Kickboxer: Vengeance (DVD Review)
15 – 90mins – 2016

GLASS KNUCKLED WHITE WARRIOR

“No rules, no ref, and the chance to be remembered for a lifetime.”

Now 56 years old and permanently kitted out in a fedora and shades, original Kickboxer and action movie icon Jean-Claude Van Damme has graduated from the role of wet behind the ears student to that of no-nonsense master in this flashy modern day remake of the 80s cult classic, which sees stunt performer Alain Moussi inhabit the Kurt Sloane role which brought JCVD to prominence in 1989.

Out to avenge the in-ring death of his world champion brother at the meaty hands of viscous underground cage fighter Tong Po (former WWE wrestler and Guardians of the Galaxy star Dave Bautista), Sloane travels to Thailand to train under the tutelage of his brother’s former mentor, the legendary Durand (JCVD), and win a no-holds-barred grudge match to the death.

“You’re going to help me make this right.”

Rights issues may have stalled a prior attempt to resurrect the Kickboxer franchise, but it is also fair to say that Vengeance had a rather fractious shoot too, with rising Hollywood star Bautista having completed his scenes as the deadly lead antagonist before moving on to film mega-budget James Bond adventure Spectre (itself completed and released over a year ago). Production on this bone-crunching action sequel was then delayed for a number of months until things kick-started again with a new director calling the shots.

But don’t write Vengeance off yet, because some expansive and exotically vibrant locales, intense fight choreography and impressive casting (including Fast & Furious 6’s Gina Carano) do grant this underdog reimagining a gloss which elevates it above the pointless and forgettable action movie bargain bin. Two further sequels have already been put into production, which speaks volumes for the studio’s faith in the product.

We are still firmly in clichéd B-movie territory here, but JCVD’s participation lends a validity to Vengeance, while some dynamic and well-framed directorial decisions coat this brutal blood-soaked fight fest in a stylish sheen. Yes, sometimes it tries to be too clever (colourful subtitling and a jumpy, non-linear structure) and I do have to question the logic of a police officer fighting in-house corruption by releasing from jail a suspect she is sleeping with, but this is an entertaining and often ultra-violent testosterone-pumped, montage-heavy revenge flick.

“Death is imminent…”

Keep the end credits rolling for a humorous decades-spanning dance-off between Sloane ’89 and ’16 which more than makes up for the sparsity of bonus content on this new Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment release. A trailer and a sub-seven minute “Making of” is all you get, but at least the behind the scenes featurette is star-heavy in its inclusion of various talking heads.

CR@B’s Claw Score: ***

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Huge thanks to Fetch Publicity for the check disc.