Kickboxer (1989 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Produced by||Mark DiSalle|
|Screenplay by||Glenn A. Bruce|
|Music by||Paul Hertzog|
|Edited by||Wayne Wahrman|
|Distributed by||The Cannon Group|
$14.7 million (domestic)|
$50 million (worldwide)
Kickboxer is a 1989 American martial arts film and is the first entry into the Kickboxer franchise. It was produced and directed by Mark DiSalle, and also co-directed by David Worth, and starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and former world kickboxing champion Dennis Alexio. The film was released in the United States on September 8, 1989. It spawned several sequels.
Kurt Sloane (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is the cornerman for his brother Eric Sloane (Dennis Alexio), the United States kickboxing world champion. After another successful title defense, Eric is enticed by the media to compete in Thailand, where kickboxing was started, to further establish his legacy. Eric and Kurt travel to Bangkok where they are matched against Tong Po (Michel Qissi), Thailand's undefeated top fighter. Eric is supremely confident but Kurt is apprehensive, particularly after witnessing Tong Po kicking a concrete pillar in preparation for the fight. Kurt begs his brother not to go forward with the fight, but Eric dismisses any concerns.
The first round is a one-sided affair in which Po dominates Eric with his superior strength. In between rounds, Kurt once again begs Eric to forfeit the fight, but Eric refuses to give up and continues to be beaten badly in the second round. Kurt throws in the towel, but Tong Po kicks the towel out of the ring and continues his assault. He viciously strikes Eric in the back with his elbow, immobilizing him, then rips apart Eric's world championship belt. Kurt retrieves the belt and leaves with his brother on a stretcher, but the fight officials simply leave them on the street and lock them out of the arena. Winston Taylor (Haskell V. Anderson III), a retired US Army special forces member agrees to help the pair and drives them to the hospital. As a result of Tong Po's brutal assault, Kurt is told that Eric is paralyzed from the waist down and will never be able to walk, let alone fight, again.
Enraged, Kurt vows to avenge his brother. Taylor tells him about Xian Chow, a famous local trainer living in a remote area of Thailand. Although reluctant at first, Xian agrees to train Kurt in the art of Muay Thai ("Thai boxing"). Xian trains Kurt using many primitive methods, focusing on speed, agility, and the ability to protect himself through balance and timely breathing. While training, Kurt attempts to foil the operations of a group of Thai mobsters led by Freddy Li, who continuously steal money from the store of Xian's niece, Mylee and threaten her. After Kurt makes short work of the thugs in a bar fight with Freddy Li looking on, Xian is able to convince Freddy Li to arrange a match between Kurt and Tong Po. 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.
Freddy Li arranges to have the fight fixed, and borrows $1 million from the crime syndicate's boss to bet on Tong Po. In the days leading up to the match, Mylee is beaten and raped by Tong Po, while Eric is kidnapped so Freddy Li can blackmail Kurt into losing the fight. To save his brother's life, Kurt is instructed by Freddy Li to go the distance with Tong Po before losing the match. He endures a torturous beating, but Xian and Taylor locate and rescue Eric before the fight concludes. Just before the final round, Eric whistles from the crowd & gives Kurt the thumbs-up while leading the crowd to chant “Nuk Soo Kow” (white warrior). With his brother out of danger, Kurt defeats Tong Po in vicious fashion, avenging his brother as Kurt and his friends celebrate his victory.
- 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
An uncredited Jim Cummings voices Tong Po.
A soundtrack containing songs from the film was released featuring songs from soundtrack specialist Stan Bush. The score for the film was composed by Paul Hertzog. The full score was remastered and released in 2006 by Perseverance Records in limited quantity.
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.
The DVD was released by HBO Home Video in the United States on June 8, 1999. The DVD was released by Prism Leisure Corporation in the United Kingdom on January 6, 2003.
The original and full uncut version of Kickboxer has never been available on any format. The most complete version of this film ever released was the R18+ Australian/New Zealand VHS video release by Palace Entertainment and The Movie Group. This version contained all of the original voice dubs and was fully uncut in terms of violence but it had a few scenes trimmed due to print damage and the last fight was incorrectly edited at one point. This was first packaged as a rental in a double pack with another Van Damme film, Wrong Bet (Lionheart). The trimmed print damaged scenes appeared in the UK VHS versions by 4Front/EIV video and the final fight editing mistake had been rectified in this version also making it a better version. The only downfall with the UK versions, were that they were cut by 1 minute 18 seconds by the BBFC for the more violence scenes therefore making this release incomplete also. The UK versions had better picture quality and were brightened in colour compared to the darker Australian/New Zealand Palace R18+/M15+ releases.
Any other versions of the film that came out after the initial VHS releases were a heavily edited and re-dubbed version. Every version of the film released after 1995 on VHS, DVD and Blu Ray contain this edited version. Random important scenes were cut altogether and character lines and voices were changed last minute. Eric's voice was completely re-dubbed, along with certain scenes of Van Damme and Michel Qissi (Tong Po). Therefore the original full uncut version of Kickboxer is an extreme rarity indeed.
Kickboxer grossed $14,697,005 in the United States. Cannon deliberately released it on the traditionally slow weekend after Labor Day when no studio releases, and thus limited competition; it opened on 973 screens and grossed $4.1 million, making it the third most popular film in the country. A few years later its gross was estimated at $50 million.
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 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 (1991)
- Kickboxer 3: The Art of War (1992)
- Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor (1994)
- Kickboxer 5: The Redemption (1995)
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