Kickboxer (1989 film)

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Kickboxer poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced byMark di Salle
Screenplay byGlenn A. Bruce
Story by
Music byPaul Hertzog
CinematographyJon Kranhouse
Edited byWayne Wahrman
Distributed byThe Cannon Group
Release date
  • September 8, 1989 (1989-09-08)
Running time
103 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$2.7 million[2]
Box office$14.7 million (domestic)[3]
$50 million (worldwide)[4]

Kickboxer is a 1989 American martial arts film and is the first entry into the Kickboxer franchise. It was produced and directed by Mark di Salle, 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 is the younger brother of Eric Sloane, 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 to fight Tong Po, Thailand's undefeated top fighter. Eric is supremely confident but Kurt is apprehensive, particularly after witnessing Tong Po kicking a concrete pillar to prepare for the fight. Kurt begs his brother not to 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 stop, but Eric refuses to give up and gets 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 leave them on the street and lock them out of the arena. Winston Taylor, 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, Eric is paralyzed from the waist down and will never be able to walk again.

An enraged Kurt vows to avenge his brother. Taylor tells him about Xian Chow, a famous trainer living in a remote area of Thailand. Although reluctant at first, Xian agrees to train Kurt in the art of Muay Thai. While training, Kurt attempts to foil a criminal organization led by Freddy Li, who continuously harass Mylee - Xian's niece - and steal money from her store. After Kurt beats the thugs in a bar fight under Freddy Li's nose, Xian convinces Freddy Li to arrange a match between Kurt and Tong Po. It is determined that they will fight in the "ancient way": 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. Several days prior to the match, Mylee is beaten and raped by Tong Po, while Eric is kidnapped so that 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 successfully rescue Eric before the fight concludes. Just before the final round, Eric whistles from the crowd and gives Kurt the thumbs-up while leading the crowd to chant “Nuk Soo Kow” (white warrior). With Eric out of danger, Kurt pummels Tong Po viciously and finally defeats him, avenging his brother as Kurt and his friends celebrate his victory.


An uncredited Jim Cummings dubs Qissi's voice.



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.[citation needed]


Box office[edit]

Kickboxer grossed $14,697,005 in the United States.[3] 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.[5] A few years later its gross was estimated at $50 million.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

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.[7]

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.[8]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 40% based on reviews from 10 critics.[9] On Metacritic the film has a score of 33% based on reviews from 4 critics.[10]

Home media[edit]

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.

Alternate versions[edit]

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.


The film spawned several sequels. Despite Van Damme not returning, the film series between parts two and four continues the ongoing battles between the Sloane family - expanded to include third brother David Sloane, essayed by Sasha Mitchell - and Tong Po.


Kickboxer was remade as Kickboxer: Vengeance. Filming began in New Orleans and Thailand on November 24, 2014. The reboot was released on September 2, 2016.[11][12]


  1. ^ "KICKBOXER (18)". Entertainment Film Distributors. British Board of Film Classification. August 3, 1989. Retrieved September 24, 2013.
  2. ^ "August 27, 1989 - Punch lineage | Chicago Tribune Archive". 1989-08-27. Retrieved 2016-07-23.
  3. ^ a b "Kickboxer (1989)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 24, 2013.
  4. ^ Sherrill, Martha (August 11, 1991). "The muscles from brussels". Washington Post.
  5. ^ DANIEL CERONE (1997-01-24). "Independent Film Makers, Marketers Confront Box-Office Crisis - latimes". Retrieved 2016-07-23.
  6. ^ Sherrill, Martha (August 11, 1991). "The muscles from brussels". Washington Post.
  7. ^ Willman, Chris (1989-09-11). "'Kickboxer' Takes a Giant Step Backwards". Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ Hicks, Chris (October 5, 1989). "Film review: Kickboxer". Deseret News.
  9. ^ "Kickboxer". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-01-08.
  10. ^ "Kickboxer". Metacritic.
  11. ^ "Jean-Claude van Damme returning to 'Kickboxer' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. December 1, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
  12. ^ Wood, Matt (2016-07-16). "The Kickboxer: Vengeance trailer is brutal and thrilling, watch it now". Retrieved 2016-07-23.

External links[edit]