shingo died, it stopped.
Frank Dux: Teach me. I can do it.
Tanaka: You are not Japanese! You are not a Tanaka!
Frank Dux: To honor you, shidoshi.
Prior to the shooting of “Bloodsport”, Jean Claude Van Damme had never actually spoken any English. Ok, well, that’s not entirely true. He had never actually spoken any English after Bloodsport, either. In order to imitate his concrete-thick accent, I’m pretty sure the actor they got to play young Van Damme was a special needs individual.
Bloodsport is the story of Frank Dux. As a young man, he is caught breaking into a house to steal a sword. The homeowner – a master martial artist – takes pity on him, however (well, after his son kicks Frank’s ass) and offers to teach him martial arts. When the master’s son dies, Frank is his only hope for passing on his martial arts tradition.
Frank proves to be a resilient, determined pupil, willing to get his ass beat year after year. His master teaches him two of the most important techniques any martial artist can learn. The fully fledged split, and serving tea blindfolded. Frank dreams of one day honoring his master
by fighting in a puny gym down a dingy alley in a Hong Kong ghetto by entering one of the most renown martial arts events of the ages. The Kumite.
Upon his arrival in Hong Kong, he has no difficulties finding the Kumite. It’s actually only a secret to cops and reporters. Apparently to everyone else they hand out flyers, send out tour guides and put up directional arrows around town. When he gets there, however, his qualifications are called into question. He’s a westerner. So in order to test the veracity of his claim of being trained by Senzo Tanaka, they ask Frank to break a brick. On the bottom of a pile.
Very good. But brick not hit back!
Frank has earned his way into the Kumite. But he’s also earned the respect of fellow Kumite entrant Ray Jackson, who is expertly portrayed by Donald Gibb. Between shutting him out in consecutive rounds of “Karate Champ” the night before, and breaking a single brick through multiple layers of other bricks atop of it, Dux has earned Jackson’s loyalty.
Chewbacca? Goose? Sundance? Short Round? Garth? Pretenders to the Sidekick throne…
The challenge that sits before the two of them is personified by Kumite champion Chong Li. Chong Li is the undefeated reigning champion, and holder of the record for fastest knockout. He’s a vicious competitor, unafraid to kill or maim in the ring. He looks like a walking tree trunk… he’s built like the a Mack Truck. He has two basic intimidation moves that he uses before every match. The single nostril snot blow, and the “Be afraid of my bouncing pecs”.
Dux and Jackson, while advancing themselves, watch Chong Li destroy challenger after challenger.
Of course, fighting in the Kumite is not the only thing that Dux has to worry about. He also has to deal with
a slut who is willing to sleep with anyone in order to get in an intrepid reporter who will stop at nothing to uncover the truth about the event, and two of the most inept MPs in history (future Oscar Winner Forest Whitaker!) When is a man supposed to find time to practice his splits?
That hurts me just lookin’ at it.
The Kumite proceeds, and martial artists of all style face of against each other. Capoeira faces off against Kung Fu. Dux and his ninjitsu square off against Muay Thai… and Jackson – utilizing a style that is best qualified as “Bar Room Oaf” – faces off against the murderous Chong Li.
To disastrous results… After pulling a Leon Lett and showboating prematurely, Jackson is defeated by Chong Li. Chong Li even goes so far as to stomp his face while he’s already on the ground. And further… he steals Jackson’s Harley Davidson bandana. Dux has to be restrained from going after him right there and then.
With Jackson hospitalized, it is up to Dux to defeat Chong Li and win the Kumite. In order to clear his mind for the task ahead, he practices his splits.
The inevitable confrontation between Chong Li and Dux awaits. With the two of them breezing through the semi-finals, they face off against each other with the title of Kumite champion on the line. Of course, Frank Dux is also fighting for the honor of Ray Jackson, and his Shidsoshi. Dux gains the upper hand early, at one point kicking Chong li in the face 62 consecutive times without ever putting his foot down.
Chong Li is not about to allow himself to be defeated easily, however. While recovering on the mat, he slips a tablet of ancient oriental “Blinding Powder” from the inside of his waistband, and uses it to blind Dux! Dux is confused and enraged. Without his sight, how can he fight? And then he remembers… his martial arts training covered the art of fighting blinded! His master taught him to fight while wearing a blindfold – just for situations such as these. Dux regains his composure. He calms himself, and then rises to unleash his power on Chong Li. The power of the full split.
“Bloodsport” proves that with enough determination, anyone can overcome their obstacles. Frank Dux was willing to endure years of training in order to perfect his
splits martial arts in order to triumph over his lack of acting talent and brutal accent and prove victorious at the Kumite. Along the way he makes a lifelong ally in Ray Jackson, gets used by finds a brief romance with an attractive reporter, evades hapless military pursuers and beats all kinds of people up.
What more could you ask for in a Cheese-tastic Classic?