Kickboxer (1989 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mark DiSalle
|Produced by||Mark DiSalle|
|Screenplay by||Glenn A. Bruce|
|Story by||Mark DiSalle
Jean-Claude Van Damme
|Starring||Jean-Claude Van Damme
|Music by||Paul Hertzog|
|Edited by||Wayne Wahrman|
|Distributed by||The Cannon Group|
Kickboxer is a 1989 American martial arts film produced and directed by Mark DiSalle, and co-directed by David Worth. The film stars Jean-Claude Van Damme and former world kickboxing champion Dennis Alexio. It was released in the United States on September 8, 1989. The film is considered to be a cult classic and one of the definitive works in Van Damme's movie career as a martial artist. It was so successful that it spawned several sequels.
Kurt Sloane (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is the cornerman for his brother Eric (Dennis Alexio), an American kickboxing champion. Kurt and Eric travel to Bangkok to challenge Tong Po (Michel Qissi), Thailand's undefeated champion. After a brutal first round, Kurt realizes that they are outmatched by Tong Po and tries to convince his brother to stop the fight. Unwilling to give up, Eric returns for the second round and continues to take a vicious beating, finally prompting Kurt to throw in the towel. Tong Po ignores him and continues the assault, which ultimately leaves Eric paralyzed from the waist down. However, Eric is carried outside and left on the street without any help, until Winston (Haskell Anderson), a retired American special forces member, intervenes and agrees to take the brothers to the hospital.
Furious, Kurt vows to avenge his brother and defeat Tong Po in the ring. Though reluctant at first, Winston eventually tells him about Xian Chow (Dennis Chan), a locally famous trainer living in a remote area of Thailand. Upon locating Xian, Kurt is able to convince him to train him in the art of Muay Thai ("Thai boxing"). While training, Kurt attempts to foil the operations of a group of Thai mobsters led by Freddy Li, who continuously threaten and steal money from Xian's niece, Mylee (Rochelle Ashana). After Kurt makes short work of the thugs in a bar fight, Xian is able to arrange a match with Tong Po on Kurt's behalf. It is determined that they will fight in the "ancient way", in which both fighters wrap their hands in hemp rope, which is then coated in resin and dipped in broken glass to make them deadly weapons.
In the days leading up to the match, Mylee is beaten and raped by Tong Po while Eric is kidnapped by Freddy Li's henchmen for the purpose of blackmailing Kurt into losing the fight. To save his brother's life, Kurt is instructed to go the distance with Po before losing the match. He endures a torturous beating, but fortunately, Xian and Winston are able to locate and rescue Eric before the fight concludes. With his brother free from danger, Kurt manages to find a second wind and ultimately defeat Tong Po and also kicks Freddy Li.
- Jean-Claude Van Damme as Kurt Sloane
- Dennis Alexio as Eric Sloane
- Dennis Chan as Xian Chow
- Michel Qissi as Tong Po
- Ka Ting Lee as Freddy Li
- Rochelle Ashana as Mylee
- Haskell Anderson as Winston Taylor
- Richard Foo as Tao Lin
- Ricky Liu as Big Thai man
- Africa Chu as Messenger
- Joann Wong as Tao Liu's wife
- Louel Pio Roda as Lexl's husband
- Mathew Cheung as Surgeon
As a backdrop for some of the training scenes, Kurt Sloane (Van Damme) trains near the temples in Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Wat Ratchaburana, part of the ruins of Ayutthaya city in Thailand. Principal photography lasted 56 days on location in Bangkok, Thailand, between June 28 and August 23, 1988.
A soundtrack containing songs from the movie was released featuring songs from soundtrack specialist Stan Bush. The score for the movie was composed by Paul Hertzog. The full score was remastered and released in 2006 by Perseverance Records in limited quantity.
The track listing is as follows on the 2006 full score CD.
- "To the Hospital / We'll See" (01:15)
- "Groceries" (01:47)
- "Very Stupid" (00:45)
- "Tai Chi" (02:55)
- "First Kiss" (00:53)
- "Stone City" (02:34)
- "Second Stone" (00:53)
- "Hospital" (02:21)
- "Palm Tree" (00:30)
- "Advanced Training" (01:49)
- "Ancient Voices" (02:08)
- "Mylee Is the Way" (01:32)
- "Warriors" (00:45)
- "Buddha's Eagle" (01:01)
- "Kidnap" (01:01)
- "You've Done It Before" (01:45)
- "Downstairs" (00:54)
- "Round One" (02:12)
- "Round Two" (01:36)
- "The Hook" (01:32)
- "Round Three" (01:32)
- "The Eagle Lands" (04:02)
The 2006 official score release does not include a previously released version of the score track titled "Buddha's Eagle" which was released on the Best of Van Damme Volume 2 Compilation CD.
On July 2, 2014, an expanded version of the 2006 album was released by Perseverance Records. This album contained the remastered original 22 tracks plus 9 vocal performances that previously had only been available in Germany.
Box office and reception
Kickboxer is considered a box office success, as it grossed $14,697,005 in the domestic box office based on a $1.5 million budget.
Chris Willman of the Los Angeles Times called the film "egregiously dull" and a contender for one of "the dumbest action pictures of the year", citing its "jarring shifts in tone, insurmountable plot implausibilities, rampant racial stereotyping, superfluous nudity and inhuman amounts of comically exaggerated violence". Willman also questioned the manner in which characters seem to recover from serious injuries and major trauma.
Chris Hicks of the Deseret News criticized the film as a ripoff of The Karate Kid, with added elements from other films such as Rocky and Rambo. In addition to stating that the ending was predictable, Hicks also dismissed Van Damme as "little more than a low-budget Arnold Schwarzenegger Wannabee" whose attempts at acting were in vain.
The internationally acclaimed theater work and film Your brother. Remember? by Zachary Oberzan transplants the plot of Kickboxer to examine a true-to-life brother story, using 20 year old film footage of the Oberzan brothers re-enacting Kickboxer, and re-re-enacting these scenes very precisely in the present day. Filmmaker/actor Oberzan also re-enacts the infamous improvised monologue of JCVD (film), suggesting a universality between the sufferings of our heroes and ourselves.
On June 8, 1999, DVD was released by HBO Home Video at the United States in Region 1. On 6 January 2003, DVD was released by Prism Leisure Corporation at the United Kingdom in Region 2.
The film spawned several sequels. Despite Van Damme not returning, the film series between parts two and four continues the ongoing battles between the Sloan family - expanded to include third brother David Sloan, essayed by Sasha Mitchell - and Tong Po. The fifth entry is related in name only.
- Kickboxer 2: The Road Back
- Kickboxer 3: The Art of War
- Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor
- Kickboxer 5: The Redemption
Film is currently in production.
- "KICKBOXER (18)". Entertainment Film Distributors. British Board of Film Classification. August 3, 1989. Retrieved September 24, 2013.
- "Kickboxer (1989) - Box office / business". Internet Movie Database. Amazon.com. Retrieved September 24, 2013.
- "Kickboxer (1989)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 24, 2013.
- Willman, Chris (1989-09-11). "'Kickboxer' Takes a Giant Step Backwards". Los Angeles Times.
- Hicks, Chris (October 5, 1989). "Film review: Kickboxer". Deseret News.
- "Kickboxer". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-01-08.
- "THE KICKBOXER Reunites Pyun And Mitchell, Gets New Format, New Synopsis And Start Date!". Film Combat Syndicate. November 15, 2014. Retrieved November 15, 2014.
- "Jean-Claude Van Damme Returning to 'Kickboxer' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. December 1, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
- Kickboxer at the Internet Movie Database
- Kickboxer at Box Office Mojo
- Kickboxer at Rotten Tomatoes
- Kickboxer on Jeanclaudevandamme.fr (French)