Van Damme made a name for himself in the 80’s and the 90’s. Since I grew up in the 90’s, I’ve definitely heard of him. Some of his early work included a couple of bit roles and a sizable role as a villain in the movie, No Retreat, No Surrender. He was also originally supposed to be the Predator in Predator but that got eventually scrapped. From what I’ve seen of the suit he was going to wear, that was a good thing. The movie that put his skills on the chart was Bloodsport and he did more and more throughout the years. His popularity waned towards the end of the 90’s, but it’s had a bit of a revival in the late 2000’s.
Bloodsport was released in 1988 and it was the movie that put Van Damme on the chart. It’s supposedly based on some guy named Frank Dux though I’ve read that his exploits may have been exaggerated. In the movie, Dux is an Army officer who wants to participate in the Kumite, a secret martial arts tournament. He goes AWOL in order honor his mentor. While in Hong Kong, he makes friends with an American fighter and an American reporter. He’s also chased by a couple of army officers who have to bring him back. In the end, he ends up going up against the reigning champ, Chong Li.
This movie is fine, but it’s not great by any means. The story itself is pretty decent for the most part. It’s your quintessential “I’m going to fight in a tournament” movie. I know that there had been some tournament movies before it, but I don’t know if there were any that had as many different fighting styles in them. I will say the movie is a bit of comedy at points. Some of it looks intentional and some of it is probably unintentional. Van Damme’s “I’m Blind” scene is kind of funny. The dialogue is also funny and memorable.
I did like Van Damme as the main guy even if his acting was questionable at some points. The other characters were serviceable enough. The American fighter, Ray Jackson, was pretty funny. The two officers were funny as well. We even get to see a young Forest Whitaker in a decent role here. The main highlight of the movie is Chong Li played by Yeng Sze aka Bolo Yueng! Yeah, my favorite henchman is in this. He even got upgraded to be the main villain and he was awesome. He was breaking bones everywhere. He didn’t say much but what he said was memorable.
I will say that it’s not perfect though. The acting is a little “meh.” The female reporter really doesn’t amount to much in the movie, but it is a fighting movie after all. There were also some weird moments. The chase scene between Dux and the officers was one of them. Then, there are the fight scenes. They’re not bad, but they aren’t the best things around. Some scenes aren’t choreographed well and there is a lot of needless slow-motion especially in the final fight. Overall, it’s a good film even with its issues.
Cyborg was released in 1989. This movie was actually supposed to be the sequel to Masters of the Universe but that fell through. It also uses costumes from that planned movie and failed Spider-Man movie. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic future. A plague wiped out a lot of the population and chaos reigns. A female cyborg is trying to get to Atlanta since she contains data for a cure to the plague. Unfortunately, a gang kidnaps her in order to use the cure for themselves. The only ones who can save her are Gibson Rickenbacker (Van Damme) and his plucky “sidekick,” Nady. Gibson also has a score to settle with the gang’s leader, Fender Tremolo.
This movie was dull but it has its moments. We actually have this on video at the house. I know I’ve seen it maybe once (twice now) since we’ve had it. This is pretty much a sci-fi movie in the same area as the Mad Max series. Everything’s disheveled, people have crappy teeth, and no one knows how to take of their hair anymore. The story is okay for the most part. Van Damme’s character was alright in this one. I also thought Fender had a cool look and was kinda funny. He always spoke with a growl and his growls are especially hilarious in the final fight.
The acting is pretty “bleh” throughout the whole thing. The music is really over-dramatic but it has its moments. The fight scenes are also pretty dull. They’re not horrible, but there’s really nothing to them. There’s also a lot of slow-motion especially during the fight scenes. I think I now know what movie inspired Zack Snyder’s fascination with slow-motion. There are also places where there is nothing happening in the movie. Overall, it’s a bland film that has a few decent moments.
The Quest was released in 1996. It was also the first movie to be directed by Van Damme. It takes place in the 1920’s. In this movie, Van Damme plays Chris, a thief who accidentally ends up on a pirate ship. After being their slave for a few months, the ship is attacked by another group of pirates led by Edgar Dobbs and his sidekick, Smythe. They save him but then sell him to a man in Thailand who teaches him Muay Thai. Months later, Chris, Dobbs, Smythe, and a reporter find out about a secret fighting tournament called the Ghang-gheng. They accompany an American boxer to the tournament and Chris ends up fighting in the place of the boxer.
The movie is okay but kind of dull. Let’s start with the obvious. This movie is pretty much a remake of Bloodsport. Van Damme’s the man guy, there’s a secret tournament, he meets a female reporter, he meets an American fighter, he keeps on running into two guys, and he fights the main villain at the end. Some things are different like the setting and the fact that he’s hanging out with the third James Bond, but it’s a clone and a pretty inferior one. The story isn’t that great nor compelling. The fighting’s not that good until the tournament which starts a little after the half-point of the movie. Lastly, the villain (the Mongolian fighter) pales in comparison to Chong Li.
That being said, it has its good points. The acting is pretty decent this time around. I thought Van Damme’s character was fine. I also liked the American boxer (James Remar) as well as Lord Dodds (Roger Moore). The female reporter was okay, but she didn’t do much. The fight scenes at the tournament are pretty good. We get a variety of fighting styles as well as some funny moments in them. Overall, it’s an okay film that’s has its dull points.
The last movie I’ll look at came out in 2012. Here, Van Damme plays Samson Gaul, a former mercenary who specialized in finding missing children. When the daughter to a former MMA fighter goes missing, Gaul is forced out of retirement by his son in order to find her. The chase leads Gaul and the Faydens (the girl’s parents) all around Romania. Things start to heat up when the kidnappers realize Gaul’s after them. The whole thing culminates in a gun fight in an abandoned Russian prison.
I'm guessing Mr. Fayden is wishing he was Col. Shepard. Ronan and Tela would have saved everyone by now.
The movie was actually pretty decent for the most part. It obviously got its inspiration from the Taken movies with the notion of human trafficking. The story is also pretty decent. Van Damme puts in a nice performance as Gaul. I also liked the parents in this one. The father was cool and the mother was pretty awesome in this. You wouldn’t want to tick her off. Another cool thing about the parents is that they are being played by Joe Flanigan (Col. Shepard) and Anna-Louise Plowman (Sarah Gardner/Osiris) from the Stargate series.
The acting was also pretty decent for the most part. It felt believable on the Faydens’ part. You may have had some stinkers in there with the acting but not a lot. The action scenes are pretty good for the most part. Van Damme only fights a few times in the movie and they are quick and effective. There are some sequences that are not that great especially in the finale. We even don’t get to see him fight in the end, but that was actually okay this time. The villains are your usual nasty guys and you’ll be glad to see their comeuppance. Overall, this was a pretty decent film.
Well, that’s all I have for today. There are a lot more Van Damme movies out there, so I might look at some more next year. Of all the movies here, I recommend Bloodsport and 6 Bullets. Bloodsport is your standard tournament movie and 6 Bullets provided for a nice viewing. The other two have their moments, but they aren’t really good either. Well, I’m outta here. Peace and God Bless.