“Kickboxer: Retaliation” Finds Jean-Claude Van Damme Making More Sequel-Minded Madness

The action star’s wise-mentor character is now blind; also, Mike Tyson shows up


At some point, Jean-Claude Van Damme must’ve thought that if Sylvester Stallone can revive Rocky Balboa and introduce him to a new generation with Creed, certainly he could do that with one of his characters. That could explain why he produced and co-starred in Kickboxer: Vengeance, a straight-up remake of 1989’s Kickboxer. In Vengeance, he assumed the Stallone role as the wise trainer-mentor, while stuntman Alain Moussi stepped in his role as avenging fighter Kurt Sloane.

Now, just as the original begat a bunch of ridiculous sequels, Vengeance has now given us Kickboxer: Retaliation, which is all kinds of what-the-fuck. For Chrissakes, the movie begins with an elaborate, dream/fight sequence on a train that Moussi’s Sloane is having in the middle of an MMA fight. Things get more batshit from there when Sloane gets kidnapped and thrown in a Bangkok jail by a fight promoter (Christopher Lambert, both oily and greasy) who agrees to get him out only if Sloane fights to the death a behemoth, roided-up man-beast (Game of Thrones strongman Hafpór Júlíus Björnsson). Thankfully, Van Damme’s (now-blind) mentor is there to train him, along with Mike Tyson, who shows up out of nowhere as an incarcerated, Zen-like bruiser.

Journeyman writer-director Dimitri Logothetis literally throws all semblance of logic out the window (it’s set in a prison, but most of the characters come and go anytime they please), just so he can make a movie with a bunch of cool-looking fight scenes. That shameless ludicrousness makes Retaliation a hysterically entertaining train wreck. But, then again, it’s still a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. When was the last time you saw one of his that made any damn sense?

Kickboxer: Retaliation
Directed by Dimitri Logothetis
Well Go USA
Opens January 26, AMC Empire 25
Available on demand

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 24, 2018

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