Directed by Mark DiSalle and David Worth
Kickboxer is one of the movies, that made Jean Claude Van Damme the hottest new action star of the late 80s and early nineties. We all know that his career took somewhat of a dump, once he left his wife for a whore of a woman, Darcy La Pier, a decision i couldn`t understand then, and til today it baffles me. He got hooked on cocaine and basically went nuts. High as a kite and dressed like a homosexual, he declined a 3 picture deal worth 36 million dollars, asking for 20 million a picture instead, he basically got blacklisted by Hollywood and everything went downhill from there.
But the image of Van Damme, most of us have in their heads, is that of the martial artist in movies like Bloodsport, Kickboxer or Lionheart.
He was young, goodlooking , plus his trademark kicks and a certain demeanor, that simply appealed to us young boys. The concept was always the same, he got beat up first, but then came back with a vengeance , beating the villain to a pulp, literally.
That changed over time, the films became less and less focused on martial arts, but that`s the iconic image, most of us have in their mind , when thinking about JCVD. Kickboxer was one of those entries, that made him a household name in every school and every dojo around the world. I went to a dojo, around that time it was the coolest thing you could possibly do, even before soccer, which is huge here in germany.
But ok, i haven`t lost a single word about the movie yet.
Plot is simple: World Kickboxing champion goes to Thailand to fight the local champ, and he gets his ass kicked so bad, he ends up in a wheelchair. Funny thing about that is, that he is totally ignorant about the tiny little differences in fighting style. Muay Thai is a bit different from american style kickboxing.His brother Kurt( Van Damme) witnesses the somewhat disturbing warm up of this guy and tries to warn his ignorant, overly confident brother, to no effect.
But since the local champ Tong Po fought a bit unfair, his brother Kurt can`t help but wanting revenge. After he brought his brother to a hospital , with the help of a local maxi-taxi guy , and the sad news about his brother Eric staying paralyzed, that`s the only thing on his mind. So he goes looking for a Muay Thai school that would teach him.But they are just laughing at him, even the little kids. The taxi guy Winston Taylor picks him up, and promises to bring him to a guy who would teach him, but only after having a bit of fun at a local bar.
He tells him a bit about the people associated with Tong Po and some story about his best friend , that needed him once, and he wasn`t there. So he agrees to help Kurt, and brings him to Xian, a former Muay Thai trainer, with a story of his own. If this was STAR WARS, he is Yoda. He is also the main source of fun in this movie, much like Pat Morita in KARATE KID.
At first he is reluctant to help him, but after he beats up some goons, who are extorting the villagers( and in this case Xians niece), he agrees to train him. His methods are somewhat unorthodox, to put it mildly. After he trained a bit, Xian lures him into a situation where he has to prove himself. Xian makes him drunk, but despite that, he is beating up a number of guys in the bar. The local gang takes notice and Xian suggests a fight against one of their fighters.
Kurt beats that guy and screams“Give me Tong Po!!!“ The fight is set up, but they will be fighting the ancient way, with hemp ropes around their hands , dipped in resin and broken glass. Sounds „Ouch“, doesn`t it?
But the underboss, who organizes the fight, doesn`t seem to trust his best fighter enough, plus he is betting a borrowed million dollars, so he sees the need to pressure Kurt and his friends . Mylee gets raped, but doesn`t tell Kurt, and his brother gets abducted shortly before the fight. He must lose the fight, or else….
While he gets beaten badly in the first half of the fight, Xian and Wilson free Eric, and as they arrive at the cave, where the fight is held, and when Mylee tells Kurt that Tong Po raped her, he gets a second breath and beats Tong Po to mush..Happy end.Tong Po is an awesome villain, and left a lasting impression, much like Bolo Yeung in Bloodsport.
This is, just like Bloodsport, the formula that worked for years in this genre. Nowadays I think it just doesn`t work anymore, there are just to many movies, that used this formula, and it got old. But in the late 80s it worked very well. Be it Stallone or Van Damme, both used it very effectively. Another thing worth noting is the soundtrack. It is filled with those training montage and good-vibe songs, plus the“ im down but i will make it“ tune.
Those 80s soundtracks rock, man. I`m so happy that some of those soundtracks or certain songs are finally available. By now we have Bloodsport, Kickboxer and No Retreat, No Surrender soundtracks in all its glory available to buy. Even the DEATH WARRANT Score surfaced lately.
This is classic, early Van Damme. They just don`t make movies like this anymore, it`s a baby of it`s time. Good times.