Review: KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 3 September 2016



In this reboot of 1989's KICKBOXER, Kurt Sloane (Alain Moussi) avenges his brother's death (the late Darren Shahlavi who died early last year due to heart attack) after he was killed in the ring by the vicious Tong Po (Dave Bautista). In order to defeat Tong Po, Kurt seeks help from his brother's trainer Master Durand (Jean-Claude Van Damme) to master the art of Muay Thai fighting technique.

REVIEW: Twenty-seven years ago, the original KICKBOXER debuted in 1989 to a box office success and even spawned four sequels over the course of six years. Along with BLOODSPORT the year before, KICKBOXER is often hailed as one of Jean-Claude Van Damme's most popular movies ever made during the prime of his career.

Flash forward to 2016, the '80s martial arts cult classic returns with a reboot alongside Van Damme himself as one of the stars. Except for this time, he is not reprising his famous role as the vengeful Kurt Sloane. That role is now played by newcomer Alain Moussi, a stuntman making his first big break as a leading actor in KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE. Similar to Van Damme, Moussi is an accomplished martial artist blessed with good looks and impressive physique. Given his various martial arts background ranging from mixed martial arts to kickboxing, Moussi seems like a real deal as the next action superstar. Unfortunately, he lacks a movie-star charisma while his acting comes across as bland and wooden. Not that Van Damme's acting in KICKBOXER is any better but at least, he displays a successful combination of likeable persona and engaging screen presence as a martial arts star. And whereas Van Damme brought something unique to an otherwise formulaic KICKBOXER with his trademark splits and helicopter kick, Moussi's martial arts skill isn't much to write home about. Even without the comparison, Moussi's character as Kurt remains monotonous.

Dave Bautista is imposing enough as Tong Po, even though he doesn't showcase much Muay Thai fighting technique like he supposed to be. Despite casting Gina Carano as one of the cameos, it is unfortunate she only neglected to a non-fighting role as a shady fight promoter. Big mistake. As Kurt's love interest, Sara Malakul Lane is certainly fetching to look at but unconvincing as a Thai police detective. Not to mention her role is mostly an excuse to feature her in an awkward yet gratuitous sex/nude scene with Moussi.


For all the effort of promoting Alain Moussi as the leading martial arts star in the KICKBOXER reboot, it was ironic that Van Damme steals the show instead. Although he is just a supporting performer, he clearly has a field day playing the fedora-wearing Muay Thai trainer, Master Durand. While he may not as agile as he used to be during his prime, he still has what it takes for a martial artist whose age already reaches in his mid-50s. The only setback about his acting is his awkward voice dubbing.

The fight scenes are thankfully devoid of today's never-ending trend of shaky camerawork, with director John Stockwell and cinematographer Mateo Londono wise enough to shoot the action in a clean visual style. The elaborate montage, which featured Moussi enduring all kind of vigorous martial arts training from kicking a bamboo tree to punching coconuts and pedalling down into the water is fun to watch for. But the supposedly thrilling centrepiece between Moussi and Bautista during the final fight lacks vigour yet strangely hollow.

The story, which credited to Dimitri Logothetis and Jim McGrath, retains the same revenge theme seen in the original KICKBOXER except with a few minor tweaks. This is especially evident during the beginning of the movie told in a flashback. Then there is the original's famous drunken dance scene, in which Stockwell manages to pay homage with Moussi mimics Van Damme's silly dance moves.

John Stockwell's updated remake of KICKBOXER is nothing more than an uninspired throwback to the '80s schlocky martial arts movie, with Van Damme ironically stealing the show as Master Durand.

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