Kickboxer: Retaliation review by Bobby Blakey
During the 80s there were few martial arts actors with the popularity of Jean Claude Van Damme. In 1989 he unleashed his action film Kickboxer that not only offered up his iconic dance number, but one of the best martial arts villains in film history with Tong Po. In 2016 they relaunched the franchise with Kickboxer: Vengeance that had Alain Moussi taking on the role of Kurt Sloan and Jean Claude Van Damme stepping into the master role. Now they are returning to this story with the next chapter Kickboxer: Retaliation once again starring Alain Moussi and Jean Claude Van Damme along with Christopher Lambert, Mike Tyson, Roy Nelson, and Hafpor Julius Bjornsson from Game of Thrones, but does it bring the action or will it be down for the count?
Kickboxer: Retaliation follows one year after the events of "Kickboxer: Vengeance", where Kurt Sloan has vowed never to return to Thailand. However, while gearing up for a MMA title shot, he finds himself sedated and forced back into Thailand, this time in prison. He is there because the ones responsible want him to face a 6'8" 400 lbs. beast named Mongkut and in return for the fight, Kurt will get two million dollars and his freedom back. Kurt at first refuses, in which a bounty is placed on his head as a way to force him to face Mongkut. Kurt soon learns he will have no other choice and will undergo his most rigorous training yet under some unexpected mentors in order to face Mongkut in hopes to regain his freedom. Anyone that knows me knows I am a huge Van Damme fan with Kickboxer being one my favorites. To my surprise I really enjoyed the remake Kickboxer: Vengeance as well so was happy to hear of them making another entry that brought back Van Damme as Master Durand and Alain Moussi. I was a bit concerned at first as the opening of the film is a bit off, but finds its footing pretty fast as a martial arts flick.
The story is all over the place at times with the above mentioned opening being the most confusing, but once you get past that it works ok. Some of the acting is a bit hit and miss, but you really don’t watch a film like this for that, we are waiting for the feet and fists to fly and they do in droves. There is no shortage of action here as it almost feels like the entire film was designed to be one long fight sequence or training montage and I am fine with that. I wasn’t a fan of the speed up, slow down stylized nature of the way some were shot as they are unnecessary with the caliber of martial artists involved. Van Damme doesn’t get enough fight time here, but what he does get to do is vintage Van Dammage. I was mad to see his fight with Tyson stopped as soon as it started, but we do at least get to see plenty of Tyson action with other characters. Moussi proves once again to be a formidable action star bringing a great dynamic to his fight sequences. Hafpor Julius Bjornsson makes for a menacing villain, but still nowhere near as awesome as Bautista’s Tong Po. I give some major props to the final fight between Moussi and Bjornsson because they pull out all the stops to make for a high octane over the top fight that will keep any martial arts fan happy.
There seemed to be an almost sillier approach this time around, but not in a comedy way, but in the old school direction. I enjoyed it for what it was and got exactly what I wanted out of the action I just wished it offered up more in story. I would love to see another outing with these two, but hopefully they will step up the story to match the action and take the film to the next level.