Sunday, May 8, 2016

Kickboxer 2


   I'm a major Fan Damme, so you could imagine it was a struggle for me to bring myself to watch Kickboxer 2. It's a cash grab sequel to a movie that didn't need one and worse yet, it doesn't even have the star from the original. There's no way this movie could be good. Right? Right...? Well, sorta right. Also sorta wrong. Kickboxer 2 is a mixed bag for sure, but it's still a lot of fun. I can't stress that enough, if you're a fan of the genre (the low-budget, direct-to-video, unnecessary-sequel-to-a-fighting-and/or-ninja-movie genre), you're more than likely going to enjoy Kickboxer 2. I know I did.

   Non-rising star Sasha Mitchell plays the thankless role of David Sloan, the third and never-mentioned brother of Kurt and Eric Sloan from the first Kickboxer. The plot of the movie is simple (and absurd) and is basically one big excuse to have Tong Po return to fight our hero. See, Po gunned down Kurt in a fit of anger sometime after the events of Kickboxer. This of course means that he's lost his honor, and his managers must organize a fight with the last surviving Sloan brother in order to regain it. I mean... okay? Alright. Whatever. It's a cheap move but it's whatever. The main thing here is that Sasha Mitchell caries the movie exceptionally well.

   His David Sloan is a thoroughly likable guy and he's actually a lot of fun to watch. Of course, this wouldn't be a proper Kickboxer sequel without a Miyagi-mentor, and Dennis Chan returns as Xian Chow. He's just great here. Just as funny as he was in the first movie and his dynamic with David is pitch perfect. The smart move was made to not try and make David a carbon copy of Kurt. David is a total neighborhood Mother Theresa, but he's also a bit arrogant and sarcastic at times. It's an interesting balance and I can't pretend that Mitchell is an Oscar winning actor, but he does a serviceable job here, and like I said, he's fun to watch.

   He doesn't have the stunning physicality of Jean Claude Van Damme, but he clearly knows what he's doing. He pulls off the kicks, the hits, and the look of being beat bloody beyond all recognition. More than that though, he has personality. Which is great because the movie is stuck in what looks like Los Angeles? I dunno. I wasn't paying attention consistently (which is probably for the best with movies like this). Gone is the atmospheric locales of Thailand. Probably because they simply didn't have the budget. But hey, they got Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa and Peter Boyle. Not that those are A list actors or anything, but the familiar faces are nice.

   Kickboxer 2 is a sequel that nobody wanted, at least not without Van Damme. For a movie with that much stacked against it, it's a miracle that it's as entertaining and fun as it is. It's not a "So bad it's good" movie, it's just a fun flick- for what it is. I don't even consider it bad. In fact, I'd argue that quality-wise... it's probably better than the first. The story, acting, editing, and cinematography are all better. It's just lacking the spark and visuals of the first movie. Not to mention it's also lacking the charisma of Van Damme. So on a technical basis, it's a very solid and competently made movie. It's just not the fan-classic that Kickboxer is.

  I don't personally prefer it to it's predecessor, but I can acknowledge that there's at least some skill behind the camera. There's a lot of shoddy editing in the first movie, and this one just seems more polished. No doubt compensating for their lack of an interesting setting and their lack of a superstar on the rise. I don't think anyone really projected explosive stardom for Sasha Mitchell, which is sad because he's fun to watch. He's no worse of an actor than say... Steven Segal, or Dolph Lundgren. He just doesn't have his own flair.

   He's a sloppy seconds guy. I'd always be happy to see him in movies like this, but he never had that spark that the other guys did. I can see Mitchell here, and I feel like he's in his element, and then I can see Dudikoff in American Ninja and think "Why the hell didn't this guy have a WAY bigger career?" Ah well. C'est la vie. Anyways, maybe tomorrow at 2:45 AM I'll be watching Kickboxer 3: The Art of War. Yeesh. WHO KNOWS? This is what I do. Shitty B-action movies at inappropriate hours. I'm a goddamn rebel.

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