Kickboxer: Retaliation (2018)

Posted in Reviews by - January 23, 2018
Kickboxer: Retaliation (2018)

The first Kickboxer remake (2016′s Kickboxer: Vengeance) was a painfully earnest slugfest suffering from a charm vacuum. Producer Dimitri Logothetis (who also writes and directs) takes a more ambitious approach with this quick follow-up and, although it lapses into fairly predictable territory, the changes mostly pay off. First of all, the action feels more organic, with two stand-out one-take fight scenes showing the breadth of star Alain Moussi’s remarkable athleticism. Logothetis also gets a more commanding central performance from Moussi, who appears more confident in his second feature as a leading man, as well as absolutely bossing the physical stuff as martial arts ace, Kurt Sloane. There is also a refreshing lightness to the sequel which was absent from the previous film, with a nice over-the-top James Bond-style intro sequence, a hall of mirrors routine which directly references Enter the Dragon, and even a blooper reel. During Moussi’s obligatory training montage, they recruit Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldinho to kick footballs at him. The female characters are, of course, completely hollow, but the big masculine names all deliver on their promise: Christopher Lambert chews the scenery as a fight promoter; Mike Tyson provides an ironic extended cameo as a meditative boxing sage while smashing things with his fists; and Jean-Claude Van Damme reprises his Master Durand role, only now as a blindman, spouting popcorn wisdom in preparation for Kurt’s David and Goliath battle against a giant, adrenaline-pumped, superhuman lab rat known as Mongkut (Game of Thrones‘ Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson), who is basically Tong Po on growth hormones. “He will kill you in a second”, says Durand during one of his more encouraging pep talks. Lambert kidnaps Sloane’s girl, so he is forced to fight, and the ensuing pummelling takes up a huge part of the final act with both combatants stripped to their essentials, fighting the Muay Thai way. The fight feels a bit like journeying through Van Damme’s back catalogue, with inspiring flashbacks, a blindfolded sequence, punches to the groin and jumping split kicks. Unlike Kickboxer: Vengeance, this sequel feels less shackled by the original concept and, as a result, it has a stronger identity of its own.

Kickboxer: Retaliation is released in theatres and on demand in North America on 26 January 2018 via Well Go USA.

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