Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kickboxer (1989) Review:

After Bloodsport (1988) was released, Jean-Claude Van Damme's career began to gain traction as a sport/action star. Even if his acting to many wasn't all that convincing, his physicality and choreographed fight scenes seemed to have a magnetic attraction to audiences. In between this movie and Bloodsport (1988) were two other movies but seemed to have not gone over well with viewers. It is not until this movie that Van Damme returns to what looks as some of his better performances at the beginning of his career.

Mr. Chow and his niece
Like many of his other films to come after or came before, Van Damme plays a character with some kind of a martial arts background. Why - because that's the thing Van Damme had going for him at the time. If you were going to see a Van Damme movie, it was for that reason; his martial arts skills. So in here, it is obvious that he's going to play a kickboxer because that's the title of the film. It's a dead give away. The story is about a trainer (Kurt Sloane), who takes it upon himself to fight for his brother who is permanently injured after challenging an opponent who plays dirty.

Playing the injured brother, Eric Sloane, is Dennis Alexio, a real life kickboxer. To be honest, I didn't find his onscreen chemistry with Van Damme to be very convincing. It is explained to why they don't sound like brothers but it still sounds far-fetched. Making them close stepbrothers I think would have made things much easier and more believable. But as for characters, that's really the only weak link I found for that particular area. For Kurt, he must learn how to fight like the opponent who hurt is brother. The only way he'll be able to do that, is by being trained like the opponent.

The person to do that is Xian Chow (Dennis Chan), an old hermit who looks old but still packs quite a punch. To be brought to Chow, Kurt befriends a man named Winston Taylor (Haskell V. Anderson III), an ex-marine from the Vietnam War, now living in what he calls paradise. Anderson's character is partially the reason why this movie deserves to be seen. The early Van Damme films seem to contain the most comical characters. Also let's not forget the obligatory love interest that falls for Kurt Sloane, which doesn't bother me in the least. I understand that these kind of films need one because what would they be without? The love interest is Chow's niece, Mylee, played by Rochelle Ashana.

Tong Po (Michel Qissi)
Let's also not forget the opponent who plays dirty. Tong Po (Michel Qissi) does a good job at making his character look like a jerk. Not only does he get away with several actions that are considered over the top brutal or disgraceful, he also has connections to crime bosses. Hmmm, doesn't sound very good. However this does dilute the character. If you look at Chong Li from Bloodsport (1988), he too was a mean and dirty fighter, but he had no connections. He was just in it for himself. With Tong Po, it's just another cliche - that every antagonist is connected with some crime lord.

There's only one other thing I found to be unnecessary. At one point, Chow gets Kurt drunk and asks him to start dancing. Yeah,...I know there's a point to it in the end of that scene but it really isn't needed. I didn't choose this movie to see Jean-Claude Van Damme dance. No thanks. However, the fight scenes were cool and it was good to see composer Paul Hertzog return to make the score for the film, even if it wasn't as present like his score from Bloodsport (1988). Other than that I was relatively pleased with the outcome of the film.

It is a little more cliche ridden than needed but it still works as a Van Damme sport film. The fight scenes as well as the characters are worth a watch.

Points Earned --> 7:10

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