Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Kickboxer (1989)

Here's a typical film scenario courtesy of "the muscles from Brussels": Man (JCVD) travels to foreign land (in this case, accompanying his kickboxing legend moustachioued douchebag brother) for martial arts tournament. Brother destroyed by local legend. Man swears vengeance, appears in way over his head. Man gets ass handed to him for most of the final fight. Man comes back from near death to win bout with a bunch of slow-mo, repeated blows while seemingly unbeatable foe suddenly forgets how to block punches or...um...fight altogether. Man doesn't get laid during film's runtime. Ok, I think I probably missed/added some things but you get the gist. This picture, Kickboxer, is run of the mill. It's also the gayest thing Van Damme's ever done.

The movie centers around a couple of brothers that are clearly pining for each other's balls. Eric Sloane (Dennis Alexio) is some kind of kickboxing champion. The picture opens with him kicking ass across, what can only be, minor circuits. The first thing that tipped me off to his gayness was the Gold's Gym muscle shirt. The second thing was the moustache. Still, he's a pretty solid fighter and this becomes more clear when we realize the guy manning his corner is Jean Claude Van Damme (playing Kurt Sloane). These guys have had it with their current, lack of, competition and so they pack their bags for Bangkok, Thailand to challenge the current Thai champion known as Tong Po. Before the fight we get a nice little montage of the two brothers touring the city, arm in arm, as a sweet little 80's ballad serenades us. Eric eventually retreats to the hotel with a couple of hookers as his brother sorta just shrugs off his closeted ways. Later, the fight takes place and Eric is paralyzed barely a round into the thing ("these guys use their elbows!"). Stubborn son of a bitch should have listened to his brother who ran into Tong Po earlier knocking down cement beams with his shins. Oh well, live and learn I guess.

Of course without the back breaking, we wouldn't really have a movie or, at least, not a very good one (we still don't). Kurt vows to avenge his brothers crippling (at least now when Eric can't get it up for chicks he'll have an excuse) and journeys to a more forested region of Thailand to train with "Muay Thai" legend, Xian Chow (Dennis Chan). Along the way, Kurt meets a girl, deals with some Thai mobsters, and of course has a training montage (a nifty way to keep movies from exceeding months in length). Suddenly he's better than his brother ever was (as if that's hard to believe). He's more than ready to face Tong Po. If only Kiki, Chow's dog, was as confident as Kurt was ("someday, Kiki will believe in me.").

This is one of those movies that starts off shitty but by the time Kurt and Tong Po are facing off with fists wrapped in cloth, dipped in resin and covered with glass, you are completely won over and then the movie keeps going and just becomes pretty shitty all over again. Nothing about this picture is believable. First of all, no way was Eric ever a better fighter than Kurt. No way would that girl show any interest in Kurt. And, for fuck's sake, are we really supposed to believe that Eric and Kurt are american brothers. In Kurt's defense he does claim they are originally from Belgium. Eric just took the better ESL program I guess.

The final battle is interesting. Thai mobsters capture Eric before the fight and let Kurt know that he has to suffer through every round or his brother will suffer a horrible death. So, it's up to Xian Chow and Winston Taylor (Vietnam vet living in Bangkok that befriends JCVD. I think he's working as a pimp.) to rescue the brother before Tong's punishment becomes too much for Kurt to endure. Tong is relentless. He's also a rapist apparently since he chastises Kurt after one particularly brutal round with the following line: "You bleed like Mylee (Kurt's girl, duh). Mylee....Goooooood fuck." Then he whipped his ponytail around and licked his lips. Tong Po, like the majority of Thai's portrayed in this movie, is pyschotic.

I won't spoil what happens but let's just say that once Kurt sees Eric sitting with the audience, as comfortably as one can be in a wheelchair, that Tong Po doesn't stand a chance. Oh wait, I just spoiled it! This was also the moment when I realized that I hate the way all Jean Claude Van Damme pictures end. So, clearly Tong Po was never a match for the guy. Kurt was near death, guts dripping out of his stomach, glass embedded in his skull, etc. We know he endured this for his brother. Still, wouldn't he be a bit out of sorts from things like blood loss, for instance? Ok, I get it, it's a fucking movie. Also, why doesn't Van Damme have the confidence in his abilities to cut most of his fights in real time? Why do we have to see him do that double punch, or that Jump kick, three times and in slow motion? It completely takes you out of the picture. I fucking can't stand the way his fights are cut. Suddenly, I realized what I was watching wasn't a fight, but masturbation.

Oh well, he can't win them all I guess. Bloodsport suffers from the same technical issues. It's still a much better film. Cyborg isn't bad even though it's directed by Albert Pyum. Jean Claude, I think, just lacked the scripts and charisma, albeit limited charisma, that make Steven Seagal pictures such a pleasure. Anyway, Kickboxer works on a simple level. It's not transcendent, or even good. It's pretty bad. Mostly, it just is.


elmo said...

I wore this tape out as a kid. Last JCVD movie I viewed critically was "Timecop"- and there was something there.
I think if he started fighting creatures or aliens he could have extended his career juuuust a bit.

brian said...

"Timecop" is loads of fun. It'll be interesting to see where his career goes after the critical success of "JCVD". It's still at the Kendall last I checked.

steve said...

How can you possibly think 'Kickboxer' is gayer than 'Double Impact'??? In 'Kickboxer,' the two brothers are, as you rightly point out, mad crazy in love with each other. But in 'Double Impact,' JCVD is in love with HIMSELF! Surely, that's the very DEFINITION of 'gay'?

steve said...

Classic MPT line:

"Of course without the back breaking, we wouldn't really have a movie or, at least, not a very good one (we still don't)."