Blu-Ray Review: John Stockwell's KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE Is A Snooze Without The Lose


The Business: The best thing about kick-ass fight scenes is they never get old—unless they do, of course. But hey, this is Kickboxer, the movie that defined the kick-ass, no holds barred ass-kicking. Lots of fight scenes. More than a lot. And then even more than that. By my estimate the film is 55% fight scene, 25% training montage, and (a meek) 20% story.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though.

Kickboxer: Vengeance is a reboot of the wildly successful 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme action flick, Kickboxer. The L.A. Times called it "egregiously dull," joining with every other major publication in vilifying the movie. Well, despite this, it went on to gross over $14.5 million on a $2.5 million budget. I do not believe Van Damme went on to say, "C'est la vie" - I imagine more of a string of French expletives followed by some equally French laughter. Point being, in this case, the critics received a healthy dose of vengeance via Box Office Mojo. When it comes to this reboot ... well, time will tell.

The movie begins impressively enough with several helicopter shots of Thailand (filmed on location). We are then introduced to who we assume is the main character through a bizarre Wizard of Oz-esque door gag, though no identities are established. That aside, I should state before going any further that this is obviously a movie made solely for fans of the original. If you know Kickboxer, you’ll know who these characters are. I get the coolness in that, but conventional wisdom says—never mind. It doesn’t matter. You’re here for Muay Thai, and fear not, you get it pretty much right away as Kurt Sloan (Alain Moussi) attempts to “train” with the fearsome Tong Po (Dave Bautista, Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy).

A word about the cast: Except for Van Damme and Bautista, it consists of martial artists/stunt people—but obviously those two fall into this category as well. There is a former model turned actress (Sara Malakul Lane as the love interest), but her beauty is unfortunately not matched by her ability. The acting is not stellar overall, but Van Damme brings his usual charm and humor to his new role in this story. There is an air of self-awareness to his performance; in a way he has fully embraced his once unwitting inclusion as Johnny Cage in the soon to be controversial game Mortal Kombat. (The film at one point proudly screams this in a moment I could only hope was self-aware.) As for Bautista, I do not want Drax the Destroyer showing up at some point to cut my head clean off, so I’ll say his performance is suitably menacing and effective. Darren Shahlavi (who played Eric Sloan, brother to Kurt and catalyst for vengeance) sadly died during production, so I’ll take the high road there. The cast is oddly rounded-out by an utterly wasted Gina Carano (memorable as Angel Dust in Deadpool)—how can you have Gina in your movie and not have her fight?

Back to the film. Honestly, I could go on about the bad edits, continuity errors, issues with narrative flow, and other facets of filmmaking not everyone cares about. It’s enough to know they exist. This is the kind of movie you pop on at 10 p.m. Saturday night, beer in one hand, remote in the other. You watch guys beat one another into submission out of context and think maybe it would make sense if you watched it from the beginning. Let me tell you it does not, and the majority of the film’s many fight scenes are as spontaneous as combustion. The most fun to be had here is laughing at the movie’s many logical inconsistencies. For example, take the police, who during a prison break refuse to use guns and instead resort to hand to hand combat; this is done so Van Damme can kick people through conveniently placed plate-glass windows.

This is a simple revenge tale, consisting almost entirely of trained martial artists beating the living hell out of each other. If that’s your thing, Kickboxer: Vengeance brings it. And then again. And again. And about ten more times after that (I may have fallen asleep during one of the fights, so perhaps even more). To put it simply, you knew you would like this movie before you saw it. It’s for the initiated only, but even hardcore Kickboxer fans might find themselves wanting for more. C’est la vie.

Regarding the extras on the Blu-Ray, these days it's impossible to make a movie without someone documenting every second. We get the required making of and while it proves the set was less bleak then we were lead to believe it's not wholly entertaining. We also get a photo gallery because apparently we time traveled back to 1996 when this was thing. The special features might as well be paint drying. You will have more fun making your own commentary with friends assuming enough booze was present.

The Verdict: Stick to the drying paint

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