Tournament of Van Damme Tournament movies
Recently I watched a bunch of Van Damme (henceforth VD) movies initiated by a co-worker letting me borrow their DVD of The Quest. I grew up with Bloodsport, Kickboxer and Lionheart, and the plots of these movies are all the same: There’s a tournament, VD enters the tournament, and then VD wins the tournament.
So let’s have a tournament of these tournament movies to determine the winner.
I saw this movie as a kid at a neighbors birthday party. First VD movie I ever saw. It’s great, the fights are cool, and VD does many spinkicks. It supposedly based on the real life story of Frank Dux, who is a supreme bullshitter. His Wikipedia page is entertaining. FD, played by VD, runs from the military to fight in a Kumite, a secret tournament. Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds is there and they quickly become friends over a game of Karate Champ. The big bad guy is Chong Li, played by Bolo Yeung which is awesome, and Chong Li beats up Ogre which angers VD and motivated VD even more than he was already motivated. This is a common theme, VD builds up a shallow relationship with someone and lets them into his heart, that someone gets hurt, and VD must fight to win even though that’s what he wanted all along. Chong Li fights dirty, but FD/VD uses his ancient technique of fighting blind to win anyway. The military guys who were trying to bring him back eventually relax their mission so they can watch the fight, and VD wins them over with his big heart.
Very very similar to Bloodsport, however VD’s brother is the one who gets hurt. VD is subjected to intense training montages so that he can avenge his brother. The training stuff is great and hilarous. He has to kick down a tree, and his master also takes him out and gets him drunk, makes him dance, and then fight dudes. The big bad guy is Tong Po, who only has one hilarious line in the whole movie. The final fight has them fighting with glass glued onto their hands, aka “the ancient way” which is a cool gimmick. VD avenges his brother and gets called “Mitt soo cow” or something which means “White Warrior”, as in he’s only just recently learned how to kickbox but now he’s the BEST.
VD’s brother is doused in gasoline and lit on fire. VD is in the military and must go AWOL to go see his brother in the hospital. So out of the gate, the military is on his tail exactly like in Bloodsport. In order to get money, he somehow ends up fighting in an underground fighting ring. The female Patrick Bateman that runs the underground fighting ring takes a liking to VD. And why? VD literally asks her “why are you being nice to me” but before another line of dialog can be spoken they smash cut to a montage of her taking him clothes shopping to really shitty 80s music. The movie basically pulled a “that’s a good question…. hey look over there!” Horrible rich people hang out and hold money while people fight. There’s a set of fighters that he gets to fight that have no background other than their nationality, which is another common theme in these movies. They call VD “Lionheart” and they say repeatedly corny lines like “You definitely got heart Lionheart” and “You’ve got a big heart Lionheart!” Geez we get it. He’s got heart. He fights the big final boss who looks like Gene Simmons and he fights with so much heart that other people develop hearts due to Lionheart’s heart. The guys who are supposed to haul him back to the military are like “you’ve got heart” and now they’ll just let him go and not to the thing they’ve been trying to so for the whole movie. Oh and his brother? Dead. Doesn’t really matter.
By this point do I even need to say anything? VD enters tournament. Tournament is full of people that represent countries so the writers don’t have to take the time to think of names for them. There’s an announcer who just shouts “China vs. Brazil!” Again, VD shows heart. The other people who wanted to win and fight are overwhelmed by his heart and stop rooting for themselves and instead root for VD. VD wins. The movie starts with VD as an old man in a bar who beats up some thugs and then the bartender says “wow where’d you learn to do that?” and the rest of the movie the answer to that question. This framing is never addressed again, the movie doesn’t cut back at the end with VD saying “so there’s your answer” and I think VD just wanted some old man makeup. VD also dresses up as a clown and helps children or something? Again, he’s got heart.
Round one: Lionheart vs The Quest
Winner: Lionheart. It’s got more heart! The corny 80s commentary on greed pushes it over the top. Plus, Lionheart has cooler fight locations, like a drained swimming pool and a circle of luxury cars with their high beams on.
Round two: Lionheart vs Bloodsport
Winner: Bloodsport. The fighters are more interesting, you’ve got the spider monkey guy, the kung fu guy, the brawler, etc.
Round three: Bloodsport vs Kickboxer
Winner: Kickboxer. It’s got drunken dancing VD, VD trying to act drunk, and more absurd training goals like kicking down a tree. But they’re almost the same movie.
- The Quest
But they’ve all got heart! Watch ‘em all!