Last night I was browsing various TV channels and I bumped into Kickboxer a movie produced in 1989 with the main character played by a young and f it Jean Claude Van Damme. I remember seeing this movie at the cinema when it was released (yes, I am that old) and I often refer to it when I explain certain techniques, not necessarily for the quality of the scenes but mostly to describe how things should not be done.
The story is pretty simple: Van Damme’s older brother (in the movie) is an undefeated national champion of full contact kickboxing and somebody suggests he should go and change the Thai champion. He goes and accepts to fight Thai Boxing rules (that obviously allow elbow and knee strikes that he cannot handle) and he gets not only defeated but his back gets broken and has to be on a wheel chair. Van Damme’s character decides to avenge his brother by learning kickboxing under a famous local master and at end, as it happens in any respectable American production the good wins, the bad gets beaten and humiliated and so on…
My reason to write this post is to point out a few features that suggest watching the movie while a few comments about how the director could have done a better job.
Van Damme has a typical Karate posture and style, with a low (shall I say inexistent?) guard and a very pumped up attitude for single killer punches rather than good, classical combinations of boxing techniques: he doesn’t (at least in this movie) looks very much of a kickboxer. At the same time his fitness and technique, at least in performing certain kicks (like at the end of the fight when, out of the ring kicks Tong Po in the face with a perfect side kick and then, with the same leg he kicks round kick in the face of the organiser) is just great. What is very annoying is the continuous cut and re sampling of scenes that try to amplify the prowess of the various techniques.
In movies people can be kicked and punched for hours without much damage or even running out of breath and this is no different but, ok, perhaps I am a bit too strict on these things.
As a conclusion I can say that this is a decent martial arts movie, if you ignore the awful non combat scenes and plot it shows some good techniques and, as it happened last night, when I bump into it I tend to watch at least some parts of it.