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. 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] I'd love to check out what you got. And check out my book, Chad in Accounting, over on Amazon.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Kickboxer: Retaliation (2018)

Because I did Kickboxer: Vengeance, I figured I'd need to do this one as well. And from there, I decided to do both posts back to back to get them out of the way. Why make you wait for the sequel, right? This has been covered by many other people, including our good friend Mitch at the Video Vacuum, and also Simon Abrams did a write-up for Roger Ebert's site. You know it's big if you're covering a movie Roger Ebert's site is covering.

Kickboxer: Retaliation takes place a year or so after the first one. Alain Moussi is back as our hero, this time being kidnapped and whisked away to a Thai prison, where Christopher Lambert is forcing him to fight a giant from ESPN2's World's Strongest Man competitions. When the usual attempts at coercion don't work, Lambert goes back to the tried and true damsel in distress motif, kidnapping Moussi's wife, Sara Malakul Lane, reprising her role from the first one. To train Moussi to fight this mountain of a man, we have all nature of inmates, including Van Damme again, Mike Tyson, Ronaldinho, and Roy "Big Country" Nelson. Will Moussi prevail?

This was 110 minutes long. One of my biggest rules is anything over 88 minutes is borrowed time, and here we were at almost 2 hours for a standard prison forced to fight story. That's what made me like this one less than the previous one, because that one was a cool 90 minutes. For something as paint-by-numbers as this was, closing in on two hours is beyond excessive. The Coen Brothers were able to get Hail, Caesar! in under that time, and they weren't covering well-worn territory, and had an even more prodigious cast than this. There were some good fights, which were hampered a bit by slow motion affects, but still nice to see and something I can appreciate. The final fight between Moussi and the strongman went about 30 minutes, and really just involved a lot of hitting and the people getting hit spitting Hawaiian Punch out of their mouths. The reality is, this movie was just a better version of Bloodsport 2, but longer, which made it a worse version.

Van Damme is back in the role that IMDb said was originally supposed to be Tony Jaa's, and he was great again. I can't blame him for the fact that this was too long, though he was an executive producer, so maybe I can. When you look at his current stuff, he tends to err on the side of longer movies instead of tightening things up, so I could see him thinking 110 minutes was actually too short, why not make it two and 1/2 hours? One could make the case though that Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning was five minutes longer, and I really liked that one. Yes, but that one was also covering new territory and doing new things with the characters. This is essentially Bloodsport 2, we knew where we were going, we knew what the end would be, so to delay us getting there any longer than we had to was excessive for me. One interesting thing to note with Van Damme as well: this is his 30th tag, but not official entrance into the 30 Club, because one of his tags is post 400, the Van Dame Film Fest. He'll get there soon enough though, I promise.

It's been over nine years since we last saw the film's other Hall of Famer, Christopher Lambert, here on the DTVC, which feels like too long. (The funny thing is I mentioned Hail, Caesar!, and he was in that as well.) Lambert is essentially playing the Ben Franklin role from Bloodsport IV, and it was fun to see him here as a baddie. I've looked through his IMDb, and a lot of his stuff is of the foreign language art house variety, which I enjoy, but doesn't really fit what we're doing here for DTV. One thing this had that was nice was a sword fight between Van Damme and Lambert. One thing it was missing which really disappointed me, was the two of them speaking in French to one another.

A fascinating aspect of Van Damme's career has been the DTV sequels to his movies that star someone other than him. We've talked about the Kickboxer and Bloodsport ones. There was also a Time Cop sequel and syndicated TV show. Universal Soldier first had made-for-TV sequels, then had two DTV sequels that did star him. And maybe when that happened it opened the door for him to try these two as well, because they are, essentially, DTV sequels, trading on a franchise name that he established theatrically. What's interesting is that in this age of franchises and using franchise names on the tin to draw streams and rentals, all but these and a Scott Adkins Hard Target sequel have disappeared. You'd think that someone would make a new Bloodsport or Universal Soldier, if only to trade on the name the way these are, but so far that hasn't happened. I guess we'll see.

While there are these Kickboxer reboots with Alain Moussi--and a third one is in development--there are reports that Albert Pyun was working with Sasha Mitchell to do their own Kickboxer sequels. How amazing would that be? The thing is, these new Kickboxer reboots would have a lot more resources than Pyun would have with his own, especially when he works independently--I bet this film's Hawaiian Punch budget would be more than the budget for an entire Pyun production. But if he can keep them between 80 and 90 minutes, I think they could give these a run for their money. (Seriously, every time someone in this film gets hit in the face, they spray this stream of Hawaiian Punch spit into the air. It's like they're using cases of it, or constantly chewing Cherry Starburst in order to produce that effect.)

And I guess this wraps it up. Like its predecessor, you can get this on Netflix. This wouldn't be a bad DTV actioner if it had a tighter runtime. We're covering ground that has been covered plenty of times before, which is fun, but maybe not almost two hours fun, if that makes sense. It is nice to see all the people in it though, and there were some good fight scenes. I also now have a hankering for Hawaiian Punch...

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