by Michele Eggen and Brian Keiper
F This Movie! alums Michele Eggen and Brian Keiper are the hosts of a new movie podcast (because there aren’t enough of those out there) called Movies For Life, which debuted in late 2020. The goal of the show is to talk about the movies that really mean the most to the hosts, in whatever way it happens to manifest. For each episode, Michele and Brian both pick a movie to bring to the table that fits into a broad topic that has been chosen for the episode, and then they do a deep-dive into each film and why it resonates.
Those feelings about certain movies don’t always have to be so emotionally meaningful, either. Sometimes we just love a movie because it brings us joy. And letting another person in on that joy has been a really amazing thing that has happened on Movies For Life. People that know Michele online know she has a somewhat unhealthy obsession with one Jean-Claude Van Damme. So for our celebration of 1988 week, we decided Michele was going to introduce Brian to arguably one of JCVD’s best films, BLOODSPORT! Read on for that conversation (and get a little taste of what the podcast is like)!
Michele Eggen: We’ve been really lucky on our show so far because we have really loved all the movies that the other person has introduced us to, and we’re all about finding new favorites all the time. Brian, you’ve seen my love for JCVD, but you are a newbie to his movies! What did you think about Bloodsport?
Brian Keiper: I thought this movie was a lot of fun! This is admittedly only my second JCVD movie...like ever. So, I’m still learning to appreciate the greatness that is the Muscles from Brussels.
ME: And this is 1988 JCVD. To me he is always in his prime because I love him and he’s gorgeous and wonderful, but this is him in his absolute top form as a fighter, especially.
BK: The fight scenes are amazing. I was beyond impressed by what he was able to do as an athlete. The strength, the balance, the flexibility are all jaw-dropping. I also love that this is a sports movie or fighting movie boiled down to its most basic and entertaining elements. It’s the training montages, and the big tournament sequences, and those parts you really love about those movies with the other plot elements as brief and to the point as possible. So, its non-stop Cannon and JCVD excitement!
BK: The name Dux made me laugh a little - as in, “put up your dukes.” Speaking of good guys, an unexpected good guy to me was Ray Jackson. When Donald Gibb came on screen as that character, I was expecting “Ogre” from Revenge of the Nerds or some kind of nemesis. I’m so glad that they went in a different direction than that. He becomes a bit like Apollo Creed of Rocky III and IV in this.
ME: I love Ray in this movie! Just from his look and size, I was expecting his character to be this big macho jerk that would antagonize Frank the whole movie. Instead, they become buddies! And their instantaneous friendship feels real - two guys both wanting to win and prove themselves in the kumite, but also wanting to see the other one succeed too.
BK: He also becomes the driving force to really beat Chong Li at the end. It’s a nice friendship that is not always seen in these kinds of movies and it is refreshing. Like Val and Earl in Tremors - a favorite of ours.
ME: OF MINE! You wouldn’t have seen that one either if it wasn’t for me! But yeah, Ray is so sweet and a bit of a comic relief for the movie, so you hate to see anything bad happen to him, even if he doesn’t really get hurt THAT bad. I’m just glad Janice didn’t end up being that character, as it’s usually a woman that the man is avenging. How do you feel about the reporter Janice Kent and her whirlwind romance with JCVD?
BK: It certainly is whirlwind! I like their chemistry, though. After their tryst, it looked like they were going to take it all in a new direction, though. When she said, “This isn’t the first time I’ve gone undercover for a story,” I had a “yikes” moment. I thought she was being set up as some kind of traitor. But it turned out okay.
ME: She sliiiiightly betrays him by going to the cops about the kumite, but she only does it because she’s worried that he will get hurt or even killed. And the cops and the military guys in this movie are pretty ineffectual anyway. We don’t really get to learn much about Janice but I still like her. She can hold her own in a movie with all dudes and give them just the right amount of attitude they need to keep them in line.
BK: Speaking of ineffectual characters, I was very happy to see Forest Whitaker as Rawlins in this!
BK: To be honest, all it really does is pad out the running time a bit, but I still really enjoy those scenes.There is a lot of fun in them between him and his partner. Unnecessary? Sure. But I enjoyed the chase subplot, if for no other reason than using the shield to deflect the taser toward the end. We got a spoof Mentos commercial out of it on YouTube, so that’s cool. And the dog rejecting the food they were eating at that restaurant was a funny moment.
ME: Well, they were eating eel. I’m with the dog on that one. And that last scene where they try to “catch” him is pretty funny because they’re just like, “Alright, guess there’s nothing else we can do here. We’ll just watch you fight and hope you don’t die.”
BK: There are some really great fight sequences with a lot of different kinds of martial artists throughout the movie. Those scenes are fantastic and a lot of fun.
ME: That is one of my favorite things to see, too. The kumite - which, by the way, for anyone who doesn’t know, is an illegal full-contact fight tournament that is secretly held in Hong Kong every five years - brings fighters in from all over the world, who have obviously trained in different styles (Frank’s being ninjitsu). It makes the fight scenes so much more interesting and unpredictable to see some of them pitted against each other.
BK: Some use their size and brute force. Some have more refined, balletic movements. There is the one who uses the monkey-style of fighting. It’s great to see such variation. That also brings us to the guy who seems to just hug people. I found myself talking back to the screen, “Don’t let him hug you!”
ME: I mean, I love hugs but not from that guy! Thankfully, JCVD is able to take him out with what I consider to be his other signature move aside from the splits - the dick punch.
BK: And this movie combines the two.
ME: One of the best moments in the movie and a great gif to use, as well.
BK: And he does the splits a lot in this movie, most famously between the two chairs in the hotel room. Ray comments that he may want to have children someday. I had a similar reaction.
ME: I mean, I could help him with that. I would do the splits for JCVD any day.
ME: Okay, fine. Let’s go back to boring plot points.
BK: I really love the early section of the movie. The training montage with Tanaka is a cool throwback to Shaw Brothers movies and the like but still shows us things we haven’t seen before. The scene where JCVD is suspended in the splits by ropes is intense. And so much of the training being blindfolded becomes an important plot element -- but because we’re familiar with movies like this, we see it coming.
ME: Because Chong Li (with his ridiculously awesome boob muscles) is a dirty fighter and throws a salt pill in his face in the last fight! I don’t care how commonplace and repetitive they are, training montages are definitely my jam. When you have somebody like JCVD in your movie, you love being able to see what his body is really capable of and that it is really him doing all that. He is so talented, strong, and coordinated and I’m jealous of his balance, to be honest!
BK: Chong Li is a great final nemesis. The movie does a great job setting up his character and the danger he imposes.
ME: They make it a point for Chong Li to really have no redeeming qualities. They show his skill and strength as a fighter on the kumite platform, but he fights hard and dirty and wants to not just defeat his opponents but completely destroy and humiliate them to exalt himself. He hurts Ray (and steals his Harley bandana), he breaks another guy’s leg, and even kills yet another one! He definitely doesn’t have the heart of JCVD.
BK: Frank is given a chance to destroy Chong Li, but refuses.
ME: Frank wins the fight in a more noble way. Chong Li probably deserves to be stopped from maybe killing anyone else, and he’s not the kind of fighter to just give up. So for Frank to actually make him say “Mate” rather than knocking him out shows the difference between these two fighters.
BK: I have to say that this movie really makes me want to see more JCVD. This whet my appetite for more movies like this or films with him as the lead.
ME: So you’re a JCVD stan now?
BK: Let’s say that I am JCVD-curious.
BK: He definitely has an “it” factor. Undeniable presence on screen.
ME: And a smokin’ hot bod to boot.