Saturday, 10 September 2016

Film Round-Up #17

I'm sure most films fans who grew up around the time I did remember Kickboxer very well. Released soon after the much-heralded Bloodsport, it confirmed Jean Claude Van Damme's status as the most awesome action star to come along since Arnie. What many don't realise, however, is that it spawned a surprising number of sequels, most of which were straight-to-video efforts and none of which would be graced by JCVD. Rumour in the day was, he refused to star in any sequels for some reason (not just Kickboxer but any his film). How true that is I don't know but after catching the original again on Netflix a little while back, I decided to find out just how bad these sequels were. After all, it's long been known that straight-to-video sequels lacking the original star(s) are always bad, right? Let's find out (snigger)...

Kickboxer (1989)

It seems like a long time ago that I first watched this but seeing it again recently was the catalyst for my renewed interest in JCVD films. He plays Kurt Sloane, the younger brother of world kickboxing champ, Eric (played by real-life champion, Dennis Alexio). Looking for a new challenge, they go to Thailand to fight the champion there, Tong Po (played by JCVD's buddy, Michel Qissi), who of course destroys Eric! Seeing his brother confined to a wheelchair, Kurt vows revenge and soon finds himself under the tutelage of famed trainer, Xian Chow, who teaches him the ways of Muay Thai (while his hottie niece, Mylee, provides recreation). I'm sure you can guess what comes next but Kickboxer was a more than decent couple of hours of training/fighting action which was great to see again. Much of the scenery is really nice and there are some superb scenes. Who could forget our hero's drunk dance leading to barroom brawl?! There aren't a great deal of fights but the ones that are here are nicely done. Van Damme looks about as good as he ever has too, and Tong Po makes for a highly intimidating bad guy. See if you can avoid cheering for 'Nok Su Kow' to take him out! ... 8/10

Kickboxer 2: The Road Back (1991)

I originally found this on VHS many years ago completely by accident and it's long been one of my guilty pleasures ever since. It reveals that after the events of the first film, the humiliated Tong Po killed Kurt and Eric, and then, to 'regain his honour', he travelled to the US to take on a third Sloane brother he had heard about, David (Sasha Mitchell), who teaches kickboxing rather than competes. To get his attention, Po's cronies destroy David's gym, killing one of his young students in the process, and then arrange a match with one of his older students who gets destroyed. David (eventually) vows revenge after Xian arrives from Thailand to give him a swift kick up his mopey ass which naturally culminates in another Sloane/Tong Po showdown, and I guess I don't need to tell you which way it goes! It's a pretty good sequel though, as far as these low-budget unneeded sequels go. Sasha Mitchell is likeable and fairly charismatic and his exchanges with Xian are pretty amusing. The final battle is a bit disappointing in that it takes place behind closed doors but I still rather like this one... 7/10

Kickboxer 3: The Art of War (1992)

The third film is set in glorious Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where David, accompanied by Xian again, is due to defend his world kickboxing title against some perpetually-growling Argentinian oaf. This becomes secondary, however, when a teen girly they befriend gets kidnapped by Lane (Richard Comar) for use in his illegal child sex ring. With the help of her little brother Marcos, David and Xian start hunting for Isabella - a hunt that eventually leads to Lane who also happens to be manager of David's championship opponent! It's pretty silly stuff but Mitchell looks in better shape than he did in the second film (and now has a scary tattoo) and the fight scenes are pretty good, even if most of them are David fending off multiple cronies rather than actual one-on-one matches. Xian gets in on the action a little too, but he's mainly used for comic relief now. The acting is pretty good though, with several established Brazilian actors used alongside the obligatory American quota, and it's not nearly as bad a film as I thought it would be to start with. Pretty good fun for a film of its type... 6/10

Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor (1994)

The dastardly Tong Po returns for this instalment, and he's moved up in the world. He's now a major drug lord based in Mexico and has also framed David for murder since the end of the last film, and kidnapped his wife for good measure. David is offered a release from prison if he will help the DEA bring down Tong Po. This will be done by earning an invite to the fight tournament he has organised, competing under a pseudonym (foolproof plan!). I was initially pleased about this as I'm rather keen on tournament films but it soon became clear it's a dreadful example. The script is awful and the acting is terrible - even Sasha Mitchell looks bored! Worst of all though, is that the actor playing Tong Po has been changed. As a result the character is now much smaller, much less imposing, and slightly effeminate for some reason. The fights are poor too. The choreography is woeful and most are very one-sided, even the inevitable final showdown with Tong Po. So, despite a fairly promising concept, The Aggressor is ruined by... pretty much everything. We don't even have Xian to make us chuckle this time... 2/10

Kickboxer 5: The Redemption (1995)

It seems as though Sasha Mitchell didn't want to return to the series at all for this instalment, so what do its writers do? Kill his character off in the opening act (off screen, mainly) in revenge! Taking over the starring role is Matt Reeves (Mark Dacascos), friend of Sloane's and fellow kickboxer-turned-teacher, who is determined to dish out his own form of justice to the killers who reside in... South Africa! They are headed by the evil Mr. Negaal (James Ryan) who, having just formed his own kickboxing federation, are offing any fighter who refuses to join (which was also a sub-plot of KB2, incidentally). Before Reeves heads out to Johannesburg he befriends the tough criminal, Paul Croft (Geoff Meed), sent by Negaal to kill him, and the two of them spend much of the rest of the film kicking the crap out of or running away from bumbling henchmen and police. Even though most of it is just brawls, some of the fighting isn't bad; Dacascos is in good shape and can perform some impressive moves, but it was an odd decision to make the film at all - it has an entirely new cast and the fact that they've rehashed the plot from a previous film shows they were running out of ideas/interest. It's not as bad as KB4 but it's rather boring and... just unnecessary... 4/10
 

4 comments:

  1. I've only seen the 1st, and now it will stay that way! :/

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  2. Haha, the second and third aren't bad either but I'd definitely leave it at that :P

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  3. Can't believe there was five of these! Amazing what you don't know if you stay blissfully ignorant...

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  4. There will be at least seven soon - a remake has just been released and a sequel has already been announced ;)

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