Bloodsport, Directed by Newt Arnold and Written by Sheldon Lettich, Christopher Cosby and Mel Friedman, follows the true story of Frank Dux (Van Damme) an American soldier who abandons his military service and leaves the United States Army to illegally contend in a Martial Arts tournament in Hong Kong. Forest Whitaker has a supporting role named Rawlins, a criminal investigation officer assigned to track Frank down in Hong Kong and prevent him from competing in mortal combat.
Alongside Fist of Fury (1972), Drunken Master (1978), Once Upon a Time in China (1991) and Best of the Best (1989), Bloodsport is the epitome of martial arts films not just in Van Damme’s filmography, but the entire genre. This character for Van Damme represented the quintessential tough guy – powerfully built, taciturn and contained. The combat scenes in Bloodsport inspired an entire generation of would-be mixed martial-artists and fans alike, who were in their adolescence during the late ‘80s, early ’90s; especially with its most memorable scene where Frank’s opponent, Chong Li (Bolo Yeung) cheats and Frank is forced to fight with obstructed vision, channeling the blindfold training he received in his youth from Master Sensei Tanaka (Roy Chiao) – a magnificent backstory sequence that plays out in the first act like its own short film.
In the sense of its mood and aura, Bloodsport separates itself from the rest of the pack of classic martial-arts cinema as a film that builds a case to justify combat. Frank Dux explains to Janice (Leah Ayres), a journalist who thinks the Kumite is barbaric, that her perception is flawed; martial-arts combat is about honor, dignity and grace. Athletics don’t shape character; they reveal it. Almost every young boy who watched this film in their youth remembers where they were the first time. Bloodsport defines an era and just the mere thought of this film overcomes its fans with acute nostalgia for that long-lost time in the ‘80s. Even though one can experience the feeling vicariously through contemporary mixed martial-arts organizations, such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Bloodsport remains a staple for eternity.