REVIEW: Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016) - ManlyMovie

REVIEW: Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016)


I noticed some very early ‘mainstream’ reviews of this movie, some weren’t positive.  I didn’t read them, but I wasn’t surprised, because I had low expectations going into this one myself.  One of the better things that can happen when you watch a movie is going in with low expectations and coming out surprised and refreshed, which is how I felt about Kickboxer: Vengeance, an often beautiful movie that likes nothing more than fighting and relentless maschismo.  It’s also a strong contender for Jean Claude Van Damme’s best movie since The Quest.

You should already know the plot of the original movie.  Kurt Sloane, (Alain Moussi) a wet behind the ears martial artist, seeks revenge against the deadly Tong Po (Dave Bautista), after he brutalizes the older brother whom he idolizes, Eric Sloane (Darren Shahlavi).  It’s the same affair here, but this movie shakes things up a little with the order.  For example, in this movie the opening sees Kurt march right into Tong Po’s den with a view to killing him.  It doesn’t go well, although here he meets a further influence on his adventure in Kiu, an outcast fighter played by Georges St-Pierre.  Sloane leaves with his tail between his legs.  Humiliated, he eventually finds his way to the eccentric Master Duran (Jean Claude Van Damme)…

This is a beat ’em up movie and what matters is choreography, agility, camerawork and editing. So let’s get that out of the way first, for the most part, this movie hits quite a few high notes.  The actual fighting and stunt work is sublime… make no mistake, this is not some cheap and cheesy fighting you might see in Walker: Texas Ranger.  It’s heavy and bone crunching but also with a lot of throwback to older beat ’em up movies with elegant high kicks, Hollywood style karate, the type that made us all want to become martial artists back in the day.

HESC syndrome is here (Hyper edited shaking cam), but in this movie it’s a mild affliction, actually only now and again did the editing frustrate me.  It’s odd, in most fights the editing is unobtrusive, letting the viewer savour the blows and connections.  In some though, that bizarre and quite frankly annoying editing decision to cut away at key points is here.  When Van Damme and Moussi are fighting a mob in the middle of the movie, there are a few scenes where Moussi’s fighting ability are denied justice with frustrating filming, I want to see them crack down on this in the sequel. However the fighting is enjoyable overall.

I need to point out that once again, I cannot stand Gina Carano.  She is in the movie, playing a character I don’t really recall from the original movie… I guess she’s filling in for Hakell Anderson’s role, remember, he played Van Damme’s wisecracking black sidekick.  But really, Carano is a fucking horrible actress and an awkward screen presence.  He ‘performance’ is like it is in her other movies, simple dialogue for her is a struggle and delivered almost with contempt – as in this acting stuff is so stupid, when am I getting paid?.  Luckily though, her time on screen is minimal, a small mercy.  Contrast her appearance with Dave Bautista’s, however…


Although he’s in the movie somewhat scantly too, but a lot more, he plays a fearsome Tong Po.  I like Bautista, he’s a good actor.  His nemesis for Sloane is more than a 8 bit video game-like villain (although to be honest, I would’ve been happy with that).  Tong Po in this movie is a bad buy with a lot going on behind the eyes, subtle and mendacious, too badass to scream much, but deadly and imposing.  Almost, it’s a throwback to the old bosses you’d see in Bruce Lee movies.  Short of a super villain, but well beyond a gangster, an almost mythical figure with a cult following of aspiring fighters.

Kickboxer: Vengeance does a solid for the South East Asian tourism industry.  What a nice looking movie this is, director John Stockwell has put every dime of his $17 million budget on screen.  The golden sun is used effectively to bathe and cast shadows over the set (for example, Master Durand’s property), there are first-rate filming locations used to show us an often stunningly beautiful movie.  Thinking about it, in the second Bourne movie when Paul Greengrass had a budget six times larger, he put Bourne in a similar climate (different country though) yet managed to make it look ugly, dank and miserable.  So good on Stockwell for giving us an eye-holiday.


Finally, people are going to be wondering about Van Damme, how he is in the movie about maybe more than anything, how much he’s in the movie.  You see in movies like this these days, you have former big name 1990’s action stars who appear on the cover but, y’know, aren’t really in the damn movie all that much.  Don’t worry, Van Damme is in this movie a lot.  It’s not even a case of thinking about the percentage, he’s just there, in a full role and at the very least co-leading with Moussi, it’s almost like Van Damme is competing with Moussi to be the bigger thing in the film – which wouldn’t surprise me. Even better, Van Damme fights a lot in this movie.  He beats up Moussi, he fights St-Pierre, he beats up goons… and he looks cool as hell while doing it, thanks to Stockwell’s good eye for an old school Van Damme kick.  I was also impressed by Van Damme’s character, his is not a sympathetic mentor.  You’ll be surprised at how indifferent he is to Sloane’s plight.

So Kickboxer: Vengeance is not a sullied reboot.  While Moussi is a decent actor (and a better on-screen fighter) and I’m not sure whether I’m 100% behind him yet, as a package with good fighting, Van Damme’s presence and Baustita’s villain, I quite enjoyed this movie.




  1. Mucho Macho

    August 22, 2016 at 11:29 am

    Even with streaming services such as Netflix we dont get franchises like this no more. Growing up I could always get my fair share of action B movies from Cable TV & Video Stores.
    Hey kids….You dont have to commit suicide because somebody made fun of your big ears or some dumb shit like that.
    Learn how to throw a punch & a kick. Walk with some pride & get some self respect. Shit, even movies like these back in the day motivated one enough to do that.

    • The Night Rider

      August 22, 2016 at 11:55 am

      But… muh superpowerz! Muh cape!

      • Mucho Macho

        August 22, 2016 at 12:55 pm

        So many people today yell “girl power” & dont even know who Cynthia Rothrock is. I used to watch her movies all the time. Hers & Don “The Dragon” Wilson too

  2. Mucho Macho

    August 22, 2016 at 11:32 am

    “an often beautiful movie that likes nothing more than fighting and relentless machismo.”
    Sounds like a movie for Mucho Macho 🍺👍

  3. Mucho Macho

    August 22, 2016 at 11:37 am

    I, unlike the boss Night Rider, like Gina Carano.
    I want those thunder thighs to make me tap out in the middle of the Ring

  4. Mucho Macho

    August 22, 2016 at 11:43 am

    I am a fan of Dave Bautista & I’m happy for his success.
    He was one of the good things of “Spectre”.

    • CyrusTheVirus85

      August 22, 2016 at 12:01 pm

      It’s funny how he turned out to be a bigger star than someone like Austin or Hogan in movies

      • Mucho Macho

        August 22, 2016 at 12:52 pm

        I actually have liked Austin in his action B movies. Its a Niche that suits his style pretty well. He has stopped the last couple of years or so which is surprising considering he was in such a good run. His podcasts are great. I think Austin could do a TV Show like the supporting part he played in the Don Johnson/ Cheech Marin vehicle Nash Bridges back in the day.

        Hogan aside from Thunder Lips in Rocky 3 he’s always,well you know, Hulk Hogan. You expect at any moment him going ” what you going to do brother?!” and rip off his shirt. A problem with Hogan is that he always acted in movies like he was cutting a wrestling promo.

        I think you are right..its surprising how well Bautista has done for himself. Good for him. I met him once & he was cool to me

  5. Mucho Macho

    August 22, 2016 at 11:46 am

  6. CyrusTheVirus85

    August 22, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    I’m looking forward to this plenty now. A sequel already in works, so it must be pleasing the owners too

  7. ColonelBobi

    August 22, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    I am stunned that this doesn’t actually look like it sucks and I will def be watching it. Bautista is a good choice for Tong Po, guy is a manly badass.

  8. Just Some Polack

    August 22, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Wait a minute! It’s a remake of a beloved 80s classic, made in 2010s… and it doesn’t suck?! Holy shit, 2016 is full of strange miracles indeed. First Brexit, now this…

  9. jim

    August 22, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    Bautista is the best thing that’s happened to manly movies in a very long time.

    • Saverio

      August 22, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      I think he would be an excellent choice to pick up that scrapped Arnold Schwarzenegger movie script ‘Steroid’

  10. Jeff

    August 22, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Thanks for the review! I was originally wary of getting my hopes up for this but I’ll definitely watch it now. 😀

  11. Serbius

    August 22, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    Great to hear that this doesn’t suck.

  12. Jimmy Smith

    August 23, 2016 at 1:54 am

    It looks to be a good year for martial arts action movies. Ip Man III, Never Back Down III , Headshot with Iko Uwais and Kicboxer. Also Blood Father, Hell or High Water and Mechanic Resurrection to look forward too.

  13. Mike

    August 24, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    Good review. May be a random question but how was the music score? That’s one of the things I loved about the original. Do they try somewhat to give it the same kind of vibe?