Eric and Kurt Sloan are the descendants of a well-known Venice, California-based family of martial artists. Kurt has always been in older brother, Eric's shadow, as he lacks the instincts needed to become a champion. Against Kurt's concerns, Eric accepts a paid offer and travels to Thailand to challenge the Muay Thai champion Tong Po and fails with dire consequences. Kurt sets out for revenge. He trains with his brother's mentor, Durand, for a Muay Thai fight against the merciless champion, Tong Po. Durand first thinks Kurt is impossible to train, but through a series of spiritual exercises and tests, Durand discovers that Kurt has a deeper strength that will carry him through his final showdown with Tong Po.
Back in the 80s, Hollywood and the heavens gave us the legend that is Jean-Claude Van Damme, or at least he was put into the national spotlight. The muscles from Brussels was at the top of the Hollywood food chain for a while. He brought charm, wit, good looks, and some of the best stunts and fight choreography for the time back in this decade. Of course nothing is going to be as good as 'Bloodsport', but shortly after that film, Van Damme made a little fighting movie called 'Kickboxer' in 1989. Now I know a lot of people love this movie. I am one of them. I even watched the many sequels that came after, but upon revisiting the original film, it by far doesn't hold up at all in this day and time, despite Van Damme's best efforts at a dance number.
Here we are in 2016, where Van Damme has had some sort of resurgence in films and commercials. He's even getting his own television show. Since Van Damme is popular again and Hollywood is all about remakes and reboots these days, the planets aligned and we now have a full fledged remake of 'Kickboxer', with the legend himself Jean-Claude Van Damme. This new remake, now titled 'Kickboxer: Vengeance' pretty much follows the same story line as the original along with the same characters. Not to mention that Van Damme is in the film with 'Guardians of the Galaxy' star David Bautista, and some MMA fighters, including Gina Carano and Georges St-Pierre. This movie looks good on paper, but this might be one of the worst films I've seen in a long time.
Nothing good from the original film is translated here into the remake with the exception of an end credit's sequence that will make you think to a simpler time, but even then, it still doesn't translate well. Again, Kurt Sloane (Alain Moussi) is training to become a kickboxer where he witnesses the death of his brother Eric to the beast incarnate Tong-Po (Bautista), compete with long ponytail again. Kurt isn't a good fighter, therefore he seeks the tutelage of a former fighter in Thailand. Enter an again, but still agile Van Damme.
For the next hour is a series of montage sequences of training, forced silly laughs and fight scenes that were less thrilling or engaging than an episode of 'Friends'. It all culminates again with Sloane vs Tong-Po in a series of three rounds, which is the least climactic ending ever. There are some annoying side tangents of love interests as well, but really, none of it makes any sense as the budget was too low to edit anything of quality, including a character showing up with a broken arm out of nowhere, as well as as in one shot, a character will have a face full of blood, and the next shot, they will be completely cleaned off. I laughed quite a bit with with this.
John Stockwell directed this film, who if you are unfamiliar with him, he is a former small time actor, turned director, whose credits include 'Crazy/Beautiful', 'Turistas', and 'Blue Crush'. Despite the dialogue, screenplay, and execution of the film, the main star, Alain Moussi is immediately forgettable. I even forgot who he was supposed to be in every scene, that's how bad he was. Sure he looked the part, but other than that, it was like staring at a blank wall. Van Damme for sure phoned it in every step of the way, as well as everyone else did, besides the incredible David Bautista, who just owned the evilness of Tong-Po. The fight choreography is the bottom of the barrel here and nothing ever sticks out, coming across as overly rehearsed and canned from top to bottom. You could tell where Stockwell tried to interject moments from Tony Jaa's films throughout, but here, they are downright sad. It's amazing to me that there is a sequel already being made called 'Retaliation', which will feature Mike Tyson. I don't see how or why this is happening.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Kickboxer: Vengeance' comes with a 25GB Blu-ray Disc from RLJ Entertainment and is Region A Locked. There is no insert or digital download code here. The disc is housed in a hard, blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve. Several trailers play before arriving at the main menu here.
'Kickboxer: Vengeance' comes with a 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. This film was shot digitally and definitely has the digital look to it with zero grain or a nostalgic feel to it like the original movie. Detail is quite sharp and vivid throughout with excellent closeups showing every bead of sweat, tattoo marking, and individual hair on the actor's faces.
You'll be able to see the cheesy makeup effects of blood and gore easily here too. Wider shots never go soft either, even in darker sequences. Colors look natural and well saturated for the most part, but there is a yellowish tint to the dark fight sequences. Other than that, colors look good, especially at Van Damme's training farm with luscious blues and greens. Black levels are mostly deep and inky with only minor crush and skin tones look natural. There was some minor video noise, but aliasing and banding were non-existent.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and does it's job, but it isn't anything memorable. Sound effects and ambient noises are decent enough, but never full or robust as I'd like to see them with the exception of a few scenes. The bar fight and the last fight scene have good use of the surrounds with people, cheering and chanting, chairs breaking, and the music and score flowing in.
These are also the only moments when the bass kicks in with any sort of measurable force as well. It all just sounded rather flat. The kicks, hits, and punches never packed any real power either. The dialogue was always crystal clear though and easy to follow along, and free of any pops, cracks, and hiss.
'Kickboxer: Vengeance': Behind the Scenes (HD, 6 Mins.) - This is a standard promo piece with cast and crew interviews, discussing the remake, characters, and filming. Nothing much to see here.
Photo Gallery - Fifteen photos from the movie.
'Kickboxer: Vengeance' is a downright terrible film and watered down any of the nostalgia or fun the original had, which is difficult to do, even in having Jean-Claude Van Damme show up here. This is just a silly move that was made poorly. It looked good on paper, but the end product missed the mark by a mile, instead delivering a swift roundhouse to all of our faces. The video presentation is solid, but the audio wasn't great. The one real bonus feature isn't worth watching either. Feel free to skip this one.