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Review: Kickboxer: Retaliation

Kickboxer: Retaliation
7 10

PLOT: Kickboxer extraordinaire Kurt Sloane gets trapped in a prison in Thailand by an evil gangster who wants him to fight a massive, 400-pound killer.

REVIEW: As a child of the 80s, I recall with some measure of fondness the KICKBOXER movies. Okay, maybe just the first one, the one that actually starred Jean-Claude Van Damme as marble-mouthed fighter Kurt Sloane. That film's cheesy sincerity combined with the sweatiest fight scenes you've ever witnessed ensured that the movie would become a cult favorite, even as no less than four sequels attempted to cement the title's legacy as a franchise to be reckoned with. (It wasn't; no one really remembers those sequels, do they?)

Now we have a new generation of KICKBOXER. 2016 brought us KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE, which was more or less a remake of the original, with Alain Moussi taking over the Sloan role and Van Damme now relegated to playing Sloan's martial arts trainer, Master Durand. While VENGEANCE may not have made much of a lasting impression on its own, its sequel RETALIATION just might. This is a silly, fun, sometimes deceptively funny action movie that wisely focuses almost all of its attention on a barrage of rock-em, sock-em fight sequences, nary letting the nonsensical plot get in the way much. And at 110 minutes, there are a lot of fight sequences, so many that the film often resembles a rather long stuntman demo reel rather than an actual motion picture.

Kickboxer Retaliation movie review Alain Moussi Jean Claude Van Damme

The plot, such as it is, revolves once again around Sloan who, years after taking down the fearsome Tong Po (Dave Bautista), finds himself a target of sleazy gangster Thomas Moore (Christopher Lambert), who wants to make Sloan pay for killing Tong Po. Sloan is trapped in one of those cruddy Thai prisons you only see in action movies like this one, where he has to square off against hulking monster Mongkut (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, best know as The Mountain in Game of Thrones). To take down this frightening challenger, Sloan must seek the counsel of Durand (who is now blind, mind you) while also beating down hordes of henchman and lowlives after escaping the prison.

This is all extremely ridiculous, but luckily RETALIATION is by no means attempting to sell you anything but ridiculousness. By the time Mike Tyson randomly shows up, hilariously announcing, "You're interrupting my meditation" before giving Sloan a beatdown, it's already mighty clear the film is not angling for anything resembling a serious tone or high art. Which, of course, is fine. There's no reason a KICKBOXER movie should take itself remotely seriously, but Retaliation's brand of silliness is almost refreshing for a while. It's this level of tongue-in-cheek self-awareness that allows the movie to flow smoothly and without much risk of boring you. Scenes of drama and exposition are, thankfully, kept to a minimum, as director Dimitri Logothetis surely recognizes that none of us are here to bask in the acting talents of Moussi, Lambert or Tyson. (Truth be told, Tyson is enjoyable in his brief role as Sloan's new prison pal, and he definitely still looks like he can pack a punch.) Moussi is a fine physical specimen, but he doesn't quite have that effortless swagger JCVD did, so he's mostly here to look cool while kicking people in the skull.

Furthermore, RETALIATION is actually pretty well made, for a movie of this caliber. Most of the fight scenes are reasonably well choreographed and staged; we're not talking THE RAID here, but for what it is, the film delivers on its basic promise to show you mildly diverting violence in a competent way. Logothetis takes one page too many out of Zack Snyder's old playbook (slow-mo-fast-mo-slow-mo, etc.) but overall he proves himself adept at staging an ass-kicking. There are also several training montages, always necessary, that give you what you need out of those types of things, and one sequence that startlingly uses Surfari's "Wipeout" to compliment the beatings taking place. I haven't even gotten to the absolutely absurd opening sequence, which sees Sloan dreaming he's in some kind of old-fashioned Hollywood movie!

Yes, this movie is often a strange bird, and it's also often quite entertaining. If you can stand 110 minutes of shameless face-punching lunacy, then RETALIATION will do just fine.

Source: JoBlo.com

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