Bloodsport vs. Balance of Power – 9 Reasons Why Bloodsport Works Better

2. Better Acting


Back in 1988, Jean-Claude Van Damme hadn’t been in much. I don’t think he’s a bad actor, I think he’s quite functional. But at the time, how do you ensure you establish the heart of the story so that we care about the characters? You surround him with a better actor:

Frank tells us that in the movie that he does everything to honour his Shidoshi, Tanaka. It’s important for us to care a little bit about Tanaka, because he essentially represents Frank’s motivation. The actor playing Tanaka, Roy Chiao, has great presence. You may remember him from Temple of Doom:


where Chiao did a respectful job or squaring off against Harrison Ford. Chiao had been acting since the 50’s and has 104 credits to his name on IMDb. But it’s not just that Chiao has experience, the script actually gave him some emotion to work with.

Niko’s sensei Matsumoto (Mako Iwamatsu), on the other hand, is given a very small range of emotion to work with. Mako oscillates between two notes: kind sensei, and crotchety sensei. The script doesn’t really ask more of him. Here is a scene where he is trying to convince Niko to fight:

Mako’s acting is fairly functional, but there’s not a lot of range required. However, it’s the script and the scene, not Mako. While over the years Mako played a number of roles that did not require a lot of range, his career was as extensive as Chiao’s, appearing in episodes of M*A*S*H, Kung Fu: the Legend Continues, and movies like Sidekicks, Conan the Destroyer (which, admittedly, required a bit more range albeit in a poor movie), and Pearl Harbor.

Nevertheless, Mako had acting range. He received an Academy Award nomination for his role as Po-han in the 1966 movie, The Sand Pebbles. In the film he plays a Chinese laborer on an American gunboat in the 1920s. Notice how in this scene alone he goes from fear, to confusion, to excitement, to quiet confidence. There’s a tenderness to his performance:

Balance of Power simply doesn’t have characters with complex dimensions.

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