The Unholy and Bloodsport

February 6, 2012

As if the pseudo-religious nonsense of The Seventh Sign weren’t enough, along comes The Unholy to further hasten the apocalypse.

In this one, an average New Orleans priest (played by English actor Ben Cross, from Chariots of Fire) discovers that he is not average at all—not after he survives a fall from a 17-story building without so much as a scratch.

This miraculous occurrence brings him to the attention of some church elders (Hal Holbrook and the late Trevor Howard) who walk around muttering things like, “He is the one.” Cross is the one, it seems, to do battle with the antichrist, who emerges every year in the form of a beautiful woman in a diaphanous gown.

Most of the movie is taken up with Cross unraveling this mystery, which is somehow connected to a gang of Satan-worshippers down at the local S&M nightclub. The big finish is a special-effects extravaganza in the church, during which director Camilo Vila dabbles in a few Ken Russellesque images, with shaking walls and dry ice smoke, which means the church begins to resemble your basic heavy metal concert.

There are a few good lines of dialogue, the wackiest of which may be the stripper telling the priest, “I got a phone call from hell.” She means it literally. He gets a call from hell himself, and it turns out the line is of full of interference. You might have guessed.

Bloodsport is an unabashed excuse to string together a bunch of shots of guys beating each other up. It’s a vehicle for that “martial arts sensation” Jean-Claude Van Damme, who is participating in something called the Kumite, a secret competition in Hong Kong in which the world’s best fighters come together and do some serious head-cracking. It’s dangerous, and occasionally a fighter is killed on the mat, which leads one character to describe the event as being “Like a cockfight, but with people.”

But the dialogue scenes are relatively brief, and the hits just keep on comin’. Which should be a boon to martial-arts enthusiasts, since the movie is full of chops and shouts and men kicking like the Rockettes.

This fellow Van Damme has a fairly uncomplicated screen presence, and physically he’s an incredible specimen. He’s so concentrated he seems to be from Mars, although he has a French accent. (Same difference.) He’s fond of doing the 180-degree splits, the sight of which prompts his Neanderthal-American buddy to exclaim, “That hurts me just to look at it.” Interestingly enough, he’s just described the movie.

First published in the Herald, April 1988

Belgian accent. Belgian accent. Sorry, JCVD, but who knew at the time? The Unholy is a blank at this point, but one of the credited writers is Oscar-winner Philip Yordan, who has a whole lot of credits, including Johnny Guitar and The Big Combo.