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?
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