HCF REWIND: MARTIAL ARTS SPECIAL
HCF may be one of the newest voices on the web for all things Horror and Cult, and while our aim is to bring you our best opinion of all the new and strange that hits the market, we still can not forget about our old loves, the films that made us want to create the website to spread the word. So, now and again our official critics at the HCF headquarters have an urge to throw aside their new required copies of the week and dust down their old collection and bring them to the fore….our aim, to make sure that you may have not missed the films that should be stood proud in your collection. Now we try to be diverse at HCF, so here we bring you three films from the world of martial arts featuring two of it’s greatest stars, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Tony Jaa.
Available on DVD
All the fighters are getting ready for the Kumite in Hong Kong. Only one can win.
Captain Frank Dux (Van Damme) goes AWOL from the army so he can participate in the Kumite; a full contact, 3 day, underground fighting event in Hong Kong, where fighters put their skills to the test to see who’s the ultimate champion. Before he leaves for China, he visits his old teacher, Master Tanaka (Roy Chaio), who’s son, Shingo (Sean Ward), was killed before he could participate in the Kumite. Frank tells Tanaka he is going to fight in the Kumite to honour him and his family, who’ve treated him like a son. We see flashbacks of a young Frank training with Tanaka and his son. After the unfortunate death of Shingo, Frank persuades Tanaka to train him for the Kumite so he can carry on the Tanaka family tradition of passing the martial science onto their young. Tanaka trains an experienced Frank, hitting him with sticks, teaching him to meditate to feel no pain, only the energy inside him. One of the great scenes of this is when Frank’s arms and legs pulled apart with ropes around trees, with Master Tanaka tightening them with a pully mechanism. Initially screaming with agony, Frank manages to embrace the pain to force himself upwards and snap the pully.
Frank flies to Hong Kong and meets Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb), a tall, hairy American with a love for Harley Davidson. They discover that they both are entering the Kumite so decide to hang out with each other. Meanwhile, government agents, Helmer (Norman Burton) and Rawlins (Forest Whitaker) are sent to Hong Kong to track Frank and bring him back to the USA.
Lin, a crazy, hip young Kumite rep takes Frank and Ray ito the hidden arena where the Kumite is to take place. The Kumite is governed by the Black Dragon Society and the IFAA and is kept a secret from the rest of Hong Kong, but is widely known about in the fighting circles and with the law. When Frank and Ray enter the Kumite arena to sign in, they have to display they have the skills to enter the fights without getting killed. After reading Frank’s invitation, the judges think Frank is lying about representing the Tanaka clan, as Tanaka is a great master in martial arts and this French man could not possible be taught by him. Frank soon proves them wrong when he successful performs the Dim Mak (Death Touch). 3 rows of bricks are stacked upon each other, Frank hits the top one and destroys the bottom brick alone. The amazing display of the technique brings the attention of Bolo Yeung.
In the bar of the hotel, blonde curly haired reporter Janice (Leah Ayres) is hassled by Hossein (Bernard Mariano), one of the Kumite fighters, and Frank steps in to protect her. If they fight for the woman, they will be disqualified from the Kumite, so Frank bets that he can snatch a coin out of Hossein’s hand before he closes it. If he does, he wins the girl, if he loses, Hossein can have her. Frank succesfully snatches the coin and manages to replace it too, all in the blink of an eye. Frank takes a stroll with Janice when she asks him what the mysterious Kumite is all about. He agrees to tell her if she has dinner with him. It’s a date!
Later in the day, Jackson walks in on Frank doing the splits between two chairs in his room. “That hurts me just looking at it”, exclaims Ray. I must say I cringed in what I can only imagine takes some strength to achieve. Van Damme is very skilled to perform such acts. Both set off for the first night of the Kumite.
There are 3 ways to win a fight: you knockout your opponent (KO), your opponent quits and shouts “Matae”, or you throw them off runway.
The first fight is Sen Ling v Suan Paredes, who is played by actor Michel Qissi, who is next seen in another JCVD film, ‘Kickboxer’, where he plays fighter Muay Thai champ, Tiger Tong Po. Suan performs some spinning kicks, body shots, hooks and uppercuts to knock Sen off the runway with a KO.
Up next is Ray, who towers over his skinny opponent like a giant brown bear, but takes some stick in the opener with his oponnent kicking him in the face. With his nose bleeding, Ray goes into overdrive, grabs his opponent’s head and floors him. He then turns to Bolo Yeung and threatens to kill him.
The third fight names appear on the board. Chong Li v Budimam Prang. The crowd go wild, chanting Chong Li’s name and up stands the man himself. A 50 year old Bolo Yeung plays Chong Li, the current champ who’s never been defeated and holds the record for the fastest KO. He killed a guy in the last Kumite by “kicking the poor bastard in the throat”. He died on the platform whilst Chong Li stood over and watched him die. In this fight, Chong Li appears to break his opponents neck to secure a win in 14.8 seconds. Chong Li is a middle aged fighter (looks a lot younger than Bolo’s real age) but is built like a brick shit house. You would not mess with this man. His upper body is solid, his pecs are HUGE, he is one bad mofo you would not like to bump into in the daylight, never mind in the dark.
Fourth fight is Dux v Hossein
With little effort and hardly any contact, Frank floors Hossein and renders him temporarily unconscious, however Hossein promptly gets back up to attack Frank who’s back is against him. Frank floors him with a quick elbow to the face and a spinning back fist in 12.2 seconds. NEW WORLD RECORD
Many clips of the fights ensue including an African looking guy who’s martial arts method of replicating monkey movement floors his opponent.
The first night of the Kumite is over. The next morning. the government agents find Frank and attempt to bring him back but Frank won’t go til he’s finished the Kumite. Helmer and Rawlins won’t take that as an answer and chase him through Hong Kong.
Later in the evening, during his dinner date with Janice, she aks Frank to help her get into Kumite to write a story, as press aren’t allowed in. The two quickly get intimate as we see the morning after of a passionate night as JCVD flashes his bare bottom for us. He says he cannot help her get into the Kumite but she doesnt seem to mind after falling for the Muscles from Brussels.
Frank rolls up for the second day of the Kumite where Ray shows off the talent of his strong head.
The first match involves Paco (Paulo Tocha), a Muay Thai boxer who knees, hooks, clinch knees, elbows and then KO’s his opponent with a flying knee. This is followed by Frank, who quickly KO’s his opponent too. Next up is Suan, who feels the fury of Chong Li and is wiped out of the competition when Chong Li stamps and breaks Suan’s leg which pops through the skin. You see the bone ripped through the skin, covered in blood. The fight is dangerous and you know that you can be seriously injured or even killed at any moment. It mimics the real dangers of fighting, but for many who are into the sport, pain is a part of it and you must be prepared to be hit.
We see a nice match with Frank, who makes short work of a sumo wrestler, Pumola, with a body punch followed by a splits positioned uppercut into the groin. Ouch! Again, JCVD shows us his trademark move that would make grown men wince.
Last fight of the second night is Ray Jackson v Chong Li. Ray does a spinning backfist on Chong Li and knocks him down. Whilst Ray celebrates, Chong Li returns to his feet and stamps on Ray’s head, rendering him totally unconsious. Chong Li takes Ray’s Harley Davidson bandana and keeps it as a trophee, but not before showing off in front of Frank. In hospital, Ray is on the slow road to recovery and Frank promises to defeat Chong Li for Ray.
With rage from the attack on his friend, Frank manages to calm himself and meditates to get back his inner peace, ready for the final Kumite night.
The final night. Frank’s first fight is against Paco, the Muay Thai boxer. Paco encourages Frank to touch fist, so Frank obliges whilst Paco quickly kicks him inbetween the legs, and with a swift downwards elbow to the face, knocks Frank down. Frank gets up and after exchanges of body kicks and punches, Frank knocks out Paco with a spinning back kick.
Chong Li enters the runway and kills his opponent Chuan Ip Mung after a flurry of punches to the head and neck break. Chong Li feels alive when the crowd chant his name, waving his arms with excitement. The crowd fall silent as Chong Li announces to Frank that he’s next.
The match cards are up. The final fight is between Frank Dux and Chong Li. Chong Li’s aid puts a powder tablet in the waistband of Chong Li’s trousers before he enters the runway. Chong Li walks onto the runway with Ray’s bandana tied to his leg, to prove how he’s gonna make Frank meet the same fate as Ray. “You break my record, now I break you, like I break your friend”.
Frank opens up with a kick to Chong Li’s face. Startled, Chong Li throws the referee infront of him. After an amazing display by Frank, Chong Li is floored and decides to play dirty. He crumbles the tablet that he had hidden in his waistband, into a powder and throws it into Frank’s face. His vision blurred, Frank is attacked by all angles. Only when he remembers his training by Tanaka, does Frank embrace his inner power and fights back with extraordinary power and accuracy.
This is an amazing film. The film displays many martial arts whilst having a decent enough script for a martial arts movie. The talent and variety of the fighters is fantastic with a sumo wrestler, a thai boxer and I suppose for the most part, fighters of Jeet Kune Do. The film covers many different martial arts and does not show one particular one to be the best, with each art having its strengths and weaknesses. Bolo Yeung laps it up as the bad guy and nobody gets tougher than him. A solid fighter, he makes a brilliant champion who Frank must face in order to win. Every time I watch this movie, it amazes me how well Bolo had kept in shape. Many men would kill to be look like that when they are 50.
Forest Whitaker plays his part as an eager officer to his superior, but both government agents come across as bumbling fools who are dislikable, especially even time they draw their stun guns. The viewer will always root for Frank and even his new friend, Ray, who had a gung-ho American charm that will endear you to him. Leah Ayres plays Janice as a sweet yet tricky reporter, who really wants her story but at the same time falls for Frank. She grows concerned for her love interest after witnessing the killing of one of the fighters at the hands of Chong Li.
The atmosphere in the film feels real, with scenes of Hong Kong city giving the film a feel of authenticity. Every time before each fight, the spectators at the Kumite go mad, betting on who they think will win. Money is a big part of fights and I think it was well played to see them include this aspect inthe film. I also enjoyed the rock-based soundtrack, notably the ‘Fight To Survive’ song which can be heard throughout the film. The music backs up the punchy, raw, macho content of Bloodsport.
The story of Bloodsport is inspired by the story of the real Frank Dux although the validity of his claims, concerning his involvement in the Kumite and his martial arts background, have been disputed. Nevertheless, the film is great fun with a nice story mixed in with the fights.
Along with ‘Kickboxer’, this is one of my favourite Jean Claude Van Damme films, because its martial arts and not an action movie incorporating martial arts moves. The film has respect for all types of fighters and has a true moral that if you put your mind to it and try, you can reach your goals. I only hope Jean Claude can return to his former glory as seen in this film, especially as he is set to take part in a real life Muay Thai fight in Thailand against former Olympic champion, Somluck Kamsing, later this year.