MOVIE REVIEW - KICKBOXER VENGEANCE (2016)
(PHOTO PROVIDED VIA IMDB)
***WARNING: REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS***
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
RELEASE DATE: September 2, 2016 (USA: DVD/Blu-ray)
DIRECTOR: John Stockwell
WRITERS: Dimitri Logothetis and Jim McGrath
Alain Moussi as Kurt Sloane
Dave Bautista as Tong Po
Gina Carano as Marcia
Sara Malakul Lane as Liu
Jean-Claude Van Damme as Master Durand
(TRAILER PROVIDED VIA YOUTUBE)
Growing up, I was a huge action buff and i always enjoyed watching Jean-Claude Van Damme (JCVD) movies. The stories were never really all that great. The acting was never any where near Oscar quality. But the action would always be some of the best on screen. Fight sequences, chase scenes, you name it and you would be on course for a thrill ride better than you could imagine.
The original Kickboxer (1989) was one of my favorite JCVD movies that he ever released. What was it about the film? Was it that it reminded me of Bloodsport which was released in 1988, a year before Kickboxer? Maybe, I think I definitely felt a strong connection between both films and I felt that they could have easliy been the same universe due to how close they were storywise. I was young when I first saw them and my young mind did in fact lump them together. But just like Bloodsport, JCVD did not attach himself to a sequel to these fun films. The Kickboxer franchise continued with a different actor, Sasha Mitchell (He played Cody on the 90's TV comedy Step-By-Step), who's character was the younger brother of JCVD's and looked to avenge the murder of JCVD's character, Kurt Sloane.
Having such great memories of the original Kickboxer, I found myself nervous about how I would recieve the remake in Kickboxer Vengeance. Of course with all remakes, the lead characters get recasted and the story has tweaks to it. Alain Moussi as Kurt Sloane was a welcomed recasting of JCVD. I am not saying this with any disrespect to JCVD at all. What I mean is that Alain Moussi both honored JCVD in capturing JCVD's essence of the character, but he also made the character is own. I found myself seeing some of JCVD in Moussi. I was very pleased with the casting. It also didn't hurt that the man himself, JCVD, was in the film as well.
What a great experience it must have been for Alain Moussi to have Jean-Claude Van Damme (JCVD) acting across from him as Master Durand. By JCVD taking the different role of teacher, trainer and master, he literally passed the torch to Alain Moussi to take over the roll of Kurt Sloane. By doing this JCVD is helping to continue his character's story from the original and do the original film justice instead of his character being murdered off screen from that franchise. At least that is how I think of it. It shows me that JCVD signed on because he believes in the project and liked where the new franchise was heading. Hell, knowing that JCVD was in the remake is the entire reason I gave it a chance in the first place.
Tong Po was a menacing and frightening character in the original film. He was a guy who could not be beaten. He beat all who opposed him to the death. Bare hands, glass knuckles, weapons, he didn't care. Tong Po was a force of nature and fed off of victory and death. Michel Qissi captured all of these deadly qualities and owned the role. How do you recast that type of presence? Who do you turn to? I will be honest that when I first that Dave Bautista had the task of filling Mr. Qissi's shoes, i was skeptical. Don't get me wrong, Dave Bautista is a big and intimidating guy. But was he right for Tong Po?
Knowing that JCVD was in the film is what sold me to watch the movie. Alain Moussi gave me faith the movie could be worth watching. Dave Bautista gave us an antagonist that glued me to the screen and made me wonder if he could be beaten. I'm a fan of Dave Bautista's time in the WWE as Battista. Like other professional wrestlers (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Hulk Hogan and John Cena to name a few all with different levels of success), Dave Bautista has had quite a movie career thus far. Starring in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy as Drax the Destroyer and becoming a mainstay in the MCU and being in the James Bond film Spectre and other films, Dave Bautista has been having one hell of an acting career after the WWE. His Tong Po was everything that Michel Qissi was. The casting agents did a hell of a job casting the key roles of this film.
Compared to the original Kickboxer, I feel Vengeance was a step up in the film making and acting. The story was written well and the actors seemed like they generally enjoyed making the movie. I enjoyed the end of the film when they showed the scene from the original film where JCVD as Kurt Sloane was dancing in the bar. They did a side by side of Alain Moussi mimicking the dance on screen. This reinforced that the film makers did not forget where the source material came from and they have it the respect that it deserves. I give Kickboxer Vengeance 3.5 out of 5 stars. I enjoyed this film and felt nostalgia the entire time. I recommend this film to anyone who loves great fight scenes and action. Enjoy the film.