Movie Review : Kickboxer - Vengeance (2016)
The original Kickboxer movie became a cult classic because of two important factors that have nothing to do with its narrative or cinematographic quality: the importation of Muay Thai kickboxing to America and the transcendent presence of international superstar of male movies and on-screen martial arts expert Jean-Claude Van Damme. The idea of a 2016 Kickboxer reboot without a marketable lead seems silly and pointless and this is exactly what the experience of watching Kickboxer: Vengeance feels like. It's a poorly-written hollow shell of a movie that tries to squeeze a quick buck out of nostalgia and the martial arts credibility of its support cast. Not a pleasant (or coherent viewing) unless you're hellbent on getting really high.
Kickboxer: Vengeance has more or less the same plot than the original Kickboxer. Screenwriters Dimitri Logothetis and Jim McGrath added subplots and modified certain elements for extra jackedness which throw the film WAY over the top. Seriously, this movie is so jacked, it even makes you cry jacked tears when it gets emotional. So, Kurt Sloane (Alain Moussi) travels to Thailand to help his brother Eric (played by adorable sleazebag Darren Shahlavi) fight a mysterious champion named Tong Po (Dave Bautista) in an illegal, no holds barred death match. In THIS superjacked version of Kickboxer, Eric is actually KILLED in the match and Kurt vows to avenge him because he apparently has no purpose left to his life. It gets really weird right about there.
I cannot make a reasonable argument as to why anyone would've picked the screenplay from Kickboxer: Vengeance and thought it was a good idea to produce it. No way anyone right in their mind though this turnip would make any money. It's so poorly written, I don't think people who haven't watched the original will understand anything. It's not clear what martial arts the protagonists are practicing. They say Muay Thai, but they train with swords and fight on cardboard boxes. The police are involved because of Eric's murder, but it's never clear what they want or what the investigation is about. They run over every say, threaten people with guns, handcuff them and take them away, but that's it. I believe my favorite bizarre quirk of Kickboxer: Vengeance is that there is no Thai people in Tong Po's temple. It's full of black guys playing jacked Thais because apparently THAIS APPARENTLY AREN'T FUCKING JACKED ENOUGH.
There isn't much to Kickboxer: Vengeance outside of the raving nonsense, to be honest. That movie is as paper-thin as it gets. Each segments are ridiculously long and blown-out of proportion in order to reach the 90 minutes landmark of respectability. There's a 20-something minute training montage leading to the final confrontation, which is great until the point the director has Alain Moussi and freakin' Georges St-Pierre spar with swords because they don't know what to make them do. It's a complete mess, but it's kind of adorable in the same way Tommy Wiseau's The Room is. Jean-Claude Van Damme is nothing but a distraction from how inept this movie is. He prances around like an Exotic dancer, flashes a couple of his trademark sidekick, but otherwise doesn't do a whole lot pull the movie from the oblivion it seems destined to.
I don't have a good explanation for Kickboxer: Vengeance. Someone wealthy owed one of their creative friends a favor and that favor became a poorly-written, poorly-constructed tribute to a seminal movie of the cocaine era. It's a really cool idea to have the likes of Georges St-Pierre, Dave Bautista and Gina Carano in the same movie, but this is not a martial arts demo and none of them have the charisma to make it more than flashy kicks and high-flying tumbles in the street. Everybody involved with Kickboxer: Vengeance is an expert at something, but nobody does what they're good at. The end product looks like the vanity project of a petulant child who tried to revive a badass movie from his youth and giving up about halfway through because it's very hard and the result is unbearably bad. Either get some mean pot brownies before watching it or don't watch it at all. Better yet, rewatch the original Kickboxer. It's much better than this.