Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016)- * *
Directed by: John Stockwell
Starring: Alain Moussi, Darren Shahlavi, Dave Bautista, Gina Carano, and Jean-Claude Van Damme
Kurt (Moussi) and Eric (Shahlavi) Sloane are Kick-Fighting brothers from Venice, CA. When Eric gets an invitation to go fight the infamous Tong Po (Bautista), the audience screams, "No, Eric! Don't do it!" But, of course, Eric flies to Thailand and ends up facing off against Mr. Po to tragic results. Naturally, Kurt follows because he wants KICKBOXER VENGEANCE. While in Thailand, he trains (and trains and trains and trains) with Master Durand (Van Damme), a mysterious Muay Thai master, as his name indicates. Of course, the Bangkok police are on to the illegal Punchfighting matches, and somehow Marcia (Carano) is involved in all this. Will Kurt Sloane avenge his brother by finally vanquishing Tong Po in the ring once and for all?
All of the above might seem a bit familiar to anyone who has seen the original Kickboxer (1989), which, presumably, is anyone reading this. Evidently, this takes place in a different Kickboxer universe than the first one, because Van Damme plays Durand, and Moussi plays Kurt Sloane. While director Stockwell does a good job with the technical aspects - the film is shot well, lit well, etc. - there really aren't too many surprises in store here, and the character development leaves a lot to be desired. That means that audience attention begins to flag around the halfway mark. It all feels like a slickly-done, but "Why?" run-through of classic Kickboxer moments.
As for our main hero, was he Joe Flanagan? Matthew Reese? John Krasinski? It's hard to tell. He seems to do well throughout all the extensive training sequences, but Van Damme looks like he was in shape too. He should have fought Tong Po. Or, if Po is as good as everyone keeps saying, how about a 2-on-1 fight with Durand, Sloane, and Tong Po? That would have been something new. But, no, the film doesn't do any twists or anything like that.
Dave Bautista, or David Bautista, as he's credited here, has very silly hair. Somehow trying to put classic Tong Po hair on his head just doesn't quite look the same. T.J. Storm is here, playing a guy named Storm, which was nice to see. Gina Carano is also on board, but she does no Martial Arts. Fans may be disappointed by that. She and director Stockwell worked together on In The Blood (2014), so maybe she had fun doing that and wanted to do a small role here. Who knows? But her not fighting was a missed opportunity.
The marketplace fight, the barfight, and the fact that one of Kurt's training exercises is to pull Durand around on a rickshaw are movie highlights. But truly the best was saved for last, because at the beginning of the end credits, we get a split screen with a clip of Van Damme doing his classic dance from the original Kickboxer on the right, and Alain Moussi imitating his moves on the left. That was probably the best part of the whole movie. Rather than save it for the end, they should have had Kurt Sloane find himself at a roadside diner in the middle of the film, where he then starts dancing. That might have improved things a bit.
In the end, if you always wanted to see Kickboxer, but really needed to see it done in a modern style with Chokehold (2019)-style flat line deliveries, this is really the movie for you. And where is Sasha Mitchell in all this?
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty
Also check out a write-up from our buddy, DTVC!