Lionsgate // 1989 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // July 2nd, 2011
If your enemy refuses to be humbled...destroy him!
Eric "The Eliminator" Sloane (Dennis Alexio) is the best of the best, a defending ISKA kickboxing champ whose fear of other opponents is slim to none. When Eric decides to go up against the best Bangkok has to offer in the form of the fearsome Tong Po (Michel Qissi), he makes a life altering decision when he is not only defeated but also paralyzed for life. Eric's brother Kurt (Jean Claude Van Damme, Bloodsport, Timecop) is overcome with rage over his brother's beating and vows to defeat Tong Po with the direction of Xian Chow (Dennis Chan), a Muay Thai trainer. Kurt learns from the great master and falls in love with his niece, Mylee (Rochelle Ashana), but finds that his skills may not be enough to finally take down his infamously undefeatable foe!
Alright, so Kickboxer wasn't nearly the horrific cheesefest I'd been anticipating. Oh sure, it was still a cheesefest of the highest gouda, but the movie is not without its low budget and moronic charms. You can certainly do much, much worse (and believe, me, I have) when it comes to late '80s action flicks. And by 'much worse' I mean 'any other Van Damme movie.'
The story of Kickboxer is about as old as time itself. Main character's secondary character brother is paralyzed in a fight and now main character is out for revenge against evil secondary character. What we have here is your standard "out for vengeance" B-movie. Really, there isn't much more to Kickboxer than that. Jean Claude Van Damme's movies have never been known for their intricate plot details or originality...or acting, film scores, or expert direction. Those hoping for Rocky-esque training montages (set to awesome '80s tunes, no less) well be ecstatic. Anyone else praying for a thought provoking screenplay need not apply.
Some scenes play so silly you think they belong in a Zucker brothers movie. At one point Kurt is training with his master which consists of strapping Kurt to a table, wrapping ropes around his ankles and stretching his legs apart like he was in some horrific gynecological torture porn flick. Other moments with Van Damme emoting have all the depth of a concave teaspoon; a scene involving Kurt weeping over his brother's injuries nearly left me in hysterics. There are other actors here, but they pale in comparison to Van Damme; you can't take your eyes off him as he attempts to show you that his talents run deeper than just a good looking hunk of meat. How deep? Around 2.3 inches.
The main issue is this: how are the fight scenes? Because, be honest, you're not renting a movie called Kickboxer to learn about the human condition. You want to see men get their spleens kicked inside a dirty ring. The good news is the martial arts sequences are competently executed (directed by Van Damme) and entertaining. The acting may be for squat but the moments when flesh meets bone are exciting, especially when the two men strap on cloth hand warps dipped in shards of glass during the final fight.
If you want to see the Muscles from Brussels give a good performance check out the newly released and self-referencing JCVD. If you want to see Schwarzenegger-lite struggle with the English language and kick people in the head real hard, by all means grab a copy of Kickboxer.
Kickboxer is presented in an only decent 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. There isn't a lot to discuss here -- though the whole thing looks better than a standard DVD, the upgrade isn't enormous. There are some moments where the image is crisp and clear and others where it's just dull and lifeless. Some grain and hindrances show themselves during the run time, though overall it's a relatively clean transfer.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 in English. A word thrown around often on standard and mediocre soundtracks is 'serviceable', and that word certainly applies here. The sound mix is serviceable but does little else to show it's a Blu-ray soundtrack. Rear speakers get a light workout while the front bear most of the burden. Also included on the disc are English and Spanish subtitles.
The only supplemental features included on this disc include some trailers for other Lionsgate Blu-ray releases.
Kickboxer is what it is: a late '80s guilty pleasure.
Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Rated R