With a Kickboxer remake now in the works, it’s time to revisit the film that launched JCVD’s career.
Byon December 2, 2014
Yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Jean-Claude Van Damme had joined the cast of a remake of the 1989 film Kickboxer. This is great news, because—let’s be honest—the more we have of the guy behind the most epic splits in cinema history, the better. JCVD has many other martial-arts films on his resume aside from Kickboxer and the splits-tastic Timecop, but one stands above the rest: 1988’s Bloodsport. In it, Van Damme plays Frank Dux, a highly trained fighter trying to honor his unlikely master, Senzo Tanaka, by winning the Kumite, a dangerous underground fighting tournament held annually in Hong Kong.
One of the hallmarks of Bloodsport is the array of facial expressions Van Damme employs to make up for his legendarily atrocious acting. To be fair to JCVD, though, the rest of the cast was just as atrocious, save for a young Forest Whitaker, who played one of the government agents sent to stop Dux from fighting and bring him back to America (actually, Whitaker was kind of bad in this, too). But part of why Van Damme went on to enjoy such a successful post-Bloodsport career is because the faces actually do make up for the bad acting. Yes, they’re that good. So in honor of JCVD’s forthcoming return to the big screen, allow us to revisit his 1988 classic by ranking his signature Bloodsportlooks, in ascending awesomeness.
11. THE “ROUNDHOUSE TO THE FACE” FACE
Typical reaction following a decisive blow during competition. Characterized by a prolonged, monotone yell and distant but focused eyes.
10. THE INTENSELY FOCUSED FACE
No athlete has ever been as “in the zone” as Van Damme’s Dux before he released a barrage of acrobatic kicks to knock out Chong Li in the final match of the Kumite.
9. THE TOTAL, BLIND CONFUSION FACE
Facing defeat, Chong Li uses blinding powder to neutralize the clearly superior Dux. After several failed attempts to gather himself, frustration sets in as what seemed like a sealed Kumite title is suddenly in doubt.
8. THE “CHONG LI IS KICKING MY ASS” FACE MEDLEY
Now blinded, Dux is helpless against Chong Li.
7. THE “MY FRIEND IS GETTING PUMMELED” FACE
If honoring Tanaka wasn’t enough motivation, Chong Li mercilessly assaulted Dux’s only friend, Ray Jackson, before taunting Dux with Jackson’s Harley Davidson bandana. It’s a gesture Dux would not soon forget.
6. THE “NO PAIN, NO GAIN” FACE
Before Frank Dux became “Frank Dux,” he was subjected to a series of grueling training exercises by his master, Senzo Tanaka.
5. THE “DOWN GOES CHONG LI” FACE
Nothing could come between Dux and the title after he regained his mojo following Chong Li’s dirty blinding-powder trick. Tanaka would be proud.
4. THE “DEATH TOUCH” FACE
Before competing in the Kumite, Dux has to prove to fight officials that he can hold his own in the ring. “Pick a brick,” he says. Oh, the bottom one? No problem.
3. THE TOTAL, BLIND CONFUSION FACE, PART II: SEARCHING FOR CLARITY
Lost in a cloud of confusion, Dux has no other choice but to think back to his training, when Tanaka forced him to learn to fight blind by “feeling” his surroundings. In order to beat the best, you must return to the basics.
2. THE “SAY IT!” FACE
Dux is still not satisfied after laying waste to Chong Li. He must now shame the reigning champ by getting him to surrender and say “matté” in order to fully avenge the hospitalization of Ray Jackson.
1. THE “PUMOLA GUT PUNCH” FACE
This is the first time we see the face that came to define Van Damme’s brilliance inBloodsport. Framed beautifully by cinematographer David Worth, Dux delivers an open-palmed gut shot to heavyweight Pumola to seal his first marquee victory of the Kumite. Van Damme holds the pose, his mouth agape, his body trembling with adrenaline, his eyes lost in the intensity of the moment. If you could choose only one frame to encapsulate the essence of Bloodsport, this would be it.