Kickboxer: Retaliation (2018) Review



Kickboxer: Retaliation still isn’t an amazing movie but the cast alone make it watchable, especially Christopher Lambert and JCVD.

Plot: One year after avenging his brother’s murder, MMA champion Kurt Sloane finds himself imprisoned by a powerful gangster in Thailand. To win back his freedom, he must train for a fight against a 400-pound killer in an underground death match.

Review: Kickboxer: Vengeance was met with a lukewarm response when it came out a couple of years ago and the biggest problem was Jean-Claude Van Damme getting dubbed which was hugely distracting and I still ask myself why it happened for such a relatively high profile remake. I personally enjoyed it for what it was and thought Dave Bautista was a formidable opponent as Tong Po. I’ve only ever watched it once however, and never had any great urge to sit through it again.

Kickboxer: Retaliation has been getting far more favourable reviews although I’m not entirely sure why; I have to admit I’m not loving this franchise reboot. Alain Moussi returns as Kurt Sloane, this time to face off against Mongkut (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) and he certainly has the moves but the story just didn’t grab me.

The opening scene was quite bizarre with some kind of dream sequence featuring Kurt dancing with a woman on a train then fighting some guys and falling off into water below. At first I was wondering if this was the right movie as it felt really out of place in this kind of movie.

The greatest addition to this movie is Christopher Lambert who never fails to entertain as the nasty (yet strangely likable) fight promoter Thomas Moore who has Kurt thrown in jail where he is attacked and whipped daily until he eventually relents and agrees to fight Mongkut.

While incarcerated he meets someone who looks remarkably like Mike Tyson who trains Kurt to punch harder than he ever has before. JCVD’s Durand shows up (now blind) and also trains him to be faster; it’s his speed he will require in order to take down this massive and seemingly invincible opponent.

The acting was pretty bad from a lot of the cast but we can normally forgive that with these kinds of movies as we are here to watch people kick ass. In that respect Retaliation is never dull and every few minutes there is a fight scene; there is a brief but awesome sword fight between JCVD and Christopher Lambert which was a nice nod to Highlander. Van Damme also has a one on one with Mike Tyson which was another highlight.

At times it has the feel of classic 90’s beat ‘em up movies which I still watch practically every weekend to this day… and yet there was just something missing from it. I think the characters are just too bland with nothing that really stands out about them so I never really care what happens to Kurt or his girlfriend.

The music was also quite distracting which took me out of a few scenes and was rather annoying.

Mongkut has little in terms of personality; he’s just a big guy so there are no real martial arts skills to him. I would love the big bad to be played by Tony Jaa, Scott Adkins or someone who has real fighting prowess so there would be a greater energy to the climactic battles. I thought the final fight in Retaliation went on for far too long and I found myself saying “why isn’t this over yet?”

Kurt is clearly dead several times over and yet it appears he has now become the Highlander and can’t be killed. There can be only one, Kurt!

It also couldn’t get away from just looking cheap; the font for the opening credits looked terrible and immediately gave a bad impression for what to expect from the movie.

Overall, Kickboxer: Retaliation was a disappointment and I really wanted to like it due to the awesome cast, but the final fight went on for far too long and too many things just bugged me about it. It at least has plenty of fight scenes and Christopher Lambert’s slightly maniacal laugh makes it worth watching. I’ll still pick it up on Blu-ray when it comes out and watch it while drunk but I’d stick with the original movies and even the sequels.