Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016)
Main cast: Alain Moussi (Kurt Sloane), Jean-Claude Van Damme (Master Durand), Dave Bautista (Tong Po), Darren Shahlavi (Eric Sloane), Gina Carano (Marcia), Georges St-Pierre (Kavi), and Sara Malakul Lane (Liu)
Director: John Stockwell
Kickboxer: Vengeance is sort of a reboot of the original Kickboxer movie, but the whole thing will be familiar to fans of B-grade action schlock: hero wants revenge, he gets humiliated at first, he trains hard, he then gets the girl who is all about him not fighting, he fights and almost loses, and then he wins and the girl loves him anyway because everyone loves a winner.
Here, the hero is Kurt Sloane, who wants to kill the Thai reigning underground fighting champ, Tong Po, because his brother Eric died in a fight against that fellow. He gets a love interest in Liu, the only clean cop in Thailand, it seems – although her role in this movie is to basically pout and be Kurt’s body pillow. Also, he gets mentored by Master Durand, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme because why not. Dave Bautista plays the scenery-chewing villain, and that’s about it. Oh, and Gina Carano shows up occasionally.
This movie also underscores how charismatic Mr Van Damme was in the original Kickboxer movie, because my goodness, Alain Moussi really can’t act here. Sure, he has the physicality and the rugged looks to be the perfect action hero on paper, but the man can neither emote nor utter his lines convincingly. Say what you will about Mr Van Damme’s accent, that man still can carry a role with the right mixture of lethal kick-ass goodness and ham, and really, that butt doesn’t hurt either. Here, though, Mr Moussi looks like a bag of beef that is being carted around the screen, with zero chemistry with the rest of the cast. When Gina Carano acts rings around him in the few scenes they share, that’s when Mr Moussi should consider spending a bit more time doing what actors do to get better at their art.
Seriously, Mr Van Damme saves this movie, and he’s not even the main character nor is he trying very hard in his role, and that speaks volumes about how miscast the principal actor is.
As for the fight scenes, which are the main reason to watch this thing anyway, they feel more tepid than anything else. Maybe it’s because Mr Moussi is so underwhelming as a lead actor that I end up not caring whether he wins or not. The CGI is pretty bad too – there is a scene that involves elephants, which is clearly meant to be some kind of iconic moment only to end up being as fake as a three-dollar note.
The only reason to watch this thing is if the original Kickboxer had somehow been completely erased from existence. Even then, there are still so many better martial arts out there to watch!