Kickboxer is one of the few martial arts movies I can watch over and over again. Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and set in exotic Thailand, it offers excellent fights, great storytelling, and a sense of progression. However, its main quality is its coolness. Kickboxer is just a cool movie full of memorable scenes. I remember watching it for the first time a couple of years after it came out to this fucking day. One of the scenes that I’ll never forget was the one before the fight between mysterious Tong Po and Eric, Van Damme’s brother in the movie.
Van Damme finds himself wandering the dank halls beneath the fighting arena when he hears something. The sound he hears is ominous like someone is trying to break out of his cage. As he’s moving closer and closer, the sound becomes stronger and stronger. He opens the door and sees Tong Po kicking a concrete column with his bare legs. The man is practically demolishing the arena in which the fight is supposed to be held. And then he signals to Van Damme that his brother is going to die. Holy fucking shit, what a scene and what a fucking build-up.
The pacing, the sound, the visuals, and even Van Damme’s acting were on point. And that’s just one scene. I don’t need to tell you that the long-awaited final fight will be totally insane. This brings us to another awesome aspect of the movie Kickboxer and those are the fights themselves. There’s no CGI, no wires, no nothing. You already knew that Van Damme was a world-class kickboxer in real life but did you know that Dennis Alexio, who plays his brother Eric was a World Light Heavyweight and World Cruiserweight kickboxing champion?
All of this brings a sense of authenticity to the silly and predictable plot. On top of that, the opening five minutes are just hilarious and full of overacting. However, all of this just makes Kickboxer that much more entertaining. This is a perfect timewaster you can bother your friends with incessantly. Moreover, I’m pretty sure you’ll be even able to easily convince women into it with the promise of prime Van Damme half-nude all the time. And while some take this movie seriously, that’s something you totally choose not to do. Kickboxer is also a movie so bad that it’s good.
Eric is one hell of a fighter who cannot find a worthy opponent in the States. So, he and his brother travel to the far and mystical country of Thailand to compete there. After all, this is the place where kickboxing was born. Full of himself, Eric can’t wait for the next while his brother Kurt is much more cautious. What follows is a story of tragedy, revenge, love, and perseverance.
While watching Kickboxer you’ll be able to admire the raw beauty of Thailand in the late eighties. Now a very popular tourist destination, back then it was much less famous. The same goes for the martial art of Muay Thai also known as Thai boxing. Again, you can only imagine how it was back in the eighties, without The Internet to look up things. And without movies featuring this specific martial art. Of course, the star of Kickboxer is its lead, Jean-Claude Van Damme.
He not only wrote the script but also choreographed and directed all the fight scenes. Kind of like what Tony Jaa did with Ong Back also taking place in Thailand. Van Damme was also the driving force behind all of those training scenes. They were cool, exciting, and, most importantly original. This helped balance the familiar and quite predictable story. If you ask me, Kickboxer is one of Van Damme’s best movies along with Universal Soldier, Timecop, and Street Fighter.
Finally, you should know that Kickboxer also spawned no less than seven sequels with the eighth one currently in development. Each of them has something to offer but none of them reach the standards of the original. Kickboxer: Vengeance  and Kickboxer: Retaliation  both feature Van Damme for example while the direct sequel features Tong Po played by Michel Qissi. The eighth sequel, Kickboxer: Armageddon promises to be a wild one. Mostly because of its crazy cast: Christopher Lambert, Snoop Dogg, Mike Tyson, Neymar and fucking Ronaldinho!
Directors: Mark DiSalle, David Worth
Writers: Mark DiSalle, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Glenn A. Bruce
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Alexio, Michel Qissi, Haskell V. Anderson III, Dennis Chan
Fun Facts: Michel Qissi, the guy who plays Tong Po is not from Thailand but from Morocco.
IMDb Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097659/