It's Absolutely No Surprise That Bloodsport Is One Of Donald Trump's Favorite Movies

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

Donald Trump is the 2016 Republican nominee for President of the United States. This is something you were already aware of. Television networks have provided him with billions of dollars in free publicity covering his campaign, even as the tone of that coverage shifted from jaded sneering at the Smirking Cantaloupe Doofus to dawning horror that said doofus was now only a few dangling chads away from accessing the launch codes.

If anything, the attention has only become more intense since the Republican National Convention, but probably not in the way Trump intended. Attacking Gold Star families, Purple Heart jokes, and sending members of your own party into the arms of the enemy are not tactics one usually associates with victorious Presidential runs. If he was up against anyone other than Hillary “She’s Just As Bad As Trump-Unless You’re A Woman, Minority, LGBT, or Immigrant, That Is” Clinton, Democrats would be in the throes of a bender not seen since Ted Kennedy was still alive.

However, lost in this backed-up toilet of inept sexual harassment analysis and gaffes about Russians in the Ukraine (sounds like a line from “We Didn’t Start the Fire”) was a snippet floated back in April from a 1997 New Yorker profile by Mark Singer. Specifically, how one of Trump’s favorite movies was 1988’s Bloodsport. For those not up on their oily fisticuff cinema, Bloodsport stars Belgian splits enthusiast Jean-Claude Van Damme as Frank Dux, an American who allegedly participated in an underground, full-contact martial arts tournament known as the "Kumite," eventually breaking all kinds of fight records.
On the surface, it’s understandable that this story sort of fell through the cracks. The movie's described as an "old favorite," not his all-time fave, and Trump has already spent the last few months on a personal Parade of Provocation. Professing affection for a goofy 80s karate flick doesn’t even crack the top 500 of embarrassing things the guy has said since daylight savings time began last March.

It’s also quite possibly a crock. If we’ve learned nothing else from this rough beast’s slouch towards the Oval Office, it’s that Trump is as uninterested in maintaining a coherent narrative as he is in telling the truth. Apparently endearing to his followers, this tendency to shoot his mouth off without forethought makes it impossible to pin down his positions on, well, anything. He was for a woman’s right to choose, until he wasn’t; he said we should put a greater tax burden on the wealthy, until he said we shouldn’t; he denied climate change, until he realized it threatens one of his golf courses, etc. etc. ad Trumpeum.

Given this, and Singer’s assertions that Trump fast forwarded through all the non-fight scenes, I’d be surprised if the guy really *has* a favorite movie. Even allowing for the fact Bloodsport’s non-combat sequences are eminently ffwd-worthy, it’s hard to believe he’d include any film on that list of "greats" besides Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Zoolander, or one of the other half dozen movies in which he appears as himself.

Then again, Bloodsport actually makes perfect sense as Trump’s favorite movie, for two significant reasons. First is its celebration of the Ugly American. In the film, the French-adjacent Van Damme has to prove his legitimacy (Dux was trained by the legendary Senzo Tanaka) by performing something called the “Dim Mak,” which involves exploding a brick through what one assumes is ninja telekinesis. He also ends up blinded by brutal champion Chong Li (Bolo Yeung) in the final bout and has to rely on his superior training to win without eyesight.
Contrast this with Dux’s friend, Ray Jackson, played with grimy enthusiasm by Donald Gibb (best known as “Ogre” from the Revenge of the Nerds films). We get our first glimpse of Jackson on a Hong Kong bus. He’s clad in a Harley Davidson shirt, drinking a beer, and hitting on a clearly terrified local woman. Unlike Dux, Jackson is given easy entry to the tournament, and wins at least two matches (the seeding/advancement mechanics of the Kumite are about as transparent as those of the NCAA Tournament) without any apparent fighting skill or technique. Clearly, this is a character who would appeal to a loutish womanizer with the strategic savvy of a five-year old playing Squad Leader.

But there’s another, more obvious, reason why Bloodsport could be a legitimate Trump fave, and it’s a simpler one. Much as Trump admires Jackson’s ability to defeat his opponents by bulldozing through them with little regard for the safety of others, he probably reserves special affection for the real-life Frank Dux. And it's precisely because there's a 99.9 percent likelihood Dux is full of shit. No one has ever been able to verify his participation in a secret martial arts tourney (in the Bahamas, not the Hong Kong of the movie), much less his highly decorated (and covert) military career. His entire reputation appears to be built on careful fabrication and alleged conspiracies to discredit him. It's therefore not much of a stretch to think a man who exaggerates his personal net worth and hyperbolically refers to his opponent as the devil would sympathize.

Or maybe Trump digs the movie because the investigative reporter is a hot blonde. I could be overthinking this.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.