This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I picked “Kickboxer: Vengeance.”
The Movie: “Kickboxer: Vengeance”
Starring: Dave Bautista, Alain Moussi, Jean-Claude Van Damme
Director: John Stockwell
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A kickboxer is out to avenge his brother.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 43 percent
Froemming: After saving a whale last week to the rockin’ tunes of Michael Jackson, this week I wanted to go back to basics: Dudes beating the living (REDACTED) out of one another, a tried and true movie genre here at the JOE-DOWN. Also, I wanted to revisit good old Jean-Claude Van Damme, an actor whose film, “Welcome To The Jungle,” kicked off this blog series.
But because we like to make one another suffer here, I did not pick the classic Van Damme “Kickboxer” film. Nope, I chose the 2016 reboot, which for some reason also stars Van Damme as a different character. I picked “Kickboxer: Vengeance,” a film I kept wondering as I watched if I had mistaken it for “Mortal Kombat.”
Before we pummel one another bloody with our snark, Brown what are your first thoughts?
Brown: *Googles movie*
*Sees it was a limited release and went straight to video on demand*
Yep, that makes sense.
Look, you know what you’re getting with this movie before it begins with its five production studios: Fight, fights, poor acting, fights.
Does it have the charm of the first movie? Nope. Does it have drunken dancing? Yeah, during the end credits. But it’s not as hilariously tragic as Van Damme’s dance moves.
And that’s the things we see with these reboots, like Rob Zombie’s “Halloween:” The film media has advanced, but it never delivers the same way the original does, for one reason or another.
Now, I’ll let you get this review started as I stretch my hammies for some high kicks.
Froemming: Yes, this movie seriously lacks the charm of the original, which, like “Bloodsport,” is a film that never needed a remake, yet here we are.
The film starts off with Kurt Sloane venturing to Thailand, searching for someone named Tong Po to train with.
I’ll just get this out of the way: The acting abilities of Alain Moussi, who plays Kurt, is on par with those late-night Cinemax films. The man couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag. But he has abs, so I guess he was qualified for the role.
He finds the place where Po trains, and we meet a raging alcoholic who guzzles beer as he fights. Because of how this film rushes all the plot for the sake of long fight scenes, Wikipedia tells me this character is named Kavi.
Kavi immediately starts a fight with our hero, and gets his ass handed to him. The whole time I was wondering “Did I put on ‘Mortal Kombat?’ Is that Johnny Cage?”
Of course, this fight leads to a friendship between the two, because much like the first time I met Brown, we beat the living hell out of one another at SCSU. Wait, no we didn’t…THAT’S NOT HOW FRIENDSHIPS START!
Brown: I excuse Alain Moussi’s acting performance for one reason: NO ONE IN THIS MOVIE CAN ACT, save for Dave Bautista, who has shown his chops in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” series as Drax.
Froemming: I only referred to him in my notes as “Drax.”
Brown: I know him as former WWE world champion Batista. For some reason, Vince McMahon saw the U in his real name and decided, “Nope.”
Aside from JCVD and Moussi, this movie is littered with a bunch of UFC fighters that need to pad their resume so they don’t need to take beatings for a living anymore. Kavi is played by Georges St.-Pierre, the fight promoter Marcia is played by Gina Carano, and there’s appearances by other MMA fighters in Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum.
And how do these people make a living away from getting hit in the head constantly? By getting hit in the head constantly while acting! What. A. Stretch.
The intro of Master Po in this movie was kind of cool. He’s surrounded by a group of students, including Kurt, and he destroys a cement pillar just because he can. And to go back to the constant “Mortal Kombat” references we’ll use here, Po’s demonstration was straight out of the “Test Your Might” mini-game in the original game.
Eventually, Po grows bored of watching kung-fu and goes to his chambers where he has naked women waiting for him because of course.
Froemming: When I first saw Po, I thought “Is that Goro with only two arms?”
Brown: I came to that realization as well in the movie’s final fight.
Froemming: We find out that Kurt is not there to train. He has a gun and sneaks into Po’s chambers to kill him. But Po, because he is mystical or something, knows Kurt is there to kill him and kicks him through a wall when Kurt doesn’t have the gumption to shoot him dead.
And because this movie is almost like a constant dare in trying to figure out the plot, we get a time jump to three months prior, where Kurt and his brother Eric operate a gym and Eric is some sort of semi-pro kickboxer….again, this movie craps out plot points in rapid speed, only to be forgotten right away.
Eric gets an offer to go to Thailand to train and fight in the underground circuit from a mysterious promoter named Marcia. Look, any sort of mysterious invitation to Thailand for semi-legal reasons will never end well for anybody.
Brown: So before we sat down and reviewed this movie, I had to go to a Chinese restaurant because all the mentioning of Thailand made me crave pad thai. That’s how my brain operates, folks.
So when Marcia is trying to sell Eric on going to Thailand for this tournament, he’s enticing him with money and the idea that he’ll become a legendary Muay Thai champion.
Umm, no. This is a bunch of underground fights. What organization is going to recognize Eric as a legendary fighter when he’s performing fights that only sketchy people in Thailand will see? I’m sure there’s some legendary underground boxer that I know nothing about because we don’t recognize underground fighters as legit champions. Holyfield is the greatest, not some dude who fought hungry hobos for a sandwich.
Now, Eric’s big fight is against Tong Po and it… doesn’t go well. He gets his ass kicked by a living Hulk, and the fight ends when Eric’s life does, thanks to a broken neck.
Right after this happens, the police raid the arena, and yet the guy who just killed someone in an illegal underground fight casually waltzes out of the arena with no punishment whatsoever. It’s Dave Bautista, one of the most recognizable people on the planet.
Even Liu, the young detective who is trying to end this fighting ring, talks about how dumb this is. You don’t get bonus points for acknowledging your own stupidity, movie.
Froemming: Yeah, because — again — this film sacrifices the plot by rushing it every chance it gets, you only get a vague idea that the Thailand police is crooked. Are they on the take from Po? The (REDACTED) if I know.
Well, Liu needs Kurt because he is the only witness who will come forward and testify he saw Po kill Eric, something that is completely disregarded by the end of the film. Because this movie makes no (REDACTED) sense, instead of kicking him out of the country like the head of the police wants, the officer escorting him decides — for reasons — to bring him to the guy who really did a piss-poor job at training Eric: Master Durand, played by JCVD.
Durand gives Kurt the money Eric would have gotten from the fight, if he hadn’t been cut down in his prime by a giant ball of muscle with a stupid haircut and goofy tattoos.
Brown: Credit to the make-up people, though, because they took away Bautista’s dumbest tattoo: The sun that goes around his bellybutton. It looks like the logo for the band Godsmack.
Something that bugged me: When Durand gives Kurt Eric’s prize money, he just pulls it from some spot on his roof. Do we not believe in wallets or dressers or safes in Thailand? Why are we putting an envelope of money outside in a place that has monsoons?
Froemming: Cocaine is a hell of a drug. Also, I liked how when Eric first shows up, he sees an old man who kinda looked like JCVD’s trainer in the original. Then, of course, JCVD pops out with his dumb hat and sunglasses because it is painfully obvious he is only there for the paycheck.
Brown: Do you think that envelope of money was actually how JCVD got paid? And this was his way of trying to get out of this movie, by returning the money on camera?
So after Kurt casually walks out of the jetway and stays in Thailand, we see him locked up in Po’s compound, where the weirdest dialogue in the movie comes into play. Some henchman starts chatting with him and we get this monologue about the diner scene in “The Godfather.” This is a movie about underground fighting, and we’re all of a sudden discussing one of the greatest movies ever because…?
While Kurt is taken away by the police and is escorted by Liu, which leads to a fight scene in the streets which is akin to the Power Rangers fighting Putties. Oh, and they do this on top of elephants. I’ll give bonus points for originality there.
Froemming: Liu brings Kurt back to Durand to keep him hidden until it is safe for him to leave. And here, he begins to badger Durand to train him, which is pretty stupid considering how well his brother fared under the man’s guidance.
And I had to laugh, because this film plays a lot like “Mortal Kombat X” in that we get a cut scene of dialogue, then the camera pans back and suddenly a fight breaks out. I immediately went for my Xbox controller out of instinct.
Brown: This is when Kurt should have reevaluated his life and gone back to America. He was beat up by an aging Belgian man in a porkpie hat.
And pretty much the rest of this movie becomes training montage, fight, training montage, random-ass sex scene with a character we’re never introduced to, training montage, fight, training montage, sex with Liu, climax (no pun intended).
I could end the review here, but I respect our audience more than this movie does.
After an extended training sequence, Kurt thinks he’s ready for Master Po, so Durand takes him out for a drink where fighting is going on because this movie tells me all Thai people care about is hand-to-hand combat. Should Master Po be the head of the government because he’s undefeated? Who is his secretary of roundhouse kicks? The Czar of chokeholds? Ambassador of arm triangles?
Naturally, Kurt gets his ass kicked at the bar. And JCVD wins with one kick. Naturally.
Froemming: I was hoping JCVD would break out his dance moves at the bar, because that might have kept my interest in the film. Also, when he saves Kurt, all I could think of was “Great, another helicopter parent.” Kurt wasn’t prepared for a bar fight, how on earth is he going to take on Po? I say Durand should have let nature take its course there at the bar.
Well, after this we have Kavi show up at Durand’s.
Brown: In a drunken stupor, no doubt.
Froemming: I don’t blame him at all, given what I have seen up to this point.
And so Kavi gets his ass kicked by Durand, and is told something along the lines of not getting Po angry? I seriously have no idea what the deal was, but now Kavi is part of the team. The Durand-Kurt-Kavi Team. Because nothing in this film makes any (REDACTED) sense. Like, when did Kurt start an affair with Liu? One moment he is training, the next he is bumping uglies with her.
Brown: Right?! Like, did they ever show any interest in each other at any point? Or even flirt? This whole scene breaks down like this: “You can’t fight”/Hit Kurt/Continue slapping Kurt/LITERALLY RIP CLOTHES OFF FOR SEXY TIME/Euphoric post-coital bliss/Arrest Kurt and Durand the next day to prevent the fight.
Hey, hey movie? You want any of these things to breathe? No? OK, cool. You do you.
The director cares about this movie’s plot as much as I do.
Froemming: I wonder how the pitch for this movie went? “Hey, let’s remake ‘Kickboxer’ and make it unwatchable! Hell, we’ll throw Van Damme in it, he has nothing else to do!”
Well, we soon find that a Thai prison is pretty damn easy to escape from, as long as you can do some fancy martial arts kicks and whatnot. Because Durand and Kurt escape without breaking a damn sweat.
Then we have more muddied plot when Liu tells the captain that she is investigating him and the precinct for corruption, which seems like a dumb thing to say given that she still has to work with ALL THESE PEOPLE while, you know, trying to throw them under the bus.
But hey, we are about to get to the big payoff after sitting through about an hour-and-a-half of pointless (REDACTED) when we get to the big Kurt vs. Po match!
Brown: One point about the jail escape: They literally use glass movers during this sequence so they can kick people through glass in the street. This movie was written by an 8-year-old child who just watched Saturday morning cartoons.
So now it’s time for Kurt and Po to engage in MORTAL COMBAT.
No, I’m not being cute. The movie’s script said mortal combat.
I’ll be honest here in saying I took very few notes here because the fight was pretty cool. Starts with bare fists, evolves into glass fists and ends with swords. It’s pretty intense. I mean, Kurt should have died several times over, but it’s an engaging watch.
Froemming: It is. It also plays just like the Rocky-Drago fight in “Rocky IV” where our hero is struggling in the bout, but once he sees the opponent is able to feel pain, the predictable rally to victory happens. Not that I wasn’t invested in the fight, I enjoyed it quite a bit, but when these tropes are used, I have to point them out.
So once Kurt has injured Po with his glass hands, he is on the road to victory. A victory where he brutally murders a man by forcing his throat down upon the blade of a sword.
Are there any laws in Thailand? It seems everyone is pretty cool with homicide.
Brown: People love bloodsport! Wait, wrong JCVD movie.
Oh, some time during the fight, Marcia is arrested. And, Kavi is in the crowd and starts a chant.
Now, I watch these movies with closed caption on, and in this case, it’s kind of alarming. The chant that Kavi begins, in Thai, translates to “White Warrior.”
The movie got all weirdly racist for me for a couple minutes.
So Kurt killed Po… does that make Liu’s investigation moot now? I mean, she was trying hard to pin this guy for murder. Kurt doesn’t get arrested for murder thanks to the powers of impulsive sex.
Finally, we end this movie with Kurt, who cleans up awfully well after getting his ass beat in a deathmatch and who must have Wolverine’s healing factor, in a boat with Liu. JCVD waves frantically like Forrest Gump does to Lieutenant Dan and the movie… ends.
Froemming: But hey, we get fan service as Alain Moussi dances in the jail set and we get a split screen of that and of JCVD dancing in the original “Kickboxer.” Are they doing the same dance routine side-by-side? No, no they are not. That just makes that part all the more odd.
Let’s hop on a boat and suddenly end this review with recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: No. Watch the original if you want some good old fashion action. This movie was terrible. The plot made no sense, and I actually felt bad that JCVD got roped into this.
Brown: Nope. This is one of the most nonsensical movies we’ve done on the JOE-DOWN. I just wanted to watch “Bloodsport” the entire time. We should review “Bloodsport” sometime.
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: