I’m not gonna bother going into a long, watered-down analysis about the rebooted Kickboxer franchise… Nor am I going to tolerate excuses about how hard it is to make physically demanding, fight heavy action films. That is simply a given.
What I will do is give it to you straight while the last few years of this franchise is painfully fresh in my head as we cheer on the career fruition of its star, Alain Moussi. I like the prospects of seeing him on screen, but fuck it. These Kickboxer movies suck.
Enter the elusive John Stockwell who came aboard to helm the 2016 reboot based on the 1989 JCVD revenge thriller. The reboot, dubbed Vengeance, tries to build off of the original and, in essence, segues into a world-building affair brimming with martial arts and muscle as Kurt Sloan trains to defeat the man who murdered his brother in an illegal underground fight in Thailand.
Fast forward through the cheddar and cheese of seeing Sloan coconut his way to vengeance with VD waxing strategic in between and we get to the latest, Retaliation. Dimitri Logothetis sits at the helm instead with Sloan forced back into Thailand’s underground circuit where he’s cornered into coconuting more fools, and this time, the man is so nearly invincible at that he can tell you which injuries will occur with whom.
Retaliation does welcome the obligatory moments of torture and suffering but you’re still left with the complete, utter chore of dealing with modest-to-embarrassing acting, writing and dialogue delivery, overblown and overdrawn fights, other intermissionary fight scenes for fight scenes’ sake; Undercutting what respite redemptive moments there are, the action is some of the most mundane I’ve ever seen, and both fight finales from Vengeance and Retaliation had me comatose long before they were over… And that was each and every time I tried watching these movies without crying.
Sadly, we are also cornered into seeing the lovely Sara Malakul Lane as Sloan’s one and only who finds out the hard way that the only place she belongs is neither in a romantic love scene, or on the sidelines freaking out at the sight of her Mr. getting thrown like a sweaty ragdoll and pummeled like a slab of beef sirloin on a kitchen table.
Stockwell and Logothetis make short work of any decent drama and emotive height in their efforts, and they are few and far between, at that what with all the celebrity athlete cameos shoved in our faces. At best, the one time this franchise had any potential to be better than it is now is when it was still in development. Either that, or when late martial arts star Darren Shahlavi was still breathing life into Moussi’s inauguration into film stardom.
That the new Kickboxer movies go out of their way to expand into a greater story and bigger playing field is what appeals the most to me, personally, as a fan of the David Worth-directed original watching these movies. Unfortunately, that’s really as far as I can go into a positive word about this three-part fan-service for martial arts meatheads as we await through the passing weeks per the approach of the forthcoming threequel, Armageddon.
Any and all spirit and originality goes out of the window the second the fighting starts, and it drives me up the wall to see so many glowing review quotes about these films. I struggled for a long time about how to process these thoughts in a more constructive way, but the fact of the matter is that money drives these kinds of productions, and when there’s money, there is opportunity. Creativity, spirit and originality fall casualty, and as a result, no one cares because of bullshit reviews like this, this, this and this. I promise you, at the most these films are tolerable with enough beer in one’s system, but anyone trying to liken these Kickboxer films to those of the glorious 80s and 90s is straight-up LYING to you… Either that, or they need to watch more 80s films to know just what in fresh hell the difference is between this franchise and those particular fight thrillers I remember growing up with.
Armageddon is next in line with Moussi front and center and with Logothetis back in the saddle, and I and all of us can only hope that this production learns from the egriegious mistakes of its predecessors. Beyond that, color me already done with the action movie fluff and fanfare of wasting away another two hours of watching this martial arts fan-pandering, contrived AF franchise try to justify itself. I want to see Alain in better movies because be deserves to be enhanced better by filmmakers and creatives who know how to weave good films together and aren’t instead eager to try and wow me into first believeing that Mike Tyson can act…
Seriously, stop it. He was fun in The Hangover 1 and 2, but enough already.
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