"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Kickboxer 5: The Redemption

“He’s a butcher. A madman. His charm and intelligence make him more dangerous than a cobra.”

Life is cheap in the world of KICKBOXER. Every time the hero doesn’t do a sequel, he gets unceremoniously murdered. It happened to Kurt Sloane (by way of a lookalike) in KICKBOXER 2, and now it happens to David Sloane (through the medium of silhouetted double) in KICKBOXER 5. David (offscreen) refuses to join a new South African kickboxing league, and they have him beaten to death. At least he manages to break the leg of one of his attackers (Tony Caprari, TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY), who will be on crutches for the rest of the movie.

Also worth very little in this series: subtitles. Maybe THE ROAD HOME has legitimate interpretations, and THE ART OF WAR could apply to pretty much anything, but THE AGGRESSOR was a headscratcher and THE REDEMPTION has no practical plot application. Maybe that’s where the American distributors got the idea to rename THE RAID.

But if we follow my usual rule of going by what it says on the opening titles, it’s just THE REDEMPTION, no KICKBOXER in the title at all. And for what it’s worth, the fake David Sloane smashes that title with a flying kick.


The only KICKBOXER to center on a non-Sloane, THE REDEMPTION tells the story of Matt Reeves, played by Mark Dacascos right before CRYING FREEMAN. If this is supposed to be the same Matt Reeves who would go on to direct CLOVERFIELD, LET ME IN, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES then this would’ve been around the time of his career high of co-writing UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY. But as far as we see in the movie his day job is teaching kung fu to kids, and in his spare time he likes to cook. He was some sort of friend and colleague of David Sloane, and finds out about his death from his loyal old man employee Chalky (John Hussey, GET CARTER) showing him a newspaper article. He’s close enough to send flowers, but not attend the funeral.

The villain in this one is Mr. Negaal (James Ryan, KARATE KILLER, KILL AND KILL AGAIN), who has been banned from professional kickboxing and is such a stubborn egomaniac that he thinks he has to rebuild the entire sport around himself. He plans “to bring order out of chaos. One organization. One set of rules. One leader.”

I always enjoy when somebody who runs an international crime syndicate cares mostly about martial arts, but it’s kinda cool that this one points out the absurdity of it. A Patrick-Bateman-looking money man (fight choreographer Burton Richardson) tells Negaal he could make more money laundering through parking lots, and therefore “kickboxing just doesn’t make sense.”

Doesn’t make sense!?,” Negaal asks bitterly. “The World Kickboxing Council accused me of unsportsmanlike conduct when I killed the Dutch champion in the ring. And just so as you know it, Jack, it was a legitimate strike. I formed the Negaal Kickboxing Federation to protect the art and the sport against small minds. And now you have a problem with this? What doesn’t make sense?”


Having Negaal as a boss is kind of like having Darth Vader as a boss, except he doesn’t know how to Force strangle. Just look out for his double neck chop thing.

But you know what, he’s also nitpicky about the drinks his butler makes him, which makes him a worse boss than Darth Vader. I don’t think the Dark Lord of the Sith would be petty enough to send a drink back.

He does most of his scheming from a long table of business men and lackeys at his estate in Johannesburg. The walls are decorated with animal skins and other hunting trophies, so I didn’t realize at first that the cheetah on the table was alive! In one scene he shoots a giraffe from his wooden deck overseeing the plains and then says “Beautiful animal.” So yeah, he’s an asshole. The other type of trophy he collects is the championship belts of the fighters he kills and/or compromises.

With no more Sloanes he wants his stooges to find another American champion, and they choose Johnny Styles (Denney Pierce, stuntman from part 4, and additional second unit director for FURIOUS 6), who Matt is close enough with to visit backstage before his championship match (Johnny later calls him his trainer). When the negotiations break down they beat Johnny to death, but at least Matt kicks a guy (George Moolman, STANDER) off the roof of the hotel onto their limo and they have to drive off with his body on top.

I love the way it’s staged so that we don’t see him hit, we just see the damage he causes from inside the vehicle.

In a twist on the plot of part 4, in which the D.E.A. gets David released from prison to “eliminate” Tong Po, Negaal is able to release South African tough guy Croft (Geoff Meed, LEPRECHAUN 4: IN SPACE, BROTHER, RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION, FAST FIVE) from a prison in L.A. to kill Matt. Instead, Croft ambushes and insults Matt, warns him they’re trying to kill him, and heads home. But coincidentally he’s on the plane next to Matt, who’s headed to track down Negaal. They hate each other at first, but when Matt decides to help Croft escape from Negaal’s thugs after a DIE HARD 2 style chase through the airport luggage system it begins a reluctant alliance.

Negaal’s main henchmen are not very intimidating, but they do a good job of making us hate them. The character Bollen (Greg Latter, HOWLING IV, CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY, also writer of DELTA FORCE 3, AMERICAN NINJA 5 and many other films) is really funny in how much he smiles about things, usually with perverse excitement about somebody being humiliated.

The final showdown starts at a black tie gambling party on Negaal’s property. For some reason they use that movie rule that heroes always have incredible luck at gambling, even though the plot’s not about needing money for anything. My favorite bit here is when various partygoers are taking turns trying to fight Matt, and a woman who I think is on the catering staff stops one of them with a series of punches and kicks. I can’t tell from the credits who she is, but here’s the brief glimpse we get of her face, in case anybody recognizes her:

This random worker siding with them is never explained or commented on, but I’ll take it as a bit of stick-it-to-The-Man class uprising, along with the moment where one of the performing stick fighters (Sammy Thekiso and George Sibersang) provide a weapon as a result of having previously met and been impressed by Matt. (Too bad they don’t get in on the fight, though.)

I like the movie’s justification for moving the climactic duel away from all these extras: Negaal heads back to the house to test if Matt will follow. “If he’s worthy of me, he’ll come.” When Matt does suddenly appear inside the house it’s like that moment in a romantic comedy when the person who supposedly left town actually couldn’t bring themselves to do it and had to come back and confess their true feelings.


Also the staging kinda reminded me of Beatrix and Bill finally meeting up in KILL BILL VOLUME 2 and making small-talk before they get to it.

The bad news is that they fight around the house without ever smashing anything. This is definitely the type of house full of shitty status symbols that you want to see get fucked up along with the asshole that it belongs to and represents. The good news is that when Negaal takes it outside he runs and does a series of competitive-gymnastics-worthy handsprings for no reason, and then Mark gives in to peer pressure and does the same thing.

What happens at the end is a little unclear to me. (WHAT HAPPENS AT THE END SPOILERS.) Negaal has a spear at Matt’s throat then suddenly spits up blood and dies. My best guess is that it’s a delayed reaction to Matt’s previous palm strike, which would be another KILL BILL VOLUME 2 similarity.

The South African setting is interesting. Unlike the AMERICAN NINJA sequels that were filmed there, this was after the official end of apartheid. We see very little integration – I think Negaal has one black businessman working for him, plus the entertainers at his party. But when Matt goes into the city it’s an entirely black population, and not at all the slums we usually see in films about South Africa.

Writer Rick Filon had previously done TO DIE, TO SLEEP (1994) and STRANGER BY NIGHT (1994), and later did another Dacascos movie, SABOTAGE (1996). Geoff Meed (the guy who plays Croft) is still acting, but interestingly since 2007 he’s also been a screenwriter of Asylum mockbusters including UNIVERSAL SOLDIERS, THE AMITYVILLE HAUNTING (also director), INDEPENDENTS’ DAY, OPERATION DUNKIRK, ATLANTIC RIM: RESURRECTION and SAN ANDREAS MEGA QUAKE. Best of all, he wrote and co-stars in I AM OMEGA with Dacascos. He even did some fight choreography there.

THE REDEMPTION is the only KICKBOXER directed by a woman. Kristine Peterson started at Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios, but made her bones as an assistant director on movies including EXTERMINATOR 2, CHOPPING MALL, BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD and TREMORS. Her first film as a director was the horror movie DEADLY DREAMS, followed by BODY CHEMISTRY. Since she directed CRITTERS 3 it is definitely absolutely true that she is 100% responsible for Leonardo Dicaprio’s success, talent and contributions to philanthropy. Or at least that she’s the first person to direct him in a movie. After THE REDEMPTION she only directed one other film, SLAVES TO THE UNDERGROUND (1997), a lesbian/rock ‘n roll dramedy that I should probly see because it takes place in Seattle.

Though I’m not sure Peterson directed this much different than a man would, it does lack the sex scenes and topless women of the last installment, and never subjects its major female character (Croft’s sister Angie, played by one-timer Rulan Booth) to objectification or threats of sexual assault. It definitely gets Dacasco shirtless and flexing his muscles as much as possible, but that’s standard for the series. And it’s probly more due to the casting than the direction that he comes off less macho and more dreamy than the Sloanes, what with his droopy bangs and everything.

THE REDEMPTION proves that Dacascos is much more than just the guy who replaced the guy who replaced Van Damme. He gives a solid, non-dorky performance as a regular-ish guy pushed too far. More importantly it’s a good showcase for his skills, not just in the fights but in the scenes where he’s practicing acrobatics and distinct fighting styles that seem to be inspired by ballet and other forms of dance. He also gets a co-choreography credit for his fights.

Though I’d say the middle drags a little more than part 4, it is superior in the crucial area of training montages. It takes advantage of the unusual location by having him practice in front of a herd of sheep.


(I only noticed from these screengrabs how weird the compositions are, often cutting him off. Didn’t distract me during the movie.)

One sign of a good training montage is when there’s a weird-ass technique you’ve never seen before. In this one it’s pushing his throat against the tip of an arrow until the arrow snaps.

I don’t know how he knew, but that ends up being crucial when he defeats Negaal in a choking battle.

Having finally seen all the KICKBOXER movies has really cemented for me that being a completist about action franchises is just as fun for me as it is for horror ones. That could apply to the A-list ones like LETHAL WEAPON and RAMBO, but I’m really thinking of these b-movie series like this one, AMERICAN NINJA and BEST OF THE BEST. Similar to FRIDAY THE 13TH, HALLOWEEN, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and CHILD’S PLAY, the lack of planning and realities of low budget production lead to twisting, convoluted continuity, and just as I enjoy watching the next variation of a particular slasher formula I like seeing what new spin they can put on a fighting tournament or a ninja mission, or what new subgenre they can throw an existing character into. I think these are worthy of the same box set and viewing marathon treatment we give to horror.

(This week will be Mark Dacascos Week, preparing for JOHN WICK 3 by checking out a few of the Dacascos movies I haven’t seen. And I’ve been preparing some heavy duty themed programming for after that. But yes, this reminds me that soon I need to finish off the BLOODSPORT and NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER sagas, and I welcome other franchise suggestions in the comments.)

I enjoyed all of the KICKBOXER installments, including the remake series, something I can’t say about most horror franchises. So thank you to King’s Road Entertainment, the Sloane family and Matt Reeves for all your kicking gourds and doing flips and stuff.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 13th, 2019 at 8:49 am and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

38 Responses to “Kickboxer 5: The Redemption”

  1. Crushinator Jones

    May 13th, 2019 at 8:59 am

    Great review, Vern. Some very interesting observations of a movie that I’ve 98% forgotten about. Really excited for the rest of Mark Dacascos week, he’s one of those guys who should be bigger than he is.

  2. david j. moore

    May 13th, 2019 at 9:29 am

    James Ryan was a fun action star to study. You may wanna check his filmography out sometime. He was an excellent villain here. He made some fun ones.

  3. I’m looking forward to the rest of Mark Dacascos week. The trailer looks like it has better quality than you can find the film, as it was both in HD and widescreen. I assumed that weird composition is because of the pan and scan. I found the film on itunes, but only in SD, and probably not in wide-screen. Which is too bad.

  4. I think the reason action franchises are harder to maintain fan enthusiasm for than horror franchises is the problem of star power. Historically speaking, action movies run on star power in a way that horror movies do not. KICKBOXER is a Van Damme movie in a way that HALLOWEEN is NOT a Jamie Lee Curtis movie. Horror franchises can exploit other elements of their continuity (the villain, the situation, even just the general vibe) besides the main star, but action franchises, which are generally built around the personae of their lead actors, often don’t have anything else to offer. So when an action franchise loses its marquee name, that’s usually game over as far as anybody wanting to take it seriously. Not only does it feels like even more of a seamless cash grab than usual, but you’re missing the thing that got audiences to see the original in the first place.There are dozens of kickboxing movies but only one KICKBOXER, and the difference is KICKBOXER stars Van Damme and the others star some chump. Now, sometimes that chump can do a good job, as is apparently the case here. But it’s hardly surprising that most viewers do not want to give these off brand sequels a chance. To the untrained eye, they look like Godzilla movies with no Godzilla in them.

  5. Note: I am not calling Mark Dacascos a chump.

  6. david j. moore

    May 13th, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Majestyk: Interesting observation. Action sequels without the original star can be better than the originals, though. Was never the biggest fan of Kickboxer OR Bloodsport, and would watch the sequels to them faster than watching the originals. They certainly tried to spin off plenty of action franchises like Delta Force, Excessive Force, Live Wire, Half Past Dead, and almost all of the WWE titles. Even Kevin Sorbo did sequels to The Rock’s Walking Tall. Not saying any of these are better than the originals, but I’ll take The Marine 2 and 5 over The Marine 1 any day.

  7. Are there really FIVE Marine films? I only saw part one, but I remember loving it’s goofy charms.

  8. CrustaceanLove

    May 13th, 2019 at 8:34 pm

    The BLOODFIST series is kind of the opposite, in that for each sequel they turf everything except the original star. I think BLOODFIST II is the only direct sequel, the rest are completely unrelated save for the presence of Don “The Dragon” Wilson. One of the few continuing traits between films is listing the stars’ martial arts credentials along with their acting credits, which I really like. Lets you know where their priorities are.

    At a total of two films it’s technically a series, so I will have to nominate DAY OF THE PANTHER and STRIKE OF THE PANTHER by MAN FROM HONG KONG and DEAD-END DRIVE IN director Brian Trenchard-Smith. The name of the hero is Jason Blade, if that gives you any idea of the kind of films they are.

  9. There are 6 MARINE films and 3 JARHEAD films, that looks like something worth exploring.

  10. Highlander is sort of the best of both worlds. It starts as an A list property and gets lower and lower rent.

    Nu Image did at least five Operation Delta Forces.

  11. I was kind of a bitter asshole when I Am Omega was announced and would spend way too much time on the now-thankfully-gone IMDB message boards being a snarky shithead as a substitute for having anything original to say.

    So when I made my shitty comments on the I Am Omega board I was very taken aback to get a thoughtful, measured response from the writer Geoff Meed. He went into how these movies are made by artists and craftspeople just like any other movie. It actually turned me around so much I bought the I Am Omega DVD when it came out and I enjoyed it a lot!

    Anyway my point is Geoff Meed is a good dude and I’m glad he’s still out there doing it.

  12. I’ve met Geoff Meed and he is indeed a very good and nice dude. Cool resume too!!

    Someone bumped up the MARINE and I chimed in saying they are now up to 6. Didn’t realize the conversation started here! They were up to 4 last I knew…and then I noticed 6 at WalMart a few months back. Somehow the middle ones missed me.

    On a related note, there is now a 5th SCORPION KING (called BOOK OF SOULS). Someday I will get around to all of those (I’ve only seen the first) but as of now I have too much shit to watch first.

  13. I’m surprised that now, in a time when we get popculture documentaries about EVERYTHING, nobody made one about DTV sequels and the people who made and make them.

  14. I have a soft spot for Highlander III. Some gorgeous locales there. THE SOURCE is crap though.

  15. CJ Holden… that’s a really good idea. The problem is, it’s inherently an incredibly niche concept.

  16. CJ: My guess is that there’s no documentary about making DTV sequels, because there’s nothing really interesting about the making of DTV sequels. I remember reading somewhere that a lot of DTV sequels start out as generic copycat genre movies shot by indie outfits, then the major studios pick them up late in preproduction or mid-production for rebranding. The crews reshoot a couple of scenes, change a few lines to loosely tie their movie to the central property, maybe rename a character, and voilà: JARHEAD MEETS SNIPER MEETS THE MARINE, PART 3: LEGACY.

  17. Some suggestions for DTV action-movie franchise reviews: Cyborg, Cyborg Cop, Operation Delta Force, U.S. Seals, Bloodfist, Ring of Fire, Black Cobra, Once Upon a Time in China, Project Shadowchaser, Nemesis, Crackerjack, The Circuit, Tiger Claws, Thunder… Comparing the different Bloodfist remakes (Full Contact, Dragon Fire, Angelfist, Bloodfist 2050) with the original might be an interesting task.

  18. Action International Pictures co-founder David Winters recently died, so will the AIP film library be available soon? If Echo Bridge could get it then they would own the AIP and PM Entertainment libraries. Vern and David J. Moore could be consultants for PM/AIP. Maybe some other action film libraries I can remember could be acquired eventually as well like A-Pix Entertainment, American World Pictures (Mark L. Lester), Cine Excel Entertainment, Cinetel, City Lights (Pre-PM Entertainment), D & B Films (Sammo Hung), Patrick G. Donahue, John Eyres, Filmwerks (Albert Pyun), Golden Media Group, Malibu Bay Films (Andy Sidaris), Earl Owensby, Po’ Boy Productions (Fred Williamson), Retromedia (Fred Olen Ray), Seasonal Film Corporation (Ng See-yuen), Sebastian International Pictures (Beverly & Ferd Sebastian), Shapiro-Glickenhaus (James Glickenhaus), Silver Star Film Company (K.Y. Lim), Unified Film Organization (Philip J. Roth), Weintraub/Kuhn Productions (Fred Weintraub), etc.

  19. David, as somebody who has recently seen the Bloodsport sequels, and have begged people here to watch part 4. (Seriously, people, why the fuck are you not listening to me or even Mr. M and not fucking seeing Part 4 ugh lol), I find it impossible to believe that you would prefer to watch any of them over Bloodsport. None of them are even in the same league.

    Also, I mentioned it in the Marine thread, but part 6 is legitimately entertaining and worth your time. Even offers some surprises as well.

    You know what, geoffreyjar can probably attest to this, but I have a good eye for DTV action films and maybe you should all listen to me lol I should be a consultant on PM Entertainment releases.

  20. I recently met a friend of a friend who, it turned out, had once worked in the financial department of I-forget-which studio, and one of her jobs was analyzing numbers to decide which movies to make DTV sequels to. She hadn’t heard of Ain’t It Cool News but it turned out many of the ones I reviewed on there were made during her tenor, including ROAD HOUSE 2: LAST CALL. She also told a really funny story about the studio wanting an “uncut” version of a movie that had no scenes to put back in, and brainstorming what they could shoot separately and add into it (she thought they ended on women jumping on trampolines).

    So I think there could be some good stories even interviewing studio people.

  21. Low T – I’ve said it before, but David and I should be curators for a Shudder for action. Or Scream Factory for action. Or both. That would be amazing if someone had those libraries and really wanted to do something great with them.

  22. Quite frankly, the outlawvern community would probably make great curator’s of action. Don’t gotta do this alone fellas. lol

  23. The last MARINE I watch was number 4, MOVING TARGET, and that was fun enough. Mike Mizanin has been starring in the last 4, so at least there is some consistency there. I did watch the third one and that was kinda boring, and I think I have watched the second one too. That’s the Die Hard-line one that takes place in a resort. It had Michael Rooker and Temura Morrison in the cast, but I don’t remember anything about it.

    So far the UNDISPUTED series is the best DTV sequels of a theatrical film. This reminded me that there is a third ESCAPE PLAN film soon to be released. The trailer looks okay, but knowing it was shot back to back with the second one, makes me believe this is another paycheck for Stallone with just a few days work.

  24. Escape Plan 3 – a hot topic around here this week – has a different director than part 2. A more old school guy than Steven C Miller, so it might have something more than the previous entry had to offer.

  25. I gotta catch up with THE MARINEs. Michael Rooker and Temura Morrison are among my favorites!

    While a documentary about direct to video sequels is a niche concept…I would venture to say all of those kind of documentaries are niche concepts. Regular folks who are curious watch the documentary…the guys who actually watch all the films within are the hard core.

    I would say Alejandro Jodoworski’s never filmed version of DUNE, the career of the Kuchar Brothers, Canon Films, VHS collecting, the fandom around TROLL 2 and Australian Exploitation movies are all pretty niche concepts, and all have made for pretty darn successful documentaries. I would say as far as those docs go…the more specific and lesser known the subject, the better it’ll be.

    That said, DTV action sequels seems a bit too wide a concept for one of these…as well as a bit too corporate. A lot of “What do we have the rights to? How can we sell it?” Maybe focusing on one director or franchise is the ticket…maybe one with an unexpected cult following and/or the sequels are surprisingly good might be a starting point. Interviews with guys who can’t wait for the street date of the next UNDISPUTED or NINJA…could be interesting…could be us actually!

  26. Issac Florentine is the father of one of my middle school chums. Didn’t know he was *that* Mr. Florentine until years later. But he would be a good subject.

  27. Always wanted to make a documentary about the voice over people for the 70s Kung Fu craze.

  28. There is also a great Canon films like doc on the 90s DTV action studios to be honest. Especially those stunt guys get no love for being the last truly great North American stunt crew.

  29. Better than Universal Soldier, Ghost? I guess Undisupted has three quality entries to Unisol’s two.

  30. Fred —

    Which 2 UniSol’s are good? Because, from where I’m standing, there are definitely at least 3 good/great entries. Unless, are you not counting the original? I refuse to believe you discount Day of Reckoning. That movie is awesome. In fact, it’s even better if you haven’t seen any of the previous films, because then it plays like a crazy, ultraviolent Lynchian nightmare.

  31. I was thinking Regeneration and Day of Reckoning which went DTV. I like the first one and don’t hate The Return too.

    Undisputed 2, 3 and 4 all went dtv. However as good as they are i’d Put the two dtv Unisols even higher.

  32. Tawdry, are you sure it wasn’t the Florentine biscuits man?

  33. Regeneration and Day of Reckoning actually got a theatrical release here in Singapoore.

  34. Pegsman,

    I’m sure. But he might be the Florentine Egg man, actually, now that I think about it.

  35. I got to see DAY OF RECKONING in (U.S.) theaters before it came out on video! No 3D though

  36. I also saw DAY OF RECKONING in the theater in regular old 2D. Did anybody actually get to see it in 3D? I can’t imagine it brought that much to it. I’d imagine some of the flashing lights would be pretty punishing and then a good chunk of the movie would be too dark. I wonder if anybody regrets all the time, money, and effort that went into the 3D that hardly anybody got to see.

  37. To my knowledge, the ONLY place it actually played in 3D was Fantastic Fest and maybe one or two other festivals.

  38. Negaal totally makes up for Not-Tong Po from KICKBOXER THE 4TH. This was more like an unofficial sequel to ONLY THE STRONG thematically than it is something that fits the KICKBOXER series but I’ll still take Dacascos over STEP BY STEP guy. Though I will always maintain that KICKBOXER 3: THE ART OF WAR is still the best of the sequels. This review did remind me though that I still need to see KICKBOXER: (NOT G.I. JOE) RETALIATION. Thank You Mark Dacascos Week. I’ll finally check that out this weekend.

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>