As Hollywood continues to remake some of the most popular and iconic films of all time, it seems only fair that some of the average ones receive the same treatment. As such, we have Kickboxer: Vengeance, a film no one probably wanted, but we’re getting anyway.
In the 1980’s Jean-Claude Van Damme made a raft of cheesy, Bruce Lee rip-offs whose success was based entirely on the actor’s physical charisma and awkward, yet charming style. Bloodsport was undoubtedly the high water mark, and proved a perfect platform for Van Damme’s swaggering skills. Now, too old to take the lead in a Kickboxer remake, he becomes the trainer to a new Kurt Sloane (Moussi) – think Creed but with less plotting.
To avenge the death of his brother at the hands of Thai behemoth Tong Po (a wasted Dave Bautista), Kurt must learn from the fedora sporting Van Damme, and channel a new fighting ethos. The training montage itself is the highlight of the film, with plenty of nods to the latter’s filmography while showcasing Moussi’s martial arts abilities. Sadly, there is little else to distinguish Kickboxer: Vengeance from any other straight-to-VOD revenge thriller that you might find nestling in the dark corners of Netflix.
Van Damme has never been the strongest of performers but his screen presence has always carried him through. Here, he is Oscar-worthy in comparison to a supporting cast that stutters and stumbles along like first year drama students. Moussi does his best in what is an early role, and has enough likeability to suggest this could be the start of a decent, if low-key career for him. Gina Carano is miscast as a shadowy fight promoter and Bautista barely utters a word in a role that he clearly signed on for prior to becoming the star he is now.
What should impress in a film with this title are the fight scenes but disappointingly they all feel a little bland. This was evidently a tight shooting schedule, and you get the distinct impression the fights have been crudely constructed in the editing room. Quick cuts and inconsistencies are rife as conflicts become wearily repetitive.
If you’re a Van Damme fan, or a lover of 1980’s martial arts films, there is some nostalgic fun to be had, and whatever your personal opinion on Van Damme, he is undeniably a captivating performer. There isn’t anything offensively wrong with Kickboxer: Vengeance, there’s just not enough right for it to be more than a Friday night fix upon returning from the pub with a takeaway. And however successful this one may prove to be, Kickboxer: Retaliation is on the way; and that will feature both Mike Tyson and Ronaldhino!
KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JOHN STOCKWELL / SCREENPLAY: DIMITRI LOGOTHETIS, JIM MCGRATH / STARRING: ALAIN MOUSSI, JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME, DAVE BAUTISTA, DARREN SHAHLAVI, GINA CORANO / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW