Kickboxer : Vengeance
I’m gonna state flat out that I am a fan of JCVD. My buddy Mike would probably tell you that Sylvester Stallone is his favorite actually hero, and I know my friend Mark would claim Arnold Schwarzenegger. But for me, it’s always been about VanDamme. So when I saw this remake of Kickboxer on the shelves of the dollar tree, I had some serious mixed feelings. Mostly, kickboxer is not the sort of movie that needs a remake. It really didn’t even need sequels, although one might argue they were sequels in name only considering they featured the brother and not VanDamme at all. But there he is, JCVD on the cover… in a reduced role that I suspected would be nothing more than a cameo. (Gina Carlos on there too, sadly, she’s a little more than a valet/bodyguard and barely in this thing!) Still, I had to know. Sometimes you watch a movie that you’re pretty sure you’re not gonna like, just because you have to see what they did.
I’m always happy to be proven wrong. Kickboxer Vengeance is equal parts remake, single, homage, and altogether a love letter to the original film. I genuinely get the impression that these people love the original, and they want to do their best to honor it.
Kickboxer vengeance actually follows a lot of the beats of the original, with our main character, Eric Sloane losing a brother to the hands of underground fighting champion Tong Po, massive monster of a man played by Dave Bautista. Eric sets out to avenge his brother and seeks a new master, even trying to infiltrate Tong Po’s evil dojo (at least, I guess that’s what you’d call it… It’s more like a cult fortress), and eventually finding the retired VanDamme, that is, Durand, to mentor him. VanDamme puts him through his paces, much the way we remember happening to him in the original, all while a female detective tries to track down illegal fighting ring, and tries not to fall in love with our main character. It culminates in the requisite showdown, because like I said, the movie really does follow the beats in the original. Bringing back VanDamme for this remake though is an impressive idea. They’ve change the names, so we know it’s not a sequel although part of me actually kind a wish it was. I’d love to see this fit within the whole continuity and believe that this is what happened to his character from the original!
For his part, VanDamme is charming and fun and obviously still in amazing shape at his age. It’s a well done action film that actually gives him a chance to shine, and even though hes second banana, he absolutely steals the scene whenever he’s on screen. There’s been a lot of bad VanDamme action films since his prime, and only once in a while you get a real gem like JCVD or his appearance on the Expendables. This is one of those great high-quality VanDamme films and I enjoyed it way more than I had any idea I would!