Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Newt Arnold|
|Story by||Sheldon Lettich|
|Music by||Paul Hertzog|
|Edited by||Carl Kress|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.(United States and United Kingdom)|
U.G.C. Worldwide Distribution (Worldwide)
|Box office||$50 million|
Bloodsport is a 1988 American martial arts action film directed by Newt Arnold. It stars Jean-Claude Van Damme, Donald Gibb, Leah Ayres, and Bolo Yeung. The film is partly based on unverified claims made by martial artist Frank Dux. It sold well at the box office, grossing $50 million on a budget of $1.5–2.3 million. Bloodsport was one of Van Damme's first starring films and showcased his athletic abilities. It has since become a cult film. It is the first film in the Bloodsport franchise.
U.S. Army Captain Frank Dux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) has trained in the ways of ninjutsu under his sensei Senzo Tanaka (Roy Chiao). As a boy, Dux and a group of his friends broke into Tanaka's home to steal a katana, but Dux was apprehended while returning the katana to its place. Impressed by Dux's integrity and toughness, Senzo decided to train him alongside his son, Shingo (Sean Ward). After Shingo's death, Senzo trains Dux as a member of the Tanaka clan. Dux is invited to the Kumite, an illegal martial arts tournament in Hong Kong. After his Army superiors refuse to let him go, Dux goes absent without leave, says goodbye to his sensei and leaves for Hong Kong. Two Criminal Investigation Command officers, Helmer (Norman Burton) and Rawlins (Forest Whitaker), are assigned to track down and arrest Dux.
After arriving in Hong Kong, Dux befriends American fighter Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb) and their guide Victor Lin (Ken Siu). When they arrive at the Kumite arena, the officials are skeptical but eventually accept them after Dux proves his connection to the Tanaka clan by performing the "death touch." On the first day of the tournament, Dux earns the enmity of the ruthless Kumite champion Chong Li (Bolo Yeung) after breaking his record for the fastest knockout.
Dux becomes involved with American journalist Janice Kent (Leah Ayres), who is investigating the Kumite. Although Dux refuses to help her, she sneaks into the arena by agreeing to a date with another spectator. On the second day, Jackson is matched against Chong Li. Although Jackson comes close to defeating Li, he wastes time gloating, allowing Li to recover and viciously beat him. Dux visits Jackson in the hospital and vows to avenge him. After witnessing the brutality of the tournament, Kent argues with Dux and tries to convince him not to return. Dux tells her that he has to win in order to become the best he can be.
Helmer and Rawlins arrive in Hong Kong and contact the local police. They begin asking around for Dux and track him down to his hotel. A chase through the downtown ensues but Dux evades them when they fall into a canal. When Dux arrives at the Kumite, the local police are waiting for him. He eludes them as well but agrees to return with Helmer and Rawlins after the tournament.
On the final day, Li kills his opponent, much to the consternation of the crowd. Fearing defeat, Li conceals a salt pill in his waistband before the final match against Dux. When Dux gains the upper hand, Li blinds him by crushing the pill and throwing it into Dux's face. Dux falls back on his training from Tanaka, who taught him to fight blindfolded, overcoming the handicap and defeating Li. The next day, he bids farewell to Kent and Jackson before returning to the United States with Helmer and Rawlins.
- Jean-Claude Van Damme as Frank Dux
- Bolo Yeung as Chong Li
- Donald Gibb as Ray Jackson
- Leah Ayres as Janice Kent
- Norman Burton as Helmer
- Forest Whitaker as Rawlins
- Ken Siu as Victor Lin
- Roy Chiao as Senzo Tanaka
- Michel Qissi as Suan Paredes
- Philip Chan as Inspector Chen
Development and writing
Co-writer Sheldon Lettich came up with the idea for the film. According to Lettich:
"I had known Frank Dux for a number of months before I came up with the idea for Bloodsport. Frank told me a lot of tall tales, most of which turned out to be bullshit. But his stories about participating in this so-called "Kumite" event sounded like a great idea for a movie. There was one guy who he introduced me to, named Richard Bender, who claimed to have actually been at the Kumite event and who swore everything Frank told me was true. A few years later this guy had a falling-out with Frank, and confessed to me that everything he told me about the Kumite was a lie; Frank had coached him in what to say."
Producer Mark Di Salle said he was looking for "a new martial arts star who was a ladies' man, [but Van Damme] appeals to both men and women. He's an American hero who fights for justice the American way and kicks the stuffing out of the bad guys." Bloodsport is one of the few films featuring scenes filmed inside Kowloon Walled City before its demolition in 1993.
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Bloodsport's soundtrack score was composed by Paul Hertzog, who also composed another Jean-Claude Van Damme film, Kickboxer. The soundtrack contains the songs "Fight to Survive" and "On My Own", both performed by Stan Bush. Bush's songs are replaced on the soundtrack with alternate versions sung by Paul Delph, who was nominated for a Grammy for this work. The film plays the song "Steal the Night" by Michael Bishop during a scene where Dux runs from Helmer and Rawlins. The song was released in the mid-2000s as a single containing a vocal and instrumental version. On June 26, 2007, Perseverance Records released a limited-edition CD of the soundtrack including, for the first time, the original film versions of the Stan Bush songs.
In January 1989, the Los Angeles Times reported a U.S. box office gross of $11.7 million against a budget of $2.3 million. In August 1989, the Chicago Tribune reported that the film pulled in $50 million worldwide, including $15 million in the U.S. and Canada, making it Cannon Group's most profitable film of 1988.
Leonard Klady of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Hacking through the jungle of cliche and reservoir of bad acting in Bloodsport [...] are some pretty exciting matches."
Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports a 40% approval rating based on 25 reviews, with an average rating of 4.67/10. The site's consensus reads: "This is where it all began for the Muscles from Brussels, but beyond Van Damme's athleticism, Bloodsport is a clichéd, virtually plotless exercise in action movie recycling." On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 29 out of 100, based on 5 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
Since its release, Bloodsport has become a cult film. It was followed by three direct-to-video sequels: Bloodsport II: The Next Kumite (1996), Bloodsport III (1997) and Bloodsport 4: The Dark Kumite (1999). Jean-Claude Van Damme did not appear in any of the sequels.
A remake of Bloodsport was reported to be in planning in 2011. Phillip Noyce was attached to direct a screenplay by Robert Mark Kamen. The main character was supposed to be an American Afghanistan War veteran competing in a vale tudo tournament in Brazil. Director James McTeigue was attached to the project by 2013, and the filming was to be done in Australia and Brazil.
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