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Posts Tagged ‘Jean-Claude Van Damme’

Kickboxer (and the conclusion of The Last Summer of ’80s Action)

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

As with LETHAL WEAPON 2 and ROAD HOUSE, KICKBOXER is a classic that I’ve already reviewed, and I stand by what I wrote about it the first time. But I thought it might be worth revisiting 11 years later, after also writing about its sequels, remake and remake sequel, and in the context of these other ’89 movies. It hit some European countries in April and August of that year, and the U.S. on September 8th, making it a good closer to THE LAST SUMMER OF ’80S ACTION.

Earlier in the series we had fighting circuit movies from an old Disney live action director (FIST FIGHTER), the World Wrestling Federation (NO HOLDS BARRED), and a guy that did Dorf movies (CAGE). Not surprisingly it was Cannon Films that gave us the season’s slickest version of the form, building off the success of BLOODSPORT (1988) for an in my opinion even better vehicle for shiny new splits-doer Jean-Claude Van Damme. I mean that literally, by the way – in the climax the camera really focuses on the reflectiveness of his muscles as an illustration of how ready he is to triumph. (read the rest of this shit…)

We Die Young

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

WE DIE YOUNG is an odd thing: a straight-to-VOD (now on DVD) Jean-Claude Van Damme movie that has some violence and plenty of crime – it opens with a flash-forward to a car chase to assure you of this – but really is kind of an indie drama with Van Damme in supporting character actor mode. The main character is actually Lucas, played by Elijah Rodriguez, who was the kid being pressured into working for the cartel in SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO. Lucas is a similar character, perhaps crossed with Casper from SIN NOMBRE. He’s a teen without parents raising a younger brother and feeling he has no choice but to be a bicycle riding drug runner for MS-13. In this one, though, he lives in the United States, in a DC neighborhood he says is a 20 minute bike ride from the White House.

Lucas narrates at the beginning as he rides around on his bike, dropping off large quantities of drugs like it’s his paper route. He explains that he works for “the most feared badass in DC,” Rincon (David Castaneda, also in DAY OF THE SOLDADO), who’s introduced threatening some dude who his guys dragged to him in his underwear, tied behind a motorcycle. Rincon manages to be kind of handsome and charismatic despite the crap tattooed all over his face. (I guess he’s allowed to have hair and the M and S aren’t gigantic like Li’l Mago’s in SIN NOMBRE.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Timecop

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Recently when I ranked all the ’90s comic book movies for Polygon I rewatched TIMECOP for the first time since that decade. I decided to disqualify it when I read on the production notes extra that it was originally written as a script and then made into a Dark Horse Comics series, but I’m glad I watched it first, because it’s better than I remembered.

Jean-Claude Van Damme (BREAKIN’) plays Max Walker, a regular cop who’s about to be recruited to a new secret government agency that travels back in time to stop other time travelers from changing history. Knowing the future presents ample opportunities for get-rich-quick schemes (for example, in the opening a guy uses a futuristic machine gun to steal gold from the Confederate Army), but the government worries this could butterfly-effect shit up, so they try to control it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Kickboxer: Retaliation

Monday, January 29th, 2018

I don’t know what I was expecting from KICKBOXER: RETALIATION, the new sequel to 2016’s KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE, which was a remake of the 1989 Cannon classic KICKBOXER. I waited for midnight Thursday to watch it on V.O.D. as soon as it became available, so clearly I was excited. But I didn’t think it was gonna be this good.

The original Kurt Sloane, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, only made it to his part 2 in the form of a body double unceremoniously shot to death in an alley, leaving three sequels to a never-mentioned-before Sloane brother played by Sasha Mitchell. The remake Kurt Sloane, played by stuntman Alain Moussi, gets to stick around. A different Van Damme character, Sloane’s mentor Master Durand, does survive for the sequel and continues to be the heart and soul of the series.

I love when sequels open with the character we know suddenly in a whole different place and life situation. My go-to example is RAMBO III, where we find John living in a temple in Thailand, winning underground stick fights for money. But this is more like a TEMPLE OF DOOM opening because we find Kurt in a tux, sexy salsa dancing with his now-wife Liu (Sara Malakul Lane, Seagal’s daughter in BELLY OF THE BEAST) on a train at night. They get attacked and he has to slow-motion fight some people, including on top of the train in pouring rain as it crosses a bridge, until they all fall off. (read the rest of this shit…)

Kickboxer: Vengeance

Monday, September 5th, 2016

tn_kickboxervengeanceIn this age of reboots one thing I didn’t see coming was a respectful attempt to resurrect the magic of KICKBOXER. Produced by Cannon when Jean-Claude Van Damme was still a new star, the original is a seminal film in the foundation of the western-star martial arts movie. Part of the beauty of the era it helped ignite was its disposability; there was such a hunger for this stuff on VHS that they kept churning out KICKBOXERs and BLOODSPORTs and BLOODFISTs with whatever Next Jean-Claude Van Damme they could get. And the combination of these basic story formulas and the appeal of seeing thick-accented martial artists try to act cool between flying kicks made for many enjoyable evenings for people all around the world.

Things have changed. Far fewer straight up action movies are made than in the ’80s and ’90s, and viewing them is not as common of a ritual for young people growing up. The fringe market of DTV has mostly shifted to VOD, a riskier business model since people actually have to watch the movies for them to make money. So, weirdly, this new KICKBOXER (released to VOD on Friday) was made with care, in hopes of people liking it. You can tell they’re genuinely trying to recapture what was fun about those movies, but in a modern context – by which I only mean it has nice digital cinematography of sunny Thailand and many of the opponents are played by famous UFC fighters. (read the rest of this shit…)