Awfully Good: Psycho Kickboxer
Psycho Kicboxer (1997)
Director: David Haycox, Mardy South
Stars: Curtis Bush, Kim Reynolds, Rick Clark
Is there a plot?
After a ruthless crime lord kills his father and rapes and murders his fiancée, a champion fighter channels his rage to become the masked vigilante his city didn't really ask for and only mildly tolerates.
What's the damage?
You have to feel a little bad for really low budget filmmakers, especially when they want to try their admittedly cheap hand at something genre like a kung fu film. You need to hire someone who knows how to fight, even if they can't act. And of course you have to accept the fact that you're not going to get professional choreography or polished action scenes. We understand your plight, we really do. But that doesn't mean we can't still laugh at you.
For a brief moment before the first wave of pain set in, George couldn't help but enjoy the irony that A FAREWELL TO ARMS was his favorite book.
PSYCHO KICKBOXER is a fantastic example of cinematic limitations. It's so poorly made, both in terms of quality and money spent, that it never ceases to amaze. When lines are flubbed or someone clearly screws up a take they have no choice but to keep going. The filmmakers reuse the same locations, which makes it look like the hero just hangs out in one parking lot waiting for crime to happen. All the nameless henchmen clearly have no training in fighting on film, as punches rarely connect within the same time zone as the intended target. Five-time world champion kickboxer Curtis Bush can spin a roundhouse or two, but he's an atrociously bad actor—although somehow he's still not as horrible as the woman who plays his fiancée. Their thankfully-short on-screen romance is so awkward that you have to wonder if they've ever interacted with other humans before, let alone kissed someone that wasn't related to them.
Once Chris Hansen saw that the alleged child predator was a ninja, the decoy children were on their own.
The film follows the standard vigilante-revenge movie formula, except for a few minor alterations. Instead of a menacing bad guy, the film's villain is an elderly effeminate crime lord who's about as threatening as the cast of COCOON. Next, instead of being mentored and retrained by a wise master, The Dark Angel (he's never actually called Psycho Kickboxer in the film) is taken in by an African American paraplegic veteran in a wheelchair and retrained with "street smarts." Keep in mind that at this point, although he's injured, the Dark Angel is already a champion martial artist. His new mentor literally has nothing to offer him other than acting as a literal punching bag and yelling at the "white boy" who just saw his family murdered. (Their relationship is also a way for the film to express its thinly veiled racism. "Just what I need…a black guy in a wheelchair!") And finally, instead of a cool costume, the Dark Angel wears a black sweatsuit and ski mask in an attempt to be stealthy—even in broad daylight. This is the exact reason why you never see Batman fighting crime in the afternoon; he'd look like a goofy moron. It's only compounded by the fact that our hero's method of attack seems to be to show up randomly, fight evildoers…and then run away at top speed awkwardly. Trust me, by the sixth or seventh time you see him hightailing it you will laugh uncontrollably.
Amazingly, "Wheelchair Boxing Happy Hour" wasn't the worst thing on Fox's fall lineup.
Thankfully, the makers or PSYCHO KICKBOXER have some small idea of what we're looking for in a cheap D-grade action movie and they give us some surprisingly great and graphic moments of gore. There's lots of blood (even when there doesn't need to be), severed limbs and a couple instances of head trauma that look like something out of a Gallagher show. Overall, this isn't an Awfully Good classic, but it definitely has its moments. Like in the end, when the bad guy finally catches the Dark Angel and, instead of killing him, forces him to fight his best henchmen with his arms tied behind his back. Gee, it’s a good thing he doesn’t specialize in fighting with his feet or anything…
An illustrative representation of the careers of everyone involved with this movie.
As much as I love the BETTER OFF DEAD-esque "You just never know when you're going to find a half dead white boy in this town," these scenes features some of the worst romantic acting and lines ever to grace this column.
1) This collection of horrible fight scenes features poor execution, fighting henchmen who probably shouldn't talk, and awkward daytime fighting.
2) Great moments of random gore, including the best exploding heads since SCANNERS.
The guys get a female lead who randomly decides to take a bath (a very sensual and revealing bath) and the ladies can enjoy more bad moustaches and mullets than a 1986 NAMBLA meeting.
Play Along at Home!
Take a shot or drink every time:
- Psycho Kickboxer runs away funny
- Sound effects blatantly don’t match up
- There's a funny mullet or mustache
- There's slow motion
Double shot if:
- The guy in the wheelchair launches himself
Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.