Kickboxer: Vengeance 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. When word came down they were remaking this classic martial arts film it was met with displeasure until it was announced that Van Damme himself would be involved. Now the latest vision in the franchise Kickboxer: Vengeance is here with a great cast including Alain Mousi, David Bautista, Jean Claude-Van Damme, Gina Carano, Georeges St-Pierre, TJ Storm, Matthew Ziff and the late Darren Shahlavi, but does it offer up any of the same iconic moments or will it be a remake not worth fighting for?
Kickboxer: Vengeance follows a young kickboxer who travels to Thailand to train with a legendary Master to avenge is brother’s death after he is killed by the infamous Tong Po. The original Kickboxer is one of my favorites so this was one remake I was not happy with until I heard of the cast involved, but still had reservations. I can happily say that they were unwarranted as this movie delivers everything you could want. This outing serves up more as a reimagining of the original as opposed to a straight up remake. While already a highly regarded stunt man Alan Mousi is now making waves in front of the camera with a great turn in this film. He steps into the role Van Damme made famous and makes it his own without making the mistake of trying to do an imitation of his performance. It is really cool to see Van Damme switching roles and taking on the Master training Mousi this time around. He uses his usual swagger to give the character a fun attitude and presence making him a lot of fun to watch. Dave Bautista was a great choice for Tong Po. He has a great menacing presence that makes you believe he is the beast that he is. It’s great to see an actor like him that can be such a big physical presence, but can also deliver a believable performance to enhance the character even further.
The story sticks pretty close to the original while taking its own direction to making it something new as well. There is some great fighting here that is well choreographed and executed by a wide array of martial artists getting to shine including George St-Pierre and TJ Storm. While Van Damme is taking on the master role to perfection have no fear as he gets to get in on the fun with some decent fights as well including one between him and Pierre that is a lot of fun to watch. The only downside to the action is the fact that we never got to see Carano to anything. She has a very minor role and does a fine job, but when she is involved you want to see her kick some butt and sadly it just doesn’t happen. The best of the action here is Mousi who shines. He brings his own style o the role, but does throw in some iconic moves that are clearly a homage to Van Damme himself making it feel like a complete film honoring its roots.
The final fight in the film is worth the whole thing, but the journey to get there is just as fun. The banter and training sessions are some of the best time of the film as you get more Van Damme alongside Mousi and they are great together. They are already in production on a follow up called Kickboxer: Retaliation and if it is half as good as this fun reimagining then martial arts fans are in for a great time. For those wondering if the famous dance sequence is here, I can say they do a really cool homage to it without trying to recreate it in a way that will entertain fans and have Van Damme himself jumping split kicking with joy.
In addition to the film this release also includes a photo gallery and a making of featurette that takes you further behind bringing this new vision of the Kickboxer franchise to life. Step into the ring and grab your copy of Kickboxer: Vengeance when it hits Blu-ray and DVD on November 8th from RLJ Entertainment.