Movie Kumite: King of the Kickboxers vs. Kickboxer
For action fans of my generation, the 1989 movie Kickboxer starring Jean-Claude Van Damme was their introduction to the world of kickboxing movies. Some might even say it is the king of all kicboxing movies. One film might disagree however and that would be the movie actually called, The King of the Kickboxers starring Loren Avedon.
At the request of one of our Twitter followers @Sajmeister, we are pitting these two classic kickboxing movies against one another in the cinematic slugfest known as the Movie Kumite! Which of these kickboxing classics will reign supreme? Let’s find out…
The great Bobby Heenan would probably say comparing Jean-Claude Van Damme to Loren Avedon is like comparing ice cream to horse manure. And while that may be a bit harsh, there is some truth to the statement.
Avedon and his character Jake Donahue do not have the cool factor that Van Damme brought to all his characters, including Kurt Sloan in Kickboxer. Guys wanted to grow up and be like Van Damme, nobody wanted to grow up and be Loren Avedon. Instead Avedon has what I’d call the cheese factor something he must have learned at the William Shatner School of Acting. You just don’t get that bad ass action hero vibe from Loren Avedon and from my limited Loren Avedon viewing experiences, I’d actually say this was his best performance. Unfortunately for him, this is a true JCVD classic. Kickboxer was a great followup to Van Damme’s work in Bloodsport and was proof JCVD was not a one trick pony.
But my opinions aside, in the movie The King of the Kickboxers, Jake Donahue mentions Jean-Claude Van Damme. The top guy doesn’t even have to acknowledge the existence of the guys looking to take his spot and I never heard Van Damme mention Loren Avedon once.
Van Damme and Kickboxer score the first point!
KING OF THE KICKBOXERS – 0 KICKBOXER – 1
The element of surprise is important in any battle and that is clearly illustrated in this round of our Movie Kumite.
Tong Po (Michel Qissi) is one of Van Damme’s greatest foes. I ranked him #3 on my list of JCVD Villains during last year’s Best Van Damme Week Ever. He was such an effective villain, that even when Van Damme himself didn’t return for Kickboxer 2, they wisely brought Tong Po back.
I don’t want to say I have become desensitized to the villainy of Tong Po after seeing Kickboxer dozens of times over the years, but in preparation for this Movie Kumite I watched King of the Kickboxers for the first time and I was caught completely off guard by Billy Blanks as Khan. Most of my Billy Blanks experiences have been him in the role of the good guy in movies like Showdown or as a Tae Bo salesman/instructor. But I was blown away with just how evil he was as Khan.
Khan and Tong Po share a similar disrespect for the female of the species, but Khan one ups Tong Po in the messing with ones family department. Tong Po, cripples Kurt Sloan’s kickboxing champion brother in Kickboxer. That is pretty dastardly. But Khan KILLS Jake Donahue’s kickboxing champion brother in King of the Kickboxers. And not only does he kill him, 10 years after the fact while he’s in a “production meeting” for his next action snuff film, he suggests a scene based on his fond memories of killing Sean Donahue in front of his teenage brother. The look on Khan’s face was a look of pure evil.
Call it an upset if you want, but Khan wins this round!
KING OF THE KICKBOXERS – 1 KICKBOXER -1
If you are preparing for an epic fight, it is important to have a good teacher/trainer at your side to help prepare you and push you to limits you’ve never been pushed before.
Kickboxer took more of a Mr. Miyagi type approach enlisting Dennis Chan to play the role of the wise, Xian Chow. A quality character, Xian Chow would return for Kickboxer 2 and Kickboxer 3 serving as the mentor to Kurt Sloan’s brother David (Sasha Mitchell).
But King of the Kickboxers took more of an Apollo Creed approach with their trainer, Prang. Prang was played by Keith Cooke of Heatseeker and China O’Brien fame. Cooke is a legit kickboxer himself and could have very well been the star of the film, but instead he slipped into the role of supporting player and gave a memorable performance.
Apollo Creed > Mr. Miyagi therefore Prang > Xian Chow.
KING OF THE KICKBOXERS – 2 KICKBOXER – 1
THE FINAL FIGHT
It is safe to say that an event that takes place at Madison Square Garden will have a bigger feel to it than something that took place at the IMA Sports Arena in Flint, Michigan.
Both Kickboxer and King of the Kickboxers understood that the setting and the location of their final fight scene had to be something special.
Kickboxer took things old school and had the fighters meet in an underground tomb like the ancients themselves used to battle. Both Kurt and Tong Po wear traditional garb and even dip their glue soaked gloves in broken glass. The simple chain that surrounds the fighters and entire scene being lit by torches sets the stage for a memorable finale.
King of the Kickboxers went in another direction, constructing a wooden cage in the middle of the jungle to hold the final encounter between Jake Donahue and Khan. I was always a fan of a cage match to settle a long standing feud. And both Khan and Avedon entering the cage wearing elaborate costumes and masks gave their fight a WrestleMania like feel.
This for me was the toughest category to judge, but I’m going to give the edge to Kickboxer for the atmosphere and the gritty and raw feel that fight had.
KING OF THE KICKBOXERS – 2 KICKBOXER – 2
We are at the point in our competition where I turn things over to the critics. More specifically the rankings of two of the Internet’s most beloved movie themed web sites, IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.
King of the Kickboxers has an IMDB rating of 5.9. Kickboxer has an IMDB rating of 6.3.
King of the Kickboxers has an approval rating of 59% on Rotten Tomatoes. Kickboxer has a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 65%.
Some close scores, but Kickboxer gets two more points from the critics!
KING OF THE KICKBOXERS – 2 KICKBOXER – 4
BOOGIE DOWN BONUS ROUND
There really isn’t a need for this pre-planned bonus round where the outcome of the competition is concerned. But from an entertainment stand point I decided to leave it in.
If Kickboxer can only remembered for one thing, it should be the drunken dancing of Kurt Sloan. Does Loren Avedon get jiggy with it in King of the Kickboxers? Nope! So for the extra point and your viewing pleasure let’s all take a look at one of the most memorable scenes in Van Damme History…
With his victory dance complete, allow me to officially announce that Kickboxer starring Jean-Claude Van Damme has won this edition of Movie Kumite!
KING OF THE KICKBOXERS – 2 KICKBOXER – 5