Director: Dimitri Logothetis
Script: Dimitri Logothetis & Jim McGrath
Cast: Christopher Lambert, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mike Tyson, Miles Stomman, Hafpor Julius Bjornsson, Sara Malakul Lane, Alain Moussi, Ronaldinho Gaucho
Running time: 110 minutes
Hollywood stunt performer, Alain Moussi, returns to the fray as Kurt Sloan, winner two year’s previously of an underground martial arts fight that saw him kill his opponent, Tong Po, played well by wrestler David Baulista.
Kurt is back in the states, living happily with his Thai bride (Sara Malakul Lane) from the first film, when he’s arrested by federal marshals for the murder of Tong Po. He reluctantly accompanies them back to Thailand to sort it out, and soon finds that the whole arrest shenanigans was just a pretence to get him back to fight the new champion in the underground fight match run by nefarious businessman Mr Moore (Christopher Lambert). When he refuses he’s locked up in a Thai jail, where he’s an easy target for all sorts of criminals, out to try and kill or maim him…
One day he gets a visitor to the prison in the charismatic form of his old mentor, Durand, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme. Durand has been blinded for his part in Tong Po’s earlier downfall, but is still being roped in to train fighters at the prison, including Kurt. When our young hero’s wife is kidnapped he caves in and agrees to train to take on the man-mountain that is Mongkut (Bjornsson).
Where Kickboxer: Vengeance was very much a reimagining of the much-loved, original Kickboxer film, starring JCVD, Kickboxer: Retaliation is an all-new creation, well, in that it’s not a remake of an earlier film. Actually, Retaliation follows the rules of sequels to the letter – that they should feature more action, more violence, more locations, and just be, well, more… And none of that hurts the film since it’s an entertaining yarn, reasonably well-told, and satisfactorily acted.
In fact Alain Moussi looks more comfortable this time around with the more dramatic bits, which also enables his God-given charisma to shine through. Don’t get me wrong, he won’t win any acting awards, but he makes a fair fist of it here (pun intended). It’s just a pity the rest of the cast don’t ‘shine’ as much, although Jean Claude is always good value, even when he seems a bit ‘whacked out’ for most of this – at one point seemingly impersonating a Hobbit as he puffs on his pipe! However, Christopher Lambert looks like he’s having fun playing the bad guy, although apart from one all too brief sword fight with JCVD he doesn’t really get much chance to show-off. Mike Tyson basically plays another version of himself and Sara Malakul Lane has very little to do apart from look hot and in need of rescue, which is a shame as she can actually fight.
And talking of fighting, it has to be said that the fights this time round are better than in the earlier film, with more variation of moves, settings and weapons employed, all making for more entertaining action scenes. It was good to see the main actors all getting to have their moments in the limelight, fight-wise, including the crazily big Bjornsson (he’s 6’10” tall and almost as broad), who acquits himself well here, considering his character is pretty one-dimensional. He’s big, he’s strong, and he’s perpetually angry and wants to squash poor old Kurt. I blame it on all the steroids that his on-site trainer/medic keeps injecting him with! In fact, the final fight between the two champions is truly worthy of the title ‘epic’ and goes on, and on, and on… and on! It also looks really painful!
Kickboxer: Retaliation earns brownie points for being well made, with decent production values, elevated by some cool locations, and some thought having been given to how each of the fight set-pieces are presented. Plus, it’s got some memorable characters and memorable lines. For example, when Durand (JCVD) says: ‘Death has its benefits – you can save on a lot of expenses!’
Yes, it rips off other better films, such as Enter the Dragon, and there are plot holes a plenty, but films like this are typically critic-proof because, in knowing their intended audience so well, they embrace their niche-ness completely, and say ‘screw you’ to those who just don’t ‘get’ them, and that’s okay. After all, if fight fans, like me, all buy a copy, the film will do okay, and they’ll probably roll-out another couple of sequels before the end of the decade. Here’s hoping anyway…
Kickboxer: Retaliation is being distributed by Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray. Extras include:
- A Kickboxer: Retaliation trailer (1.49 mins);
- Trailers for Bushwick and Warrior’s Gate.
I would have thought there must have been some behind-the-scenes stuff shot, plus some mini-interviews with the cast and director so where are these?