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Kickboxer: Vengeance is a spectacularly dumb movie that wholeheartedly embraces the idea of ‘so bad, it’s good’. Directed by John Stockwell, ‘Vengeance’ is a reboot of the Kickboxer franchise, that sees original star Jean-Claude Van Damme play return as a new character, a teacher named Durand that will help protagonist Kurt Sloane (Alain Moussi) in his fight against Tong Po (Dave Bautista), the man who killed Kurt’s brother.
This is an awful, awful film that may not have even a shred of self-awareness, but is so earnest about what it is that you can’t help but go along for the ride. There’s so much dumb to go over that I hardly even know where to start.
Alain Moussi is a bland lead with no charisma or discernible acting ability, but he obviously a very competent and skilled fighter, which means he gets to do a lot of his own stunts, maybe even all of them. Plus, he looks great without a shirt, which was mandatory for every male star in this cast. His relationship with his brother Eric (Darren Shahlavi) is non-existent – they share one scene together before Eric is killed and they spend it pointlessly bickering and rushing through their dialogue so much you’d swear someone hit the fast forward button.
As such, there is little to no reason to care about Kurt’s quest for revenge. Tong Po is a villain and that’s pretty much all the character traits he has. Dave Bautista has about two or three lines of dialogue, and when he’s not fighting people to the death, he mostly just stands around and broods, which he admittedly pulls of quite well. At one point, Kurt jump kicks a coconut, pretending it’s Tong Po’s head, which sums up Po as a villain quite well – he is an obstacle with no personality.
JCVD is clearly having a lot of fun as Durand, who spends most of his time being an absolutely awful teacher. We see him kick so many people’s ass in the movie that it kind of makes you wonder why he doesn’t just fight Tong Po himself – after all, Eric was his student, even though Durand does not really seem to give even the slightest shit about his death (apart from a scene later on when he randomly says the two brothers are like sons to him.)
The cast is mostly made up of wrestlers, fighters or people with martial arts backgrounds, which means there’s a lot of bad reading of bad dialogue. The acting is as flat as the actors are ripped, but it is the amusing kind of bad. I will say, it seems incredibly wasteful to have Gina Carano not fight anyone in the entire movie – it’s not like Kickboxer: Vengeance is above having pointless fight scenes over nothing.
There’s a rushed romance between Kurt and a female cop (Sara Malakul Lane) that’s so haphazard that the movie just randomly puts a scene of the two of them having sex in the middle of one of Kurt’s training montages, even though the two didn’t have so much as a spark fly between them in the few scenes they had before that. This isn’t nearly as funny as the second time they have sex – Liu, upset that Kurt still wants to find Tong Po, starts yelling and hitting him… and then suddenly sex. Oh, and the next day she has him and Durand arrested. Seriously, this movie is a barrel of laughs.
The action beats are decent and well-made, the best one probably being a short fight on top of two very bored elephants. Oddly enough, it’s the big climactic battle between Tong Po and Kurt that’s the most disappointing and well anti-climatic. It’s the clichéd final fight we have seen in countless sports and martial arts movies – it’s tired and predictable.
It should also be noted that the fight takes place in a warehouse that was raided by the police, as these matches are illegal. The cops come storming in again, led by Liu, because, well, it’s literally the same place the bad guys were before, and yet Liu lets the fight happen, despite the fact she was against it throughout the whole movie and that the only it can end is when one fighter kills the other.
I haven’t even scratched the surface of the many, many hilarious moments in Kickboxer: Vengeance. It was such a treat for me to see this on my birthday and I can’t recommend it enough, especially for people who like watching bad movies ironically.
Kickboxer: Vengeance is set for a September 30 release in the UK.