When I heard that a new Kickboxer movie – Kickboxer: Retaliation– was coming out, part of me was wondering what more they could possibly do with the series.
The original Kickboxer starring Jean-Claude Van Damme came out nearly two decades ago in 1989, and has spawned several sequels, not counting the reboot in 2016 (Kickboxer: Vengeance) and this movie, its sequel.
Growing up, watching cheesy action movies was definitely a guilty pleasure of mine. From Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Commando, Sylvester Stallone’s arm wrestling flick Over The Top, to Van Damme’s Bloodsport, it was just fun to see guys with big muscles wreck other guys with big muscles.
To that end, most of these films never did have much in terms of meaningful dialogue and thought-provoking plot. No, it was all about the action.
So when I saw The Mountain himself – Game of Thrones star, Hafthor Bjornsson – billed in this movie, the little kid in me got excited.
Bjornsson joins Alain Moussi as protagonist, Kurt Sloane, and some pretty big names from the ’80s – Christopher Lambert of Highlander fame, Mike Tyson, and of course, Van Damme, who plays the role of mentor, Master Durand. There’s even a special appearance by Ronaldinho midway through the movie which may leave you scratching your heads.
The premise is simple: After killing Tong Po in the previous movie, Sloane is forced out of his life as an MMA fighter to fight Mongkut (Bjornsson), the new unbeaten champion, to the death.
Let’s be honest, Kickboxer: Retaliation was never going to be some theatrical masterpiece. There was always going to be stilted dialogue and odd pacing along with the usual action movie tropes and predictable plot.
As for the action, you’re thrust right into it from the get-go. Sloane plows through enemies with relative ease, and while there was no shortage of bad guys for him to beat, it did get tiring seeing slow-mo shot after slow-mo shot of people getting knocked out.
The final fight with Mongkut is how you’d expect it to go, and Game of Thrones fans might even feel it’s reminiscent of The Mountain and the Viper – big, strong villain vs smaller, agile hero.
So should you go out and catch this movie? If you just want to turn your brain off and watch big angry guys beat each other up, then you can consider giving this a shot. Otherwise, don’t expect too much.
The action may not be the best and the build-up is a little draggy, but if anything, the nostalgia of seeing these old action stars in Kickboxer: Retaliation will definitely resonate with fans in one way or another.
Kickboxer: Retaliation is out in theatres today (1 Feb).
By Gilbert Wong, Men’s Health Content Producer