Review: With Van Damme reduced to supporting role, ‘Kickboxer: Vengeance’ lacks star power
The 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle “Kickboxer” is a classic of its kind: a dopey underdog sports melodrama that takes advantage of its stripped-down plot to load up on scenes of people beating the tar out of each other. The quasi-remake “Kickboxer: Vengeance” tries its best to do the same, but without a Van Damme-level star at the center, the results are pretty bloodless.
The big man actually does appear in “Kickboxer: Vengeance” — something he didn’t do in any of the original’s four sequels. Van Damme plays an aged Muay Thai master named Durand, who trains the hero to fight over the course of a few old-school standoffs and montages.
Alain Moussi takes over Van Damme’s old role of Kurt Sloane, an assistant to his mixed martial arts champion brother Eric (Darren Shahlavi). Kurt’s forced into the ring when Eric dies at the hands of Tong Po, played by pro fighter and “Guardians of the Galaxy” tough guy Dave Bautista.
As with the first film, “Kickboxer: Vengeance” keeps its story pared down. As he prepares to avenge his brother, Kurt gets his hindquarters handed to him repeatedly by Durand and a series of random fighters, until he’s finally strong enough to face off against his sport’s most dangerous foe.
But while Moussi has ample skills as a fighter — and is plenty handsome to boot — he lacks Van Damme’s charisma. It turns out that just slapping the title “Kickboxer” onto a movie isn’t enough to revive a B-movie favorite. The actual kickboxer matters.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills
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