That "Bloodsport" is Donald Trump's favorite movie is, like so many things about Trump, thinly sourced, apocryphal yet pathetic, and regularly reported as fact.
He once praised the 1988 Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle, a crude tapestry of gnarled battles and quiet-moment scenery-chewing about an American's victory in a Hong Kong underground fighting tournament, in Mark Singer's 1997 New Yorker article. And that's about it.
But facts don't matter with Trump and it makes cosmic sense that "Bloodsport"—released 30 years ago—would be Trump's favorite movie. It says something about political discourse too: The turning point involves its hero, Frank Dux (Van Damme) proudly punching someone squarely in the dick.
"When you're in a fight with a bully, always throw the first punch—and don't telegraph it—hit hard & hit fast!" - @realdonaldtrump, Sept. 25, 2014
Trump is full of it and the real-life Frank Dux was, too.
West Coast martial arts instructor and veteran Dux turned his life into a grandiose story of covert operations and victory in a fighting tournament called the Kumite, which he recounted to karate magazines not so hot on fact checking. Eventually, his account of those events became "Bloodsport." That's when the Los Angeles Times exposed its "true story" as a lunkheaded hustle: The Kumite trophies Dux won were from a Hollywood-based trophy manufacturer, a Kumite-related organization's address was Dux's own, the "secret" medal of honor he was awarded seemed sketchy, and a few friends half-assedly corroborated his stories ("If he says it's true, it's fine with me," a high school buddy told the Times).
"If it was anybody else, I'd say what's going to happen to you would be a lesson to you. Only you're going to need more than one lesson." - "Citizen Kane"
Trump frequently cites "Citizen Kane" as another favorite, because of course: It's a massive critique of power and control that flexes and bloviates like the powerful, so it appeals to powerful bloviators, the way rich coke-snorting dickheads like "The Wolf of Wall Street," or man-baby losers love "Garden State."
Trump's "Bloodsport" love, meanwhile, is cast as yet another example of how un-presidential he is—a 1988 actioner is surely beneath the presidency. Worse, as detailed in the New Yorker, is one of his sons fast-forwarding to the ass-kicking parts, squashing the movie into a supercut of thrills. Through this, you can learn something about the absurdity of respectability politics that mar political conversation: The problem with Trump is, as always, not his opinion or his point of view so much, but how he goes about it. He doesn't even watch his favorite movie; he races through it like it's porn.
On the campaign trail, Trump often entered events to music from 1997's "Air Force One," a movie where the president does away with all of the separations of power and literally defeats terrorists himself.
"You lose, American asshole!" - "Bloodsport"
Trump is all about bloodsport. His reality shows were bloodsport, the business world he stomped around in is bloodsport, the primaries were all about drawing blood for him, and when he offers up something like teachers becoming Charles Bronsons and arming themselves so they can get into shootouts with school shooters, that's bloodsport. Our reality show president, the totally logical next step after Hollywood actor Reagan—with detours into sub-Kennedy creep Clinton and warmongering dullard Dubya, parts of which Trump also subsumed—eats up the fuck-it-see-how-it-shakes-out pathology of reality TV.
Remember, that New Yorker article said Trump turned off 1996's "Michael," a sentimental snooze starring John Travolta as a schlubby angel, 20 minutes in and put on "Bloodsport" instead. And as Trump watched Van Damme drop down into a split, stick his fist straight out, and bop his opponent in the junk in slow-motion, a unique example of how Trump pops the hood on reality followed.
"You want to write that Donald Trump was loving this ridiculous Jean-Claude Van Damme movie," Trump said to reporter Singer. "But are you willing to put in there that you were loving it, too?" He dares Singer to embrace "Bloodsport" and suggests that if he doesn't he's just denying himself a hard truth. This is the typically Trumpian dick-punch: His bullshit detector is strong though his own propensity for bullshit is unmatched.
"Unfortunately, most thugs and muggers aren't looking for a fair fight." - Frank Dux in "Self-Defense Against Knives," 1980.
A shabby epilogue courtesy of TMZ (who else): Van Damme, in 2016, holding a small dog, wearing a hat that says "JCVD" (the name of the first of two meta-action projects he has made where he plays a sundowning version of himself), loose as a goose, reedy, hardly the boyish Frank Dux, pacing around a parking lot, praising The Donald.
"You're talking about the wrong things in politics. Right now, you need a guy like—" Van Damme told TMZ cameras, then stumbled for a second and reset. "I would say, look, I love my brother Muslims. They love martial arts, I love them. I love everybody on earth. Right now, we need Donald Trump."