Friday, 9 September 2016

Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016)

JCVD was but the learner, now he is the master...and so forth. Here we go again with yet another reboot of a classic movie. Well not so much a classic movie per say, a classic in the JCVD filmography at least and for people of a certain age that grew up with 18/R rated martial arts flicks that were considered almost taboo or video nasties in their time. So this is indeed a complete reboot in the sense that its almost identical to the original movie accept for the odd twist plot wise. Of course any new twists aren't really anything to write home about so...errr, don't write home about them? right.

The movie kicks off with the all new Kurt Sloane (Alain Moussi, yes I've never heard of him either) turning up at Tong Po's (Dave Batista) home/temple/fighting camp, whatever the hell it is, to be trained by the master. Literally within 5 minutes of him knocking on the door we are thrust into kickboxing (Mortal Kombat looking) mayhem as he must take on a string of other trainees to prove himself. This doesn't take too long before he's beaten...but he can stay anyway because plot reasons. Later that night he tries to murder Tong Po in his sleep with a gun, but he fails and gets arrested (but not beaten to death??). But wait a minute, wait just a cotton picking minute. In the original franchise, Tong Po kills the Sloane brothers in 'kickboxer 2' in revenge for beating him in the ring in 'Kickboxer'. Now you expect this kind of act from the villain in a movie, but here we are seeing the hero attempting to do the same thing. Sure Tong Po killed Kurt's brother in the ring, but in this new movie it doesn't happen in a nasty way, its seen as the risk of illegal fighting, you know the risks. So essentially Tong Po could be seen as not doing anything wrong because its dog eat dog in the illegal fighting, world so to speak. Yet here we are seeing the hero trying to kill the victor in a cowardly act, so how are we supposed to root for this guy?

In case you're wondering if this movie dispenses with the plot set up surrounding the death of Kurt's brother and how he got to Thailand because it starts off differently, well fear not because we get a lengthy flashback to cover all that (ugh!). I actually thought the movie was gonna try and be a little bit original at first but no, its all redone but in flashback. Of course as I mentioned before the plot does differ slightly, when Kurt gets arrested for trying to kill Tong Po he meets up with an attractive police woman whom he starts a relationship with. Initially this goes nowhere really but she does help Kurt avoid being deported and covers for him on occasion. Essentially she's only there for a bit of an emotional pull and sex for one scene. 

Any way we're only here for fights, we know the basic plot outline, so what's the deal? Well there's an initial fight amongst some elephants, actually using the elephants as platforms to fight off...and it looks shit. This is because they clearly use fake elephants, greenscreen and CGI...oh sweet Jesus! Then Kurt meets up with the trainer who trained his now dead brother, master Durand (JCVD). Naturally this being a quirky reboot and JCVD wanting to be hip and cool, the character wears shades all the time and a little stupid porkpie-esque hat. Initially Durand refuses to train Kurt, but then they fight each other, Durand whips his ass, and for some reason decides to train him after all, because plot reasons.

What follows is virtually all the same shit we saw in the original movie. All the same training methods but slightly different, all the same types of spiritual images and shots set against traditional Thai backdrops, and even another bar fight set up by Durand when he thinks Kurt is ready. Difference here is he loses, so its back to yet more training montages using some of the same footage (ugh!). At the same time as all this, we do get some scenes with the police who are up to something, not too sure what because they speak in Thai with no subs sooo. None of it is hardly important anyway because we all know the outcome of this story. Again another slight change in plan is a bit more focus on Tong Po as he worships in his temple. Strangely he doesn't really come off as a bad guy in this, he's just a bloody good fighter that is too aggressive or too strong even. End of the day all he's doing is just fighting to win and he didn't appear to do anything illegal in the fight against Kurt's brother, accept kill him, but did he even intend to do that? In no way is he an all out villain like in the original movie.

Oh and the film also has Gina Carano as a crooked fight organiser that assists Tong Po. If you're wondering why I haven't mentioned her much its because she does literally nothing and is of no use in this movie. She offers Kurt the match against Po originally...aaand disappears for virtually the rest of the flick. She's basically been cast just to add another big name to the movies poster and advertising. 

But yeah, pushing all this meaningless crap aside, we all know what's coming, the big kickass fight finale between Po and Kurt. Does this fight match up to the original? can it save this film? Nope! no it can't. Why you ask? well because its the exact same spiel we've all seen before and done much better in the original movie. Yeah Batista looks huge and has lots of tattoos, there's way more blood, more gut wrenching sound effects and the fight goes on for way way longer, but its old hat. Once again it all feels like something outta Mortal Kombat as after each stage of fighting they are given deadly assistance. First it broken glass stuck to their knuckles ala the original movie once again, and then its swords because that's a fair fight isn't it. Kurt is trained in kickboxing, since when is he trained in sword fighting? Ditto for Po. Kurt basically gets his ass handed to him for the entire fight, right up until the last bout where he suddenly feels the eye of the tiger or whatever, whilst the crowd starts to chant 'Nuk su kow!'. He then proceeds to kick Po's ass so much he dies from it...hurrah!

I don't get it, I just don't get it at all, what is the point of this movie? Why does this movie even exist? The original is a decent adult brawler with a South East Asian backdrop and plenty of spiritual mysticism and spice, much like JCVD's other top early flick 'Bloodsport'. There was absolutely no reason to remake this movie because it was always gonna be trash. Yeah they can add big names, have even flashier martial arts and glossy set pieces (well you'd think), but at the end of the day all that shit just doesn't work anymore because this genre has past. Movies like this were shit hot back in the day when I was a kid, I saw the original flick at a young age because they were seen as action epics of the time (as was JCVD), but those days are long gone. Jesus they even tried to remake 'Bloodsport' back in 1996 with JCVD ('The Quest') and that failed miserably even then! Bottom line, there is absolutely no reason to watch this at all when you can watch the far superior original.