Friday, July 10, 2015

Film Review: Kickboxer (1989)

Kickboxer (Review)
United States/1989
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...Kickboxer manages to thoroughly entertain through its action, charm, and humor..."

When his brother is paralyzed in a kickboxing match, Kurt Sloane (Jean-Claude Van Damme) must learn the art of Muay Thai to avenge him...

Kickboxer follows Kurt Sloane. Kurt is an aspiring fighter and the brother and cornerman of American kickboxing champion Eric Sloane (Dennis Alexio). Searching for new challenges, Kurt and Eric travel to Thailand where Eric challenges local champion Tong Po (Michel Qissi) to a fight. Tong Po ruthlessly defeats Eric. Lusting for vengeance, Kurt seeks training from Xian (Dennis Chan), a locally-famous trainer. Reluctant at first, Xian agrees and the training begins. Queue the epic training montages and inspirational music. The film leads to a great final battle. The ending was a bit strange, though; considering everything that happened leading up, it felt odd watching such a joyous and abrupt ending.

Then again, that's part of Kickboxer's charm. Kickboxer is a cheesy action film — there's no doubt about that. The story is cheesy and clich√© (it's pretty much Rocky 4), the dialogue is stilted, the ending feels like it belongs in a different film... The cheese never stops piling. And, I love it for that. I was thoroughly entertained from beginning to end. I laughed at the unintentionally hilarious dialogue and the often intentional humor. Just watching Van Damme dance brought a smile to my face. Watching Van Damme vigorously train and ruthlessly fight brought motivation into my heart. The whizzing spin-kicks, the powerful uppercuts, the agile dodging... It's fantastic. Despite its flaws, which aren't so severe to begin with, Kickboxer manages to thoroughly entertain through its action, charm, and humor — both intentional and unintentional.

Like most of his films, Jean-Claude Van Damme is a little robotic in his delivery. Sure, he's a nimble and truly talented martial artist, but his acting tends to be a little stiff. Fortunately, Van Damme is loaded with charisma and charm —  he also gets better as the film progresses. The supporting cast suffers from some similar lows, but they're more than serviceable. The film is shot well and sounds great. The soundtrack is comprised of inspiration 80s music √† la Rocky 4 — does it get any better? I can watch an entire film with Van Damme simply walking through Thailand with this soundtrack. Directors Mark DiSalle and David Worth delivers a cheesy but charming martial arts action movie. It never strays far from the formula — sharing similar tones to Bloodsport and, again, Rocky 4 — but it really doesn't have to. The change in arena and strong focus on training, plus the general entertainment value, make this more than effective.

Overall, Kickboxer is a great film. It's easy to trash this film, especially since it's not technically up-to-par with other genre classics. However, Kickboxer has what many classic sports/martial arts films lack: cheese, charm, and Van Damme. If you love an inspirational story, epic training montages, and splendid fight scenes, you'll love Kickboxer.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood, some partial nudity.

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