Directed by Newt Arnold, who has 54 "assistant director" credits and 3 "director" credits, the last of which is Bloodsport.
Jean-Claude Van Damme as Frank Dux
Donald Gibb as Ray Jackson
Bolo Yeung as Chong Li
Leah Ayres as Janice Kent
Bloodsport is based on the story of Frank Dux and his first Kumite (koo' - mih - tay) tournament, an underground full-contact global martial arts tournament held in Hong Kong to find the best fighter in the world. Entrance is by invitation only, and fighters can expect to have limbs broken or teeth knocked out, and possibly even die.
Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Frank Dux, who joins the Kumite to avenge the death of his sensei's son in the previous Kumite tournament five years ago. Sensei Tanaka is based on Dux's claim that he was trained in martial arts as a youth in California by his neighbor, who ran a ninja training school. Among more traditional martial arts techniques, he also trains Frank how to meditate while being beaten with sticks, do the splits, and fight blindfolded (gee do you think that's going to come in handy later?).
Unfortunately for Frank, he's an officer in the US Military and they don't want him risking his life and health in a shady martial arts tournament, so they send two CIA agents to find him and bring him back. They don't wind up affecting the plot much.
Once in Hong Kong, Frank meets Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb, best known as Fred "The Ogre" Palowakski from Revenge of the Nerds), a big, burly street fighter with a heart of gold who quickly becomes Frank's good friend. Later he also meets Janice Kent (Leah Ayres), a reporter trying to get a story on the Kumite tournament and destined by the needs of the script to become Frank's love interest. The rest of the fighters, such as the Hispanic kickboxer and the Japanese sumo wrestler, are just cannon fodder to get beaten up by the main characters.
The plot is formulaic from page one. The story's bad guy is Chong Li (Bolo Yeung, who seems to have made a career of playing characters who can beat up anyone except the hero), the champion of the last Kumite tournament. Chong Li is a huge, vicious Chinese fighter with pecs bigger than his head and a tendency to keep beating on his opponent after the match is over, although this strangely never disqualifies him. Apparently the official punishment for killing your opponent after the match is having the judges turn their backs to you.
No points for guessing that Chong is going to put Ray in the hospital on day 2 of the three-day tournament, leaving Frank to avenge his friend in the championship fight. Minimum points for guessing that Janice tells the CIA agents where the Kumite is being held so they can stop Frank from fighting because she doesn't want to see him get killed. And if you guess that Chong is going to throw something in Frank's eyes during the championship fight, leaving Frank to rely on his blindfolded fighting technique to claim victory, then congratulations, you're qualified to write a B-movie of your own.
This movie is not worth watching, I give it one star out of five. The acting is painful, the dialogue is garbage, and the plot is cliché. I was hoping the mixed fighting styles would provide for more interesting fight scenes, since the fighters all came from different schools, but they were mediocre at best. I missed a lot of dialogue because I used fast forward to get through the worst parts, but none of it wound up being important. Watching Jean-Claude Van Damme scream and grunt in slow motion after he gets blinded is a surreal experience I will not soon forget.
Jean-Claude Van Damme Clichés
Splits: Van Damme does the splits in just about every movie he's in. I lost track of how many times he did them here, but the IMDb reports an amazingly gratuitous seven. This guy is really proud that he can do the splits. Granted, it's impressive that he can hover between two chairs while doing them, but the practical value of using it to duck an opponent's punch in a fight is questionable. This movie is likely the inspiration for Johnny Cage's groin punch while doing the splits in the Mortal Kombat video game. mkb informs me that Van Damme also does the "splits into nut punch" move in 1989's Kickboxer, also predating 1994's Mortal Kombat. I suppose the lesson here is wear a groin protector when fighting JCVD.
Accent: Sometimes a movie will go to great lengths to explain something nobody cares about, while ignoring gaping plot holes. Van Damme movies often try to explain why he has an accent. In an early scene, this is done by revealing — for no apparent reason other than to explain his accent — that his parents are immigrants.
Bloodsport was followed by Bloodsport 2, Bloodsport III, and Bloodsport: The Dark Kumite, none of which had Van Damme in them. The main character in 2 and III is Alex Cardo (Daniel Bernhardt) and The Dark Kumite for some reason uses the same actor but playing a different character (police officer John Keller). Bloodsport 2 also co-starred Donald Gibbs as Ray Jackson, and Bloodsport 2 and III featured Pat Morita (The Karate Kid's Mr. Miyagi).
Based on a True Story
Frank Dux has made a lot of amazing claims in his life. Aside from being the five-year undefeated champion of the Kumite from 1975-1980, he also claims to have worked for the US Government and to be the first person to punch through bulletproof glass (reportedly Lexan, misspelled as Lexon). He has little evidence to back up his story of the Kumite (after all, it's hard to dig up information on a secret tournament), and former friends and students of his, for example David Richardson (who has a background in stage magic), have come forward to explain how he staged and faked certain demonstrations, such as the Paris 1993 show where he broke the bulletproof glass. More information can be found at
So there's evidence against, and not much for, Fank Dux's claims, but regardless of the veracity of the story it's based on, this is not a good movie.