10 May 2017 | bowmanblue
A true classic (somehow)
When it comes to those musclebound heroes who were so popular in the eighties/early nineties, you kind of remember their breakthrough roles. 'The Terminator' is still a classic to this day and you can see how it catapulted Arnold Schwarzenegger into super-stardom. The same can be said for 'Rocky' and 'Die Hard' for Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis respectively. It was fair to say that Jean Claude Van Damme hadn't done much before he starred as the lead in 'Kickboxer' (and a brief turn as the Predator before he threw a hissy-fit on set doesn't count – seriously, look that up). In 'Kickboxer' he plays a ballet dancer who turns professional kickboxer to avenge the crippling of his (also kickboxer) brother in the ring at the hands of a psycho. No, really. That's the plot.
Okay, so you can expect a certain amount of training, in-ring fighting and romantic love interest thrown in there for good measure. That's all taken for granted in pretty much any film. However, all these tropes can't hide the fact that Van Damme isn't really that great actor. Okay, so he's hardly improved dramatically over the years, but he's definitely got better to justify his casting as a lead. Here, he can barely look like he understands other characters' lines, let alone form a facial expression that relates to them. I guess what I'm trying to say it that, even if 'Kickboxer' isn't the worst film ever made, it's quite hard to see how this was a springboard for his rise to stardom.
I suppose he was cast simply because of his looks (which my girlfriend tells me are pretty hot back then – not to mention other areas of his anatomy!) and his ability to throw a kick or two. That, he can do for sure. Yes, the film-makers may have felt the need to overlay a sound effect reminiscent of you hitting a sponge sofa really hard over every punch, but you can tell he's really got the moves in the ring.
'Kickboxer' is a classic. Everything about it should make it bad – reading back over this review I can see how scathing I sound. And yet, after watching it, I really don't feel like I've wasted my time and even enjoyed much of it. Yes, it's quite silly in places and the songs played over (alleged dramatic moments) sound like something Trey Parker and Matt Stone would spoof in 'South Park.' Plus the overall story plays out like a slightly more violent 'Karate Kid' movie, but it's still fun. You'll have seen it all before and know exactly where it's going, but if you're a fan of JCVD, or are just happy to sit through martial arts movies or general eighties overblown cheese, you should find some enjoyment here.