The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Kickboxer 3: The Art of War (1992)

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I first saw this film on TV who knows how long ago. I didn't remember liking it, but I wasn't sure if it was this one or 2. I decided to put it on my Netflix queue along with 4: The Aggressor, which came packaged together, just to see if it was the one I didn't like. I could've been wrong, you know?

Kickboxer 3: The Art of War takes its name from the famous Sun Tzu book. There's a line in one scene where Sasha Mitchell's trainer quotes from it. Anyway, the film's about Mitchell, who, in dire need of cash, heads down to Brazil to fight some Argentinian. While he and his trainer are eating, a street urchin steals his camera. Mitchell befriends the thief along with the kid's sister, only to have the sister kidnapped by a dude who looks like a cheap Joe Isuzu, and who runs a brothel with street urchins he's taken off the streets. This low-rent Joe Isuzu also manages the Argentinian set to fight Mitchell, and after he asks Mitchell to throw the fight, Mitchell insults him. Luckily for him, Mitchell and his trainer try to free the girl, and are captured by Isuzu, who takes the opportunity to force Mitchell into an unorthodox training regime in an attempt to tire him out for the fight. It would've worked, except Mictchell's trainer's Asian, and like every Asian in every martial arts film, he knows a few herbal tricks up his sleeve that get Mitchell ready to hand out an ass-beating. Good stuff. Good pants by Mitchell in the final scene as well.

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This was, in fact, the one I remembered as being bad. The street urchin thief annoyed me, the plot was pretty lame, the bad guy wasn't cool, and the Argentinian didn't impress me. If you're going to replace a villain on the scale of a Tong Po, you gotta bring me more meat than that. I need a reason to watch this film instead of just watching the first Kickboxer with Van Damme in it again, right? For instance, Bloodsport 4 has Ben Franklin as the baddie. That's why me and my friends watch that on occasion instead of the original. If the bad guy in this film actually was Joe Isuzu, we may have something to talk about, but as it was he was a low-rent version. I guess the real Joe Isuzu was busy making Empty Nest at that time.

Sasha Mitchell was all right in this. He was no him from 4: The Aggressor, and with that as my standard, I have to say I was somewhat disappointed. Here he was a bit too Cody from Step by Step, which is kind of a waste, because part of the novelty is seeing Cody from Step by Step playing a bad ass who's nothing like his character on the popular TGIF sitcom. Overall, a darker Mitchell would've worked better.

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One thing that was kind of cool that the film played on a bit was the rivalry between Argentina and Brazil. It's something we hear very little about in the US, but anyone who's a soccer fan like me knows all about it. Of course, with the bad fighter in this being from Argentina, this rivalry is told from the Brazilian standpoint. As such, I feel it's necessary to, in the spirit of fairness, give Argentina equal time here. If you're a wine drinker without a lot of money (and I definitely am), you can't go wrong with the wide variety of great Argentinian Malbecs available in the States right now. For ten bucks, you can get a bottle that drinks as well as a Merlot or Chianti that costs twice that much.

The early 90s bad movie, especially bad action or bad horror movie, has one great feature: the horrible clothes. If this film delivers on anything, it's the startling array of hilarious fashions, many of which are worn by our hero. In the final showdown between Mitchell and the low-rent Joe Isuzu, Mitchell is sporting these hideous pants that even the dumbest lunkhead bodybuilder on Muscle Beach at that time would've turned his nose at. They're like some weird print and they taper down his leg so they bite the ankles like a cheap pair of sweatpants. It's just totally sauteed in wrong sauce, yet at the same time, was probably the only entertaining part of the film for me. Go figure.

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This film is so not worth your time. Even if you see it pop up on your program guide one Sunday afternoon when you're killing time before you gotta do something else, I say avoid it. Watch an old episode of The Banana Splits or Simply Ming or something instead. It should go without saying don't rent this. If you and your buddies want a bad Mitchell film to watch and laugh at, go with Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor instead. And if you've already seen that, rent it again to get your Mitchell fix before you consider this sack-of-asscrack.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104609/

2 comments:

  1. Hmmm, I must say, I disagree with you on many points. First, as a bad movie connoisseur, I would expect you to recognize sub-plot. The Argentinian wasn't the bad guy, he dummied that guy, he was only there in the story to prove that this prostitution ring was what David Sloan could not beat. If you had watched the second one, you would know that at this stage in the David Sloan character he is still a big wise cracker & views life in a very optimistic way. If Tong Po was raping & beating your wife for years while you rot in a prison for Po's crimes, you would be that bad ass too (just probably nowhere near as tough). But he did still care, he wasn't inhuman. As for things that are not, VanDamme is not a Muay Thai fighter (in The Quest he did better, but even then - not). The continuation of using VanDamme to represent such a descriptive art proves only that the bulk of audiences don't care what names are - names of martial arts, names of Countries, names of more qualified actors. I would place Sasha Mitchell as a much better actor, as well as a much better fighter. His height/body shape, make him great at dominating in Muay Thai (but that's not all he can do). I would even give the fight to Sasha over VanDamme if the height difference was reversed (making VanDamme 6'3"/1.91 m & Mitchell 5'8"/1.73 m). I love the third movie. Sometimes the struggles a fighter/action star faces isn't always combative - great recipe - take 'em out of their element & really see what they've got. Personally, the idea of kickboxers with guns scares me, but they made it work.

    You might be interested in this movie - Vampires: The Turning (only the star -Colin Egglesfield- really uses Muay Thai, but that is besides the point in this tale of centuries of war in Thailand.

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  2. I really dig that you were all about this film and I think it's cool you're on here defending it. For the record I have seen both Kickboxer 2 and Vampires: The Turning.

    As far as recognizing or not recognizing a sub-plot in a film of this caliber, I fear you may be attributing qualities of depth and nuance to it that just aren't there. Albert Pyun is a great guy, but I think even he'll tell you he's no Bergman or Fellini. Also, I'm curious to know if the Kickboxer films actually stopped using Van Damme for the reason you give: that he's a mediocre kickboxer and not fighter Mitchell is; and not for the reason I always assumed: that Van Damme wanted nothing to do with the sequels because he was making way more money in bigger budget pictures. The reality is that I only care about how adept a fighter is at muay thai when I'm watching him fight in a real competition on TV. In a movie, I'm willing to suspend belief if I'm having a good time, and I just feel this movie wasn't much of a good time.

    Again, I'm glad you posted your comment, and I hope to hear more from you in the future.

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