Viking Night: Bloodsport
By Bruce Hall
January 13, 2015
They say you’re nobody until Jean-Claude Van Damme has played you in a movie - “they”, of course, being Jean-Claude Van Damme. So assuming this is true (it’s not), that makes Frank Dux the most important entertainment figure of the 1980s. For those not in the know. Dux (it’s pronounced “Dukes”) is a Canadian martial arts enthusiast who is best known for supposedly winning the Kumite competition 500 times in a row, never losing a fight ever, and being able to catch bullets in his teeth and make it rain just by shaking his fist at the sky. I say “supposedly” because you’ll notice that most of these claims sound like total crap.
But whether his exploits are true or not, someone made a movie about him, and not about me, so I’m willing to let him have the benefit of the doubt.
Moving on, the “Kumite” is an illegal martial arts championship allegedly held every five years in a secretive location, where competitors from all over the world allegedly beat the living hell out of each other until one man is allegedly left standing. Nothing is illegal, and it is said that brutal, neck snapping deaths are not uncommon. I say “allegedly” because there is no proof the Kumite exists, other than Frank Dux saying it does. So basically, Dux is like that kid in high school who said he had a girlfriend in Canada, and you had no choice but to believe him because Canada is really far away and the Internet has not been invented yet.
Still, it makes a good story, and if nothing else, Bloodsport starts the way every good story should. With a montage of mysterious Asian men in flowing robes gleefully decorate a secluded arena like cheerleaders getting ready for a pep rally, interspersed with shots of manly men breaking blocks of ice the size of teenagers with their elbows, leaping through solid bricks of wood as thick as phone books, and karate chopping coconuts in half. Behind it chugs an ‘80s synth pop soundtrack informing us the Kumite is coming and will totally break your face.
Meanwhile, rebellious army Captain Frank Dux (Van Damme) is so anxious to attend this event that he goes AWOL. Needless to say, this slightly irritates his commanding officer, who dispatches agents Helmer and Rawlins (Norman Burton, Forest Whitaker) the world’s worst CID officers, to bring him back. It’s never explained why Dux is so important that the Army needs to send two guys halfway across the globe on an unlimited budget to find him. It is also never explained why two guys as stupid as Helmer and Rawlins are worthy of such a responsibility. But it’s mildly amusing to see them try, and you seriously wouldn’t believe how huge tasers were back in 1988.
Frank’s interest in the Kumite stems from his time as a child, when he apparently hung with some bad seeds. On one occasion, they break into a Japanese family’s home to steal all the cool swords and stuff, but lose their nerve and bug out. Frank stays behind to tidy up (because he’s not like the other kids, you see) and is apprehended by the kindly Mr. Tanaka (Roy Chiao). Tanaka agrees not to press charges if Frank will agree to years of brutal martial arts training alongside Tanaka’s son, who hopes one day to compete in the Kumite. The agreement is made, but when Tanaka’s son suddenly dies (probably from being beaten to death), Frank decides to honor his new foster family by aspiring to take the boy’s place (as any normal teen would do.