Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Kickboxer: Vengeance

   Not even October and all it's required horror movie watching could keep me away from some good old fashioned DTV action trash. Kickboxer: Vengeance as a cut rate remake of the 80's 'classic', Kickboxer, might be easy to dismiss out of hand, or would've been if not for the pedigree of the talent involved. First of all Jean Claude Van Damme the man himself is back, but in the role of the trainer. The obligatory Miyagi type. I'm cool with this. As Tong Po we've got Dave Bautista. An actor/role match made in heaven (or hell in this case) if I ever saw one. And, in the lead role is Alain Moussi, who has been in- wait... who? Yeah, my thoughts exactly.

   Moussi doesn't take long to prove he's ideal as Kurt Sloan, but the cast doesn't stop there. We've got Georges St. Pierre and Gina Carano in this flick too. What, is The Rock just hiding around the corner? Where's Vin Diesel? At any moment this could turn into a Fast and Furious movie. I kid, I kid. There's a solid cast here with a hell of a lot of fight training between them all. What Vengeance might lack in charisma and originality, it makes up for with just... really good fights. First of all, lets face it: the original movie isn't all that good. It's a lot of fun, and twice as much if you're drunk I'm sure, but it had charisma. It was funny and silly, but also surprisingly grim at times, and had a hell of a cathartic climax. It was a Cannon movie and that should tell you all you need to know.

   Vengeance does it's best to replicate the charisma of the original but in it's efforts to update the material, they lost something in the translation. Van Damme as Durand is great, but given that his character has no niece for Kurt to fall for, the movie provides an inexplicably young and beautiful police officer in her place. Also, Tong Po isn't half as villainous here as he was in the original. In which he raped Kurt's sweetheart. "You bleed like Mylee..." Or did everyone forget? I can see how that wouldn't fly in today's culture, and rightly so, but Tong Po killing people in the ring? No cheating? No dirty business on the side? No scary rage face all the time? I hate to say this, but Bautista is actually less scary than this guy in facial prosthetics.

See! I told you! Scary even when waving 'Hi.'
   It's good then that Gina Carano is put to good use... as a fight promoter? What? She throws not one single punch in the whole movie. Wow. But, seriously now, the movie does have it's merits. The cinematography is head and shoulders above the original and like 99% of the other movies in it's sub-genre. The movie is visually stylish, and the leads are all competent actors- which is like, the most you can ask for in a movie like this. Hell, it was almost too much to ask for back in the day. The story is more or less the same, but in this one Kurt's brother isn't just crippled, he's killed. It makes a bigger impact, but not by much, and not to the same effect. Keeping Kurt's brother alive gave the original movie time to expand on it's brotherly dynamic, which strengthened it's emotional core.

   This movie lacks that. Also gone is the sheer rage that Van Damme's Kurt had in the original. Moussi never approaches that level of angry, and in this movie his brother fucking died. The plot is a little convoluted but, things end up falling into place. The fight choreography is pretty great, the way the fights are shot is great. And, thankfully, the movie kept not one but TWO training montages. There's no faster way to my B movie action lover's heart than through training montages. I don't care if it's building up to a fight, or earning a driver's license. I want a training montage, dammit. Do you think I got this far in life by watching movies WITHOUT training montages? Hell no!

   Kickboxer: Vengeance embraces it's 80's roots, but without the cut rate Irene Cara hit song or whatever (Sadly). We have a rap song over the first training montage, which is okay, I don't remember if it was reprised for the second- but because the second is obviously when shit got real, I think it was just the movie's score. (I still prefer the original) I had a lot of fun with Vengeance. I thought Alain Moussi was pretty likable, and was pleased at how active Van Damme was in the movie. This movie is lacking a lot of the defining moments that made the original so damn fun, (i.e. kick the tree, the eagle stuff, etc etc) but it's still an enjoyable movie that pays massive homage to a bygone era of action movies. I liked it. Not much more to say about it.

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