A Movie A Day #246: Bloodsport (1988, directed by Newt Arnold)

Bloodsport is one of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s earliest films and it is Damme good!

Forgive the terrible opening line but that is how they actually used to advertise Jean-Claude Van Damme films.  Everything was either Damme exciting or Damme amazing or Damme spectacular.  Though it was made by Cannon and had a much lower budget than the films Van Damme made during his 90s heyday, Bloodsport is still a Damme quintessential Van Damme movie.

Bloodsport claims that the story it tells is true.  Frank Dux (Van Damme) is a U.S. Army captain who goes AWOL so he can compete in Kumite, an illegal martial arts tournament that is held in Hong Kong.  Kumite is the only martial arts tournament where it is legal to kill your opponent.  Chong Li (Bolo Yeung) became champion by killing anyone who lasts more than a minute with him.  At first, no one believes that an American like Frank Dux has a chance of winning the Kumite.  What they do not know is that Frank was trained by the legendary Senzo Tanaka.  Frank is not just competing for personal glory.  He is also competing in honor of Tanaka’s dead son.

Bloodsport is both Van Damme and Cannon Films at their best.  Shot on location in Hong Kong, Bloodsport not only features Van Damme doing his thing but also gives him a memorable sidekick, Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb), who talks like a professional wrestler and gets all of the best lines.  When Ray and Frank first meet, they bond over a video game that appears to be an extremely early version of Street Fighter.  Also keep an eye out for Forest Whitaker (!), playing one of the CID officers who is assigned to track down Frank and arrest him for desertion.

Like any good Van Damme film, Bloodsport lives and dies on the strength of its fights and it does not skimp on the blood, the chokeholds, or the high kicks.  Bolo Yeung is a great opponent for Van Damme but everyone know better than to try to beat Jean-Claude Van Damme.  When it comes to fighting Van Damme, Duke put it best:

Lisa Goes Back To College: Jocks (dir by Steve Carver)

A typically exciting scene from Jocks

A typically exciting scene from Jocks

Having already watched 3 campus protests from 1970, I decided that maybe I should watch something a little bit less heavy-handed for my next college film.  But I knew that, in order to find a college film that would have nothing serious on its mind, I would have to find a film that was made after the 70s.

That’s what led to me getting out my Too Cool For School DVD boxset and watching Jocks, a “comedy” from 1987.  As you can probably guess from the sarcastic use of quotation marks, I probably would have been better off staying in the 70s.

Christopher Lee (!) plays the President White, the strict president of L.A. College.  President White is upset because the athletic department has failed to win a championship in over ten years so he gives Coach Bettlebom (played by veteran character actor R. G. Armstrong) an ultimatum: win a championship or lose his job.  Bettlebom argues that the rest of the athletic department would be able to win if it wasn’t for the financial obligation of supporting the school’s tennis team.  Bettlebom then tells tennis Coach Williams (played by Shaft himself, Richard Roundtree) that he’s canceling the tennis program and all of the tennis players are going to lose their scholarships.  Williams responds by making a bet.  If the tennis team wins the national championship, the tennis program will continue.  And if they don’t, the team will cease to exist, Williams will be out of a job, and the members of the tennis team will all be forced to drop out of college and have their lives totally ruined…

Wait a minute.

That makes absolutely no sense.

What the Hell is Coach Williams thinking!?

That’s the sort of thinking that leads students to protest and occupy buildings and basically act like they’re extras in Getting Straight, Zabriskie Point, and R.P.M.

But anyway, let’s just move on and not worry about things like logic and narrative sense.  It’s time to meet the tennis team!

There’s Tex (Adam Mills), who doesn’t have a Texas accent.  Tex doesn’t really do much but he’s certainly in a lot of scenes.

There’s Andy (Stoney Jackson), the flamboyant black guy who freaks out his opponents by pretending to be gay, because this film was made in the 20th Century.

There’s Chito (Trinidad Silva), who speaks Spanish and dramatically crosses himself before playing each set.

There’s Ripper (Donald Gibb), who has a thick beard, growls a lot, and appears to be in his 40s.

There’s Jeff (Perry Lang), the nice guy.  In a film full of unlikable characters, Jeff seems to be, at the very least, a decent guy.  Plus, he has a fairly funny drunk scene and, when you’re watching a film like Jocks, you come to appreciate fairly funny.

And then there’s The Kid (Scott Strader), who apparently doesn’t have a name.  Seriously, even President White calls him “The Kid.”  As you might guess about someone with a permanent nickname, The Kid is a master tennis player.

Anyway, the team goes to the championships in Las Vegas where they engage in the usual drunken hijinks and basically act like a bunch of jerks.  They also play some rather boring tennis games.  The Kid falls for a tennis groupie played by future Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay.  Eventually, it all comes down to whether or not the team can beat Dallas Tech and, as a proud Texas girl, I’m not ashamed to admit that I was saying, “Go Dallas!” the entire time.

So, is Jocks worth watching?

If you’re a Christopher Lee fan, maybe.  But, honestly, I think Sir Christopher would forgive you if you skipped this one.

But if you really want to, check out Jocks below!