Kickboxer: Retaliation, 2018.
Directed by Dimitri Logothetis.
Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Alain Moussi, Christopher Lambert, Mike Tyson, Sara Malakul Lane, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, and Ronaldinho Gaúcho.
After the events of Kickboxer: Vengeance, Kurt Sloane is captured and imprisoned by Thomas Moore (Lambert). Now back in Thailand, Sloane must fight Moore’s champion, a 6ft 8, 400 pound behemoth. At first Sloane refuses, but Moore finds the means to convince him.
A couple of years back saw the release of Kickboxer: Vengeance. Essentially a reboot/remake of the Jean-Claude Van Damme original, the film (with JCVD taking on the role of mentor) starred Alain Moussi (previously, largely known as a stunt man) and Dave Bautista. Having been rife with production problems, the film was a huge mess. A pale imitator of the original with a whole host of problems. It was awful. Before it had even been released, the follow up Retaliation, was already greenlit and good to go.
With the previous instalment still burned in my brain, slowly being repressed over the months since seeing it, I approached the sequel with trepidation. So to no surprise whatsoever, in the previous film Kurt Sloane (Moussi) defeats the unbeatable Tong Po (Bautista), killing him in the process. This leaves the underground fighting circuit without a champion, as Sloane disappears to live a quiet life. He’s forcibly captured and held in a prison by Thomas Moore (Christopher Lambert) and ordered to have a fight to the death with a new grand champion, a 6ft 8, 400lb monster. Moore gets dirty and kidnaps Sloane’s girl. So yeah, we know the showdown is inevitable, the film doesn’t plumb imaginative new depths in order to get us to that point. It’s quite happy tipping its cap to formula (as you’d expect from a Kickboxer film).
By the roll of the credits (complete with blooper reels…for some reason…) I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised. The first film was horrid. I expected the same here and a pretty dull trailer didn’t help. Thankfully the film has a lot going for it. Firstly, it looks nice. Dimitri Logothetis offers some coherent direction (which was sadly lacking in the last film due to production issues) and there’s some nice photography by Gerardo Medrazo. There’s a good score from Adam Dorn which makes good use of percussion and synth and has the odd subtle little ode to Paul Hertzog’s awesome score in the original. Typical with modern action films, big and small screen, this does succumb to a lot of superfluous editing, which often does a disservice to some good action and visuals.
Retaliation also has some nice set pieces too. There are some extended takes. A nice nod to Enter the Dragon (by way of John Wick: Chapter 2) and a good bout between Moussi and Mike Tyson (who seems to be popping up in films everywhere to punch people and look really awkward acting). Van Damme gets in on the action too. His role isn’t huge but there’s at least a sense here that he’s trying. Lambert gets to swing a sword again but mostly has fun hamming it up to good effect as the villain.
Overall the film is incredibly goofy but there’s a definite sense of fun. It’s not taken too seriously (the last, to an extent was). Full of homage, to not only the original but an array of action classics, this is, for better or worse (depending on your view) a perfect ‘kickboxer’ film. Stylish, with a relentless finale and easily the best since the original.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★