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Kickboxer: Vengeance

John Stockwell (many know him best as Dennis in Christine (1985)) directed Jean-Claude Van Damme's return to the Kickboxer franchise, this 2016 updating introducing a protégé, Kurt (Alain Moussi, in impeccable shape), looking to avenge the death of his brother at the hands of a fierce shootfighter, Tong Po (Dave Batista) in Thailand. Master Durand (Van Damme) agrees to take him on as a pupil, mentoring him to the level of Tong Po, putting him through a grueling training regimen.

The likes of MMA / UFC fighters, Gina Carano and George St-Pierre make cameo appearances, but neither does a hell of a lot. Van Damme gets to pick on Moussi a lot, using all types of cruel training methods (dunking him in water while peddling a bike, having him ward off coconuts, enduring post shots to the legs, pulling him in a wagon, etc.) and in the rain even pummels him until he finally quits trying to retaliate. Batista just beats Moussi to a near pulp during the final fight, not quite breaking his spirit which is his ultimate undoing. The plot is old-fashioned B-movie action simplicity. Predictable and familiar, this Kickboxer film mines the past actioners of the 80s and VHS, direct-to-video martial arts 90s pictures occupying rental shelves and cable television. Van Damme seems very comfortable in the mentor role, and his physique remains chiseled. While many of his ilk have lost their bodies to the ravages of age and excess, credit must be recognized to Van Damme for persevering Father Time. He doesn’t look totally silly going toe to toe with the much younger and muscle-sculpted Foussi.

Foussi beds a cop who wants him to not fight Batista, out to arrest Carano in a subplot few will give a shit about. Van Damme takes great delight in torturing Foussi during training, but the results ultimately seem to help him by the end as his endurance to pain and suffering reach impressive (if ludicrous) heights. The likes of “fists of glass” and swords are included in Foussi and Batista’s fight at the end.

Included in the silly plot is Foussi outlasting a number of thugs in a street of Thailand and an escape from prison (with help from Van Damme) where he obliterates some police officers. Foussi fighting on elephants and getting away with murder at the end further conclude that logic is anything but considered in the plotting of this nonsense.

God, I'm such a sucker for this kind of action crap. If you have a fondness for the films this emulates and respects, Kickboxer: Vengeance might sit well with you. But most who hated Bloodsport won't exactly open their willing arms and hearts to this.

** ½