Kickboxer is like The Karate Kid for adults. A young man, in a place unknown to him, gets trained by a wise yet cooky old Asian man to defeat an opponent in the ring. The young man is played by Jean-Claude van Damme who’s more convincing in fight scenes than Ralph Macchio ever was. Though the less said about his acting the better. The old man called Xian is played by Dennis Chan, who lacks the charm of Pat Morita but is funny in his own way and luckily isn’t dubbed.
With Kickboxer Jean-Claude van Damme plays it safe. Close of the relative success of Bloodsport he stars in another movie that has him fight the ring and overcome a seemingly undefeatable opponent. Bloodsport had the merciless and lethal Chong Li, Kickboxer ups the ante by not only having villain Tong Po sentencing Van Damme’s on-screen brother to a wheel chair, but also having him rape Van dame’s love interest and making him gloat about it. There’s always a bigger fish and if a similar themed movie would have been made a year later I can only imagine what evil deeds he would have done.
Unlike Bloodsport, Kickboxer mostly focusses on the training sequences instead of tournament fights. We see Van Damme fight under water, getting his legs stretched (painful to see even though we know he can do the split), dance like an imbecile and staring at eagles. The biggest achievement is how they managed to put in all these training sequences without using a typical 80s pop-song.
These scenes are fun and make up the majority of the movie which does make use of some small plot lines to fill up the running time. The fight is organized by the Mafia of which Tong Po is a part of. To make sure he wins they not only rape the love interest but also kidnap his recently disabled brother. I still don’t understand what his brother was doing at Xian’s cabin all alone. The guy lives in the middle of the woods, and he is in a wheelchair; so much for mobility.
I addressed this movie as being The Karate Kid for adults, but somehow I do think this movie is much more appealing to a 12-year old. Sure there is some heavy language but at least he won’t notice how gay the whole ordeal is. I know I didn’t when I saw this one back in the day. Watching it now I could only cringe when witnessing all the homosexual undertones on display here. Just take the opening scenes in Thailand where Van Damme and his brother are almost crammed together in a tourist boat, one of them having his arm around the other. They both wears wimpy clothing which show off their sweaty muscles and while on the boat Van Damme photographs a couple of children playing in the water, and who’re nude by the way. It doesn’t really help that Van Damme’s brother looks like a porn star while he himself walks around in a variety of clothing that’s just too tight or too revealing. The final fight between him and Tong features both of them in just a loin cloth around the middle. Bare butt cheeks are all over the place.
Despite these undertones Kickboxer is harmless fun. Van Damme might not be able to act, but he makes it up by displaying his physical abilities and for the ladies also his physical attributes.