Bullet Points: Kickboxer
After his breakout performance in Bloodsport, Jean-Claude Van Damme hit a bit of a sophomore slump with Cyborg in my opinion. It’s not that Cyborg is awful, but the bleak post apocalyptic back drop doesn’t give it the fun factor that so many JCVD movies have.
But Van Damme bounced back in a major way with Kickboxer!
Kickboxer is the story of Kurt Sloan (Van Damme) A man out to avenge his kickboxing champion brother, Eric “The Eliminator” Sloan, who was crippled in a brutal match with Thailand’s resident kickboxing bad ass and national treasure, Tong Po (Michel Qissi).
That’s the overview, but let’s get into some of the details, Bullet Points style…
- These Guys Are Brothers?: We find out that after their parents divorced, Eric was raised by his father in America, while Kurt was raised by his mother in Europe where he learned three languages and even ballet. This does not explain why the two look nothing alike, but it probably explains why Kurt is wearing a denim vest.
- Never Underestimate Your Opponent: Eric Sloan makes a cardinal mistake, sure he’s a big deal in the United States but he totally writes off Tong Po, a guy who trains by kicking load bearing cement pillars. Now Tong Po definitely took things too far, but honestly Eric deserved to get his ass kicked in that fight. And I have to admit, Tong Po ripping Eric’s championship belt was pretty cool too.
- Going Old School: When Kurt decides that he wants to fight Tong Po all the local kickboxing schools laugh at him and turn him away, but with a tip from fellow American and Vietnam Vet, Winston Taylor, he is taken to train under the old school learning tree of Xian Chow. Chow is played by Dennis Chan, who unlike Van Damme actually returned for two of the Kickboxer sequels in the early 90’s.
- Split Take: Is it really a Jean Claude Van Damme movie if he doesn’t do the splits? Xian’s rope and pulley set up allows Van Damme to show off his amazing splits ability. Other interesting Xian training techniques include some underwater training and kicking trees.
- Falling In Love Again: Most men training for the fight of their life would not have time to fall in love, but Kurt Sloan is not most men. Plus, Xian does have an attractive niece named Mylee so that helped facilitate the romance.
- Broken Glass Everywhere: As you may suspect, Kurt does get his fight with Tong Po, but unlike the Tong Po/Eric Sloan match that was held in a sports arena, Kurt and Po are going to fight in the ancient way. Which means they are fighting in an underground tomb, while wearing some sort of loin cloth/thong outfits, but the best part they wrap their hands in cloth, cover the cloth with resin and then dip their fists into broken glass! I stole the broken glass fist gimmick for my fantasy wrestling federation a few years later in a match where my champion Terry “Bamm Bamm” Gordy fought Ole Anderson inside a cage made of wood and steel, but that’s probably best left for another post on another site.
Van Damme’s charisma and physical skills are on full display in Kickboxer. I’m not sure some of you can appreciate how different Van Damme was at the time from all the other action stars of that era… he was a breath of fresh air and brought so many different things to the table.
Kickboxer is easily one of my Top 5 Favorite JCVD Movies of all-time. I can watch this one over and over again, and here’s a few more things for you to look for while you enjoy Kickboxer…
- Thailand Tourism Board: The opening credits give us a look at Thailand and some of their more exotic locales and by exotic I mean places like The Firecat, Pussy Alive and Jugs Bar.
- Empty Threat: When the tables turn and the now wheelchair bound Eric tells Kurt he doesn’t want him to fight Tong Po, he threatens to kick Kurt’s ass if he doesn’t back out of the fight… not to sound cruel, I think Eric’s ass kicking ship sailed at the beginning of the movie.
- Mind Games: Even though Tong Po is a highly skilled athlete and supreme bad ass, he is still a heel. And a heel has to cheat, a heel has to take short cuts and a heel has to fight dirty. Along with his mobster boss pal, Freddy Li. They work at stacking the deck against Kurt before the fight even takes place. But perhaps the biggest heel move of them all is when Tong Po “compliments” Mylee’s skills in the bedroom.
- Electric Boogaloo: I would be remiss if I did not mention JCVD’s amazing drunken dancing skills in Kickboxer. But JCVD fans know that was not the first time, Van Damme bust a move or two on screen. In fact, he had a cameo appearance in Breakin’, another Cannon film, some years earlier. Interestingly enough, Michel Qissi (Tong Po himself) joins Van Damme on the beach as they get funky with the classic “Freakshow on the Dance Floor” by the Bar-Kays playing. Never seen it? Want to see it again? Here you go…