Sunday, January 27, 2013
Kickboxer vs. The King of the Kickboxers!
No, this is not some re-edited Thai movie "directed" by Godfrey Ho (but if it existed I would be the first one to watch it!), it's just me who had a weekend filled of cheesy kickboxing on the TV! I've been in a Jean-Claude Van Damme phase recently and decided it was time to watch Kickboxer (1989) again after approximated 150 years. I probably watched it the last time as a young teen on a censored VHS and most of it was erased from my memory by now. In all honesty, I kinda stayed away from the kickboxing phenomenon at its peak. I felt it was too repetitive and just an excuse for stiff actors to try too look cool on the screen. I preferred (and still do) the more creative and imaginative Hong Kong cinema where everything was used in the fights and not just two dudes kicking each other in the face for 90 minutes.
What makes Kickboxer work is the presence of a very innocent looking Jean-Claude Van Damme and a cheesy, but honest, story about a young man, Kurt, who wants to take revenge on his brother (played by Dennis "The Terminator" Alexio) - who got his back broken during a fight against the dreaded Tong Po - and becomes a student under the slightly mad Xian (Dennis Chan). In a series of tests and exercises Kurt learns to control himself and be the best kickboxer in the world! And he also listens to the ghosts of
and flexes his muscles under water.
Kickboxer is very, very silly. But the story is timeless and the gorgeous locations makes it a nice movie to look at. It almost borders to parody and the drunke dance scene with JCVD is a sight to behold. But Van Damme is a good sport and it's quite visible that he's giving it all, even when the scenes is more than embarrassing both for him and the movie itself. The fighting is pretty decent also, but it's hardly the most spectacular ever filmed. Van Damme is excellent, but both him and the rest of the fighters seemed to be held back. Maybe the director is to blame for this. Still, it's a damn fine little action-drama and Van Damme is doing a better performance than he's credited for in countless reviews.
A film that doesn't hold back on the fights is The King of the Kickboxers (1990), which more or less is a remake of Kickboxer, just with the added concept of snuff filmmaking into the mix. This time goofy-looking Loren Avedon wants revenge on his dead big brother who was killed by the evil, evil, evil Khan (Billy Blanks) and heads back to Thailand to be taught by mad drunk master Prang (Keith Cooke) and, to quote myself "In a series of tests and exercises Jake learns to control himself and be the best kickboxer in the world!". And like Van Damme's Kurt he also runs around in the ruins of
, finding his inner self. TKOTK is a
lot bigger and fancier than Kickboxer, more advanced, Hong Kong-inspired fights
and explosions - but it's very similar to the 1989 classic. Several locations
look the same also - and two actors worked on both of the movies. Ayutthaya
It's a lot of fun, but the cockiness of Jake is more annoying than the more subtle, human Kurt. A lot of it is for fun, for a laugh, but it always irritated me when Americans come to some Asian country to show them that Americans are bigger, better and stronger. But I guess it's part of the genre. TKOTK also have a few interesting character actors showing up, Richard Jaeckel and Don Stroud, and both Loren Avedon (doesn't that sound like a soap or something) and Billy Blanks is awesome during the fight scenes. But it still lacks "it". That special kinda movie magic, that passion.