Any young boy who grew up in the late 80’s and early 90’s remembers how awesome Jean-Claude Van Damme was in his prime. The guy was absolutely amazing to watch, and perhaps no film better encapsulates what made him a star than 1988’s ‘Bloodsport.’ Along the way, JCVD got involved in all sorts of activities known for killing a career, and that’s exactly what happened. However, after an impressive stint in ‘JCVD’ and ‘The Expendables 2,’ the old man has shown his fans that he still has it. His new Volvo ad is icing on the cake.
It must be fun working in the marketing department of Volvo Trucks these days. It seems any crazy thought conjured around a conference room table can be turned into a stunt using tightrope walkers, bull runners or hamsters. Risking the life of their own president is even within the bounds of reason. And it’s working: the videos for these stunts have made Volvo Trucks a channel worth subscribing to on YouTube, with millions of people having clicked on them so far.
Their latest stunt, previewed earlier this week, involves actor and martial arts experts Jean-Claude Van Damme, well known for the butt-kicking he did on the big screen during the ’80s and ’90s. His signature move was the splits, which Volvo Trucks tapped into for this demonstration of how directionally stable its Volvo Dynamic Steering is.
Dynamic Steering is nice, and the Enya soundtrack is hilarious, but at the end of the day fans just want to feel nostalgic for all those roundhouse kicks, splits and epic baddie beatdowns JCVD was known for back in the day. If a grown man doesn’t like ‘Bloodsport’ there may in fact be something wrong with him. Low testosterone levels? Erectile dysfunction? Not enjoying Frank Dux’s tale as portrayed by Jean-Claude is a sign of a serious underlying medical condition.
Think about Dux’s story. He honors his sensei (i.e., for all intents and purposes his adopted father). He’s a member of the Armed Forces. He undergoes rigorous training and suffers countless setbacks in his youth, yet bears down and fights through it to accomplish things an earlier version of himself would have never thought possible. He travels great distances to take part in a contest where failure might mean death—for something larger than himself. He plays by the rules even when his opponent cheats, and ultimately he comes out on top.
The only time Frank missteps is when he decides to sleep with the sexy, blond and liberal reporter who looks down on the men involved with the tournament, but is willing to crawl into bed with them if they’ll talk. The error is so costly it almost disqualifies him, as the reporter outs Frank’s presence to the authorities and tries to have the tournament brought down. Note to self: Resist sexy blondes at all costs.
Another interesting aspect of Bloodsport is the dichotomy between Ray Jackson and Frank Dux. Ray Jackson represents the stereotypical American: loud, brash, in your face, and uncultured. He’s rude, but he’s also loyal…and kicks ass. And finally, he’s cocky, which actually ends up being his downfall. Those who are familiar with the movie know that there probably wasn’t any limit to what Ray could have done if he would have reigned in his attitude, had a bit more humility, and listened to his good friend’s advice.
Frank Dux is the American ideal. He’s soft spoken, but confident and strong. He’s distinctly American, but he’s honed his skills by drawing from the best of multiple cultures. He’s honorable and loyal, but he’s very much an individual. He doesn’t go out of his way to pick a fight, but he recognizes evil when he sees it and he’s not afraid to step in to right wrongs from time to time (e.g., the fighter who was forcing himself on the reporter in the lobby). Frank makes no apologies for who he is or where he came from, and his goal is to be the world’s best. Period.
What kind of red-blooded American man doesn’t go for that?
As a kid I subconsciously learned lessons from both of these characters, even if I wasn’t able to articulate them. Did Frank Dux’s story inspire me to enlist in the military when I was exited high school? Not directly, but in the mosaic that was my life it certainly left a mark. The power of popular culture to shape young minds is severely underrated, which is why I’ve always said that some of my social conservative friends are missing the boat by walking away from the entertainment field all together.
Anyway, God bless ya, JCVD. I hope you still have a couple more movies left in the tank.
Editor’s note: When I lived in Germany, I ran around the country in the 90s trying to find the ‘Bloodsport’ soundtrack. I finally succeed after months of searching. I played the entire thing and then threw my hands up in frustration when it turned out that the incredibly cheesy ‘Steal the Night,’ by Paul Hertzog was not included. What kind of sick bastard does such a thing? At least they had ‘Fight to Survive’…