Originally the plan was to review Countdown at the end of the month. I was all set to go with that when I saw that not only that Kickboxer: Vengeance was on VOD. A movie with former wrestler Dave Bautista, Jean Claude Van Damme AND UFC fighters? I knew I had to review it. So in a special edition of Wrestling Is Reel I will be looking at Kickboxer: Vengeance.
With big supporting roles in Guardians of the Galaxy and Spectre it is easy to forget that Dave Bautista got his start as a professional wrestler. Starting in 2000 he would make his WWE debut as Deacon Batista, the evil enforcer for crooked preacher Reverend D-Von. Despite this horrible gimmick he would soon rise up the ranks after forming Evolution with Triple H, Ric Flair and The Condemned 2 star Randy Orton. Winning the World Heavyweight Championship at 2005’s Wrestlemania 22 he would consistently be in the main event feuding with legends like Triple H, The Undertaker and John Cena before leaving over creative differences.
After a brief foray in MMA and filming a little movie called Guardians of the Galaxy Batista would return to WWE in early 2013. Initially pushed as a good guy the fans quickly turned on him in favor of underdog Daniel Bryan. A bit of a fiasco Batista would last a few more months before returning to Hollywood to film today’s entry, Kickboxer: Vengeance.
Wrestling Moves Used- 3
Real Stars- Jean Claude Van Damme, Gina Carano
Kurt Sloane is there for his brother Eric, a rising martial arts star. Even as he goes to fight in Thailand despite his wishes. When Eric is killed in the ring by Tong Po Kurt looks to Eric’s trainer Master Durand to train him and take revenge against the brutal fighter.
If this sounds exactly like the first movie that’s because it pretty much is. While I expect reboots to be similar to the original they usually add something new to the plot. Instead we pretty much get the same movie but with a grittier aesthetic. Things aren’t helped when the whole thing is oddly edited. While the fights look okay, if a little shaky, things like a tacked on romance come out of nowhere. It is literally two scenes mid-training montage and a “you can’t fight” scene near the end. It’s just a weird choice that is made worse when it looks cheap.
All of this could be forgiven if Kickboxer: Vengeance had a good lead to carry the movie. Who we get is Alain Moussi. A stuntman for films like Brick Mansions, X-Men: Days of Future Past and The Marine 3 and it’s easy to see why his acting roles have been bit parts. Quite frankly he wasn’t really a good actor. And while the same could be said of Van Damme in the original he still had this dumb pretty boy charm that worked. Moussi, on the other hand, seems more like a blank slate. Never emoting to much he just exists to stare blankly and kick things in the face. To his credit he does that quite well. In fact he’s probably one of the more talented movie fighters I’ve seen in awhile. Still as skilled as he is as a martial artist he just can’t carry a full movie. This is especially apparent when he shares screen time with Jean Claude Van Damme.
Van Damme is perfect as the faux-Mr. Miyagi trainer Master Durand. Instead of being the generic ass kicker we see in most direct to video fare they give the Muscles from Brussels a bit of personality and it goes a long way. Whether on screen with Moussi or Georges St. Pierre he steals every scene he is in. I am also happy to say he can still “turn it on” when it comes to the action scenes. While this isn’t too much of a surprise it’s still nice to see him do martial arts as opposed to run and gun like most of his recent films. Seeing JCVD take on the GSP was the movie fight scene I didn’t know I needed to watch.
In fact the fight scenes are pretty good in general. While hardly the most innovative stuff each fight felt unique from each other. Rarely relying just on martial arts we get a nice of mix of hand-to-hand, weapons and variety in environments. From fights in the hills of Thailand to streets fights on top of elephants (yes that actually happens) the fight scenes are well choreographed and easily the best part of Kickboxer: Vengeance.
Helping the believability is the casting of the other fighters. The biggest of which being Batista as Tong Po. While the role is a bit generic Batista brings the menace and a screen presence to the role that make it stand out. He is able to make every throw and Muay Thai knee look believable. We also have former UFC Heavyweight champions Fabricio Werdum, Cain Velasquez and a non-fighting Gina Carano making appearances. Surprisingly it is former UFC Welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre that made the most impact on me. Given he isn’t the best actor but he is perfect comic relief as the drunk Kavi. He also seemed the most adept at stage fighting. His background in MMA as well as his athleticism had his fight scenes looking the best on film.
One has to have certain expectations Going into a direct to video Kickboxer reboot starring an ex-wrestler and Jean Claude Van Damme. Mostly that it will be a silly action flick not high art. For the most part it delivers. The supporting cast manages to be fun and the action scenes surprisingly work. Sadly the whole thing is derailed by a terrible lead and an overall cheap aesthetic derail the whole thing. Kickboxer: Vengeance can be fun and I think that it has its moments. But in all honesty I might recommend the sequels instead. They deliver the cheesy action you’re looking for more than this did.
Did you see Kickboxer: Vengeance? What is your favorite Van Damme movie? Let me know in the comments.