underground cage fighting is the national sport of Thailand. That makes Tong
Po, the reigning cage champion a national hero. Kurt Sloane cannot let it stand
when the brutal wall of muscle kills his Olympic Champion brother Eric in the
[illegal] ring, but the corrupt cops will never bring Tong Po to justice.
Sloane will have to take it to him instead in John Stockwell’s Kickboxer: Vengeance (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
this set-up sounds familiar, you most likely remember the original fan-favorite
Kickboxer from 1989. However, Jean-Claude
Van Damme no longer plays the vengeance seeking Kurt Sloane. He is now Durand,
the expat Muay Thai master, who trained Eric for his tragic bout. Admittedly,
that should not inspire a heck of a lot of confidence, but the surviving Sloane
sibling still turns to Durand as he prepares to take on Tong Po. Sloane also
develops a romantic relationship with Liu, the only honest cop in Bangkok, who
saves his bacon on a number of occasions.
on previous Kickboxer films, we would
expect everything will eventually be settled in a climatic cage match. Stockwell
runs true to form in that respect, but he still keeps things snappy. The big
fight is a dozy, but there are also winking hat-tips for fans of the original
to pick up on sprinkled throughout.
JCVD still looks massively cut, but he sort of acts his age this time around.
In fact, Durand the snarky Zen master is a perfect fit for his quirky persona.
Canadian stunt performer Alain Moussi has the appropriate physicality for
Sloane, but his screen presence is somewhat pedestrian. In contrast, Dave
Bautista has the presence of King Kong as Tong Po.
the who’s-who-of-MMA supporting cast, Georges St-Pierre scores the biggest
laughs and flashes his chops in a few appealingly energetic fight scenes. Bafflingly,
Gina Carano is completely wasted as Eric Sloane’s crooked fight promoter.
However, the Thai-fluent Sara Malakul Lane continues to show tremendous poise
and movie star potential as Liu. Yet, many martial arts fans will most remember
the late Darren Shahlavi’s appearances as the ill-fated Eric Sloane. Probably
best known as Twister in Ip Man 2, he
had the skills and the intensity to be the next Scott Adkins, but sadly fate
would not allow it.
It is not called Kickboxer: Vengeance for nothing. Even if you are unfamiliar with
the previous films, the title really ought to tell you everything you need to
know. Stockwell’s unfussy, adrenaline and testosterone-charged approach
delivers some highly cinematic beatdowns. Highly recommended for martial arts
fans (but somewhat less so for discerning cineastes), Kickboxer: Vengeance opens this Friday (9/2) in select theaters and
on VOD platforms.
Labels: Darren Shahlavi, Dave Bautista, Georges St-Pierre, Gina Carano, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Martial arts cinema, Sara Malakul Lane