" I want Tong Po! Give me Tong Po! "
Oh, Van Damme, how you filled my youth with your martial arts movies. Because of you I took Karate lessons for a year or so when I was in Elementary school. I wonder how many times has your thick-as-mud French accent been passed off as American? Ah, The memories. "Kickboxer" came out in 1989 but it looks like it came out in 1979. It doesn't hold up well visually and Van Damme's acting is as stiff and hard as his ridiculously chiseled physique. The Martial Arts film has its own little niche in 80s Action films and this is where Jean Claude Van Damme made himself a star. There is little difference between this or many more of his own films and others. The story follows Kurt (Van Damme) and his Kickboxing champion older brother Eric as they travel to Thailand to compete against Thailand's greatest, Tong Po. Eric is cocky and convinced he will win. Kurt tries to change his mind to no avail. Eric is promptly defeated and paralyzed from the waist down due to a final elbow to the back by Tong Po. Kurt vows revenge (who didn't see that coming?) and is introduced to Xian Chow by Winston (the former military man who drove Kurt and Eric to the hospital after the fight). Xian Chow trains Kurt in Muay Thai Kickboxing in a fashion not unlike Mr. Miyagi trains Daniel-san in "Karate Kid". That's pretty much the extent of the plot.
I didn't hate "Kickboxer" but I didn't really like it much either. I loved Van Damme movies when I was young but I hadn't seen one in nearly 20 years. The martial arts are good and Van Damme, as with other 80s Action stars during the decade, is in his prime but the dialog is terrible, the characters are goofy, underdeveloped and not very believable. For hardcore Van Damme fans only. Skip on this and instead see "Best of the Best." 1/5 -andy