Director: John Stockwell
Script: Dimitri Logothetis & Jim McGrath
Cast: David Bautista, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Gina Carano, Cain Velasquez, Fabricio Werdum, Sara Malakul Lane, Alan Moussi, Darren Shalavi
Running time: 90 minutes
Following in the footsteps of its iconic predecessor, Kickboxer, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, this unnecessary remake, directed by John Stockwell (Blue Crush, Into the Blue), is still worth a watch because of the wealth of talented people involved in the project.
Hollywood stunt performer, Alain Moussi, plays Kurt, the younger brother of professional fighter Eric Sloane, played by the now sadly departed Darren Shalavi, in one of his last roles. Eric is approached to take part in a no-holds barred fight with reigning kick-boxing champion Tong Po (David Baulista). Po wipes the floor with him and, somewhat maliciously, kills him in the process. Kurt wants to see justice done and when none is forthcoming via the authorities he decides to take on Tong Po himself and teach him a lesson he won’t forget, or kill him if need be.
Kurt heads over to Thailand and, after a shaky start, ends up training under his brother’s previous trainer, Durand’s, (Van Damme) expert tutelage. Cue lots of sadistically inventive training montages, some steamy sex with one of the lovely Thai ladies who lives locally, and lots of posing in front of beautiful Thai backdrops. Kurt finally gets his chance in the ring with Po and… well, I’ll let you watch the rest to find out what happens, although I’m sure you can guess.
Kickboxer: Vengeance does what it does well, and is an enjoyable action/fight film, despite being, ultimately, a pretty pointless reworking of the extremely popular 80s original.
The film is fast-paced and is nicely shot, and obviously had a reasonable budget. But, despite the good cast and the nice photography, there’s something missing here that the first film had in spades – charm. I guess Jean-Claude made the first film so appealing, since his character was naively charming and a little goofy, and that is largely, sadly missing from Alan Moussi’s version of the character. Not that Moussi is bad, he’s just not ‘quite right’. He sure knows how to bust some moves though and is very watchable, but he lacks the charm and charisma of JCVD.
Fortunately, Jean-Claude is still around, as Kurt’s mentor Durand, and the film picks up immensely whenever Van Damme is on screen. I guess some actors have that something extra, and JCVD does. There’s even a cool fight between JCVD and Moussi, in the rain, outside Durrand’s hut, which is largely unnecessary, but is still a lot of fun.
There’s lots of little references throughout Vengeance to the first Kickboxer film, and David Baulista makes for a solid bad guy, but somehow none of this elevates the film to a truly memorable level, which is a pity as it tries really hard to be a fight fan’s wet dream, featuring, as it does, lots of recognisable fighters playing more minor roles, and sticking closer to the original film’s tried and tested story-line. But maybe that’s the problem, maybe they should just have left well alone and done something new with the characters…
One of the few new additions to the story is the presence of a female cop who is conflicted about trying to do what’s right for her own country and culture, and helping out ‘fish-out-of-water’ Kurt. Their relationship and scenes together just don’t ring out as being true, which is a shame as she wasn’t a bad actor and was pleasing to look at.
Overall, one’s enjoyment of Kickboxer: Vengeance will depend on how much you loved and/or revered the original Kickboxer film. I think many die-hard fans of the original may be frothing at the mouth while watching this tribute. A shame really, as it’s not a bad movie, just surplus to requirements!
Kickboxer: Vengeance is being distributed by Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray. Extras include:
– A trailer (2 mins);
– A behind the scenes mini -documentary (6.5 mins) – this is quite revealing in places, but is too short and PR fluffy, plus there’s no mention of the late, great Darren Shalavi;
– A trailer for IP Man 3 starring Donnie Yen and Mike Tyson.