Kickboxer is a film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. It was made in 1989, and it was not very good, even by Van Damme’s low standards. Along with Toni Basil and acid-washed jeans, it deserves to stay in the 1980s, so that we can point and say to future generations, “This is where we went wrong.”
John Stockwell has other ideas. Likely attracted to the racial stereotyping, superfluous nudity and terrible acting of the original, he has directed his own sequel/remake, with all its B-movie terribleness appropriated with thick-headed glee. Former stuntman Alain Moussi plays Kurt Sloane, a man who vows revenge on Tong Po (Dave Bautista) after he kills his brother in an illegal kickboxing match in Thailand. He’s helped out by an attractive police woman (Sara Malakul Lane), who, to her credit, is allowed at least six lines of dialogue before taking her clothes off. He connects with his brother’s former teacher Master Durand (Jean-Claude Van Damme), an expert in the art of training montages. And then? Well, people kick each other.
Kickboxer: Revenge has the subtlety of a Bollywood movie but with none of the self-awareness, or spectacle, or fun. True, there is an appeal in giggling at terrible dialogue, of which there is plenty – “I promised to give you this if anything happened to him… Which it did.” – and Van Damme has been in this game long enough to know how to sell crap with a convincing smile. There are even sequences that imply the whole thing is a Paul Verhoven-style parody, such as when ninjas arrive aboard a trio of elephants, or when there is an actual re-enactment of the “two men carrying a glass window” trope.
But the misplaced sincerity of Box Kick 2: Legend of the Leg becomes evident in other areas – notably, during sequences of actual kickboxing. Say what you like about Jackie Chan, but when he made a movie, he ensured that the camera stayed on him long enough so the audience knew he wasn’t faking it. Stockwell has no faith in his performers, so he cuts the whole thing like The Bourne Supremacy. Combine this with some food-colouring injury prosthetics, and the whole thing looks very fake, indeed. If you like your kickboxing movies with intelligence and nuance, then this is not the film for you – but even if you like them dumb, you could do better.
Kickboxer: Vengeance is released in selected cinemas and VOD on 30th September 2016.
Watch the trailer for Kickboxer: Vengeance here: