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Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Retro Review: Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor (1994)

Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor
1994
Cast: Sasha Mitchell, Nicholas Guest, Kamel Krifia
Genre: Direct-To-Video Martial Arts

Plot: David Sloan must travel to Mexico to save his wife from a savage drug lord, who is also an old nemesis






'A Huge Kick In The Groin For The Franchise'

I really don't know where to begin - well, for starters, story-wise it's a mess and most of it makes little to no sense. After the disastrous showing of Kickboxer 3 after a reasonably good second film to a classic prequel, Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor takes matters into its own hands, but also virtually ignoring the existence of Kickboxer 3. That is because number 4 follows on from the events of Kickboxer 1 & 2: 2 years later, David Sloan is in jail for no self-explanatory reason and this is shown in the movie, as well as that he got married, and his wife is being raped by David's arch enemy, Tung Po. But wait - nowhere during Kickboxer 2 or 3 did they mention, nor it is shown anywhere of David tying the knot with his wife-to-be. It is then later revealed that Tung Po set David up for a crime he committed when David was working for the DEA. Again, another plot contrivance, as he never worked for them, but because of this film and the plot, it makes it out that he does so. Which is idiocy, but moving on. David strikes a deal with a drug enforcement agency to rescue his wife and that he enters a fighting tournament under a pseudonym with $1 million up for grabs.  

As it takes a turn for the worse, the fourth Kickboxer, filmed on a budget of $400,000, is truly, and in many respects, an abomination that is worth forgetting about.  

Kickboxer 4 also gained notoriety when the British Board of Film Classification refused to grant a UK release for the movie in 1996. Watching it today, it's no less gratuitously violent, despite the neck snaps & bloodshed, which is minimal at most. 

The martial arts fight scenes, despite the variety of styles on show that include Capoeira, are so random and weak in this movie, I know this is a straight- to- DVD & low- budget film, but they did not make my jaw drop, nor excite me. They are straight-up unconvincing and worse than in Kickboxer 1 and 2, as well as in contrast to Best of the Best 1 & 2. It just felt like these fights were from a different martial arts flick and the filmmakers just tacked it onto this movie. & they were so forgettable.

Didn't care for David's mate who falls for a woman and they later have sex. I didn't care for David's wife or the story-line of David going out of his way to rescue her. Once the earnest and easy-going Sasha Mitchell's character is now a reckless, brooding, no-nothing personality of a bore, who, he himself, and the DEA agent friend of his go undercover in a Mortal Kombat-style tournament where fighters do battle to see who ultimately survives. Whilst they are there, they meet up with a young, blonde teen girl, who sort of kicks ass. The rest of the combatants look like Mortal Kombat rejects.

David has less screen time and he fights less, as well as spends most of the time in a ninja outfit & even spying on people having sex. Here, If you have ever played Mortal Kombat, the villain Tung Po here is reminiscent of Goro, the big boss of the game. Well, head and chest-wise, & it's not even the same actor reprising the role and that Po has become a drug dealer, somehow. His performance was comical - in fact, almost all of the performances are, with the cast spouting some terrible dialogue. 

Speaking of the sex scenes, there are 2 needlessly and unsettling gratuitous sex scenes, which are thrown into the mix for no reason and add nothing to the plot and so, this movie is part- softcore porno as well. 





Final Verdict:

Badly flawed in almost every aspect but for the setting of the movie, Kickboxer 4 revels in its schlocky and rickety - yet pedestrian approach and whilst quantity-wise, there are more fights in this film than the last one and this offering resembles more of a kickboxing movie, quality-wise itself, it's still not good enough for me. 

The story arcs are misguided and as well choreographed as the fight scenes were, it didn't wow me as it should have. 

The fights are okay at best - but take those away, and Kickboxer 4 has nothing else good going for it, as the rest of it is just poor. 


Overall:

Retro Review: Kickboxer 3: The Art Of War (1992)

Kickboxer 3: The Art Of War
1992
Cast: Sasha Mitchell, Dennis Chan, Richard Comar, Noah Verduzco, Alethea Miranda, Ian Jacklin
Genre: Direct-To-Video Martial Arts

Plot: A Los Angeles martial artist travels to Rio for a kickboxing exhibition, only to save a girl from a drug lord








'This Art Of War Was A Martial Arts Bore'


After finding Kickboxer 2 to be an affable and modest effort, I had reasonable hopes that the third instalment in the long-running Kickboxer martial arts drama based series, would provide similar enjoyment and more of the action I've endured throughout the earlier films. Sadly, however, this entry is more of a carbon copy of the previous Kickboxer film, but overdoing it with the dramatics with a story that fails to impress. But also, whilst moving it to a different location it may seem like a sweet deal, in actuality, it has made Kickboxer 3: The Art of War to be not all that for an action flick, which makes the mistake of being a centrally- driven drama set in South America. And plus, it is wretched in places as well. 

David and his trainer, Xian head off to Rio De Janeiro in Brazil to compete in an exhibition match. After landing in the city, David encounters some thugs who he beats up, meets up with two orphan kids. He comes across a promoter in Lane, who turns out to be running a sex slave brothel. David, Xian & Marcos head off to rescue Marcos's sister, who has been kidnapped. 

Kickboxer 3, however, was not a happy experience for director Rick King, who in an interview with Hidden Films.com, described the lead star, Sasha Mitchell as a 'nutjob'. 'The crew hated him & liked me', and that he was also very violent', which didn't bode well for Mitchell and his career went down the toilet, after that. The film also marked the beginning of a decline for the Kickboxer movies, as it started to go downhill. Kickboxer 2 became the breakout role for Mitchell, - yet no sooner is he in Kickboxer 3, the cracks were starting to appear for the franchise.

Sasha Mitchell's voice as David is so deep and he also sounds like a surfer dude, if you hadn't seen his pretty boy looks whilst sitting through this movie, one would mistake him to be 40 years old or something.

The two Brazillian child characters, Marcos & Isabella were such an anonymity, the film could have easily done without them, the story, despite being set in South America is a bore and lousy to boot. It tries to be convincing, but mostly it is pure nothingness. It's just so routine and stripped to the bare bones, it's actually unexceptional. I wasn't too surprised to see the Argentinian character being made to be the bad guy, in a country that is full of Portuguese speaking Brazilians. 

40 plus mins into the film, it then turns into a completely different film with guns and ammo - which is so unheard of for the Kickboxer series and thus, it descends into an action flick and less so as a martial arts movie. The script is below-par, dull and whilst I tune into these films more for the martial arts fight scenes, even those here are not as good as I'd anticipated and despite the climactic fight towards the end, there is far too little kickboxing action to really call this a 'Kickboxer' movie. 





Final Verdict:

When the producers chose to distance themselves from this instalment and pretended this never existed, especially as it has nothing to do with the other films of the series, that clearly shows how in terms of being billed as a martial arts movie, it fails to live up to that promise. 

Kickboxer 3, is many ways, so bad and boring, surely, it cannot possibly get worse, right? Well....


Overall:

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Retro Review: Kickboxer 2: The Road Back (1991)

Kickboxer 2: The Road Back
1991
Cast: Sasha Mitchell, Peter Boyle, Dennis Chan, Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, John Diehl
Genre: Martial Arts
U.S Box Office Gross: over $1.2 million

Plot: Tong Po broods about his defeat at the hands of Kurt Sloan. Po and his managers resort to drastic measures to goad David into the ring for a rematch





'Can He Kick It? Erm, Yes He Can. Sort Of'

Kickboxer 2: The Road Back is the official sequel to the original Kickboxer flick that was released in 1989 starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and was supposedly going to have Van Damme reprising his role - only for the muscles from Brussels to turn it down, in favour of Double Impact, which was a massive success and that it did way better than this film did. Directed by Albert Pyun who did Cyborg and Captain America - the low- budget '90s version that is, not the one starring Chris Evans -  the story, which was penned by David S. Goyer, was retooled with Kurt Sloan, played by Van Damme, no longer the main character, as he is now proclaimed dead. In his place is Kurt's brother, David. 

Interestingly, Goyer went on to write Batman Begins, The Dark Knight movies, Man of Steel, the Blade movies, as well as Jean-Claude Van Damme's Death Warrant. Whilst the film is often criticised for being inferior to Kickboxer 1, I still prefer this over all the other Kickboxer sequels. 

Kickboxer 2 pretty much follows in the same vein as the previous film and whilst I dreaded the idea of the Kickboxer films being poor or nowhere as good as Van Damme's effort, with this film, I actually enjoyed this one in places with some very good fight sequences. 

After Kurt defeats his opponent in Po, Po (no not the Teletubby) murders Kurt, Kurt's girlfriend and his disabled brother at gunpoint, after the events of the previous film. Retired David runs a local kickboxing gym, as well as training other fighters and mentoring the youngsters. 2 years later, Kurt's younger brother, David seeks to avenge his brother's death by defeating Po when he receives an offer from a kickboxing mogul, Justin to step into the ring. 

Sasha Mitchell has nothing on Van Damme, well, fighting and ability- wise as a whole, and many fans of Kickboxer turned their noses up when the former model and star of the teen show, Step by Step was chosen out of all the other available martial arts-based actors to fill Van Damme's shoes. Despite my little nitpick, he still holds his own with his agility and being able to pull off several flying kicks and punches, and in terms of his acting, he's less wooden than Van Damme, yet lacks an even bigger presence to fully sell this film. But I did like his performance and he didn't come across as stilted and one-note and that he could convey a range of emotions. 

With a title in Kickboxer, one expects some overly decent action, and here, it doesn't disappoint. The fights, courtesy of Benny ''The Jet'' Urquidez & Jim Nickerson, are well choreographed and the story has some nice twists; however, it's not as fun as the first film and plus it lacks charm, the close-ups during the fight scenes were milked too much, the soundtrack is cringing and it does have a bit of a TV movie whiff to it as well. It does make up with some decent acting, a great final fight encounter between David and Po, and a less corny screenplay, though. 

The story wasn't much to brag about, but the film does handle the good versus evil theme in a competitive fighting sense, well. 

Kickboxer 2 is often looked down as a poor follow-up, given the exclusion of Jean-Claude, but Sasha Mitchell brings a different vibe to the film, and one I found rather refreshing also & it makes the film less goofy. Peter Boyle was the sleazy promoter jerk & Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa mixes things up as the film's second main antagonist. Even if he pulls off the same evil Asian bad guy face as he always does in Mortal Kombat and his other movies. Does that make it the better film than Kickboxer 1? No, far from it. Actually, this one was decent at best for me and thankfully, it maintains the continuity and kickboxing theme & feel of the prequel, whilst at the same time, experimenting with some different ideas. 






Final Verdict:

I enjoyed this one and whilst it's not great, it was fully watchable with some really good fights, a decent cast and it still has heart, without being too cringey or melodramatic. 


Overall: 

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Mini Retro Review: Vipers (1998) #badmovies

Vipers
1998
Erotic Thriller




A pool cleaner is hired by a plastic surgeon husband, who cheats on his wife, who is also having an affair with the pool cleaner/karate expert. Aka Dark Passion, this is yet another softcore erotica thriller with some interesting sex scenes that include the odd lesbian make-out session. I initially awarded this film a low mark, but I felt I was a bit harsh and having rewatched it recently, it turns out that this one isn't too bad and the story got more interesting as it went on. Acting is okay, some interesting twists and it definitely held my attention. 


Is It Worth Watching?

It's all right 


Overall:



Saturday, 21 April 2018

Mini Retro Review: Killer Looks (1994) #badmovies

Killer Looks
1994
Erotic Thriller




TV Guide.com rated this 1 star out of 4 in its review of this softcore Z-movie dud and watching this, I cannot say I disagree more. It's got a lesbian sex scene with two blondes and a man who has no objections to his wife making out with several men, as part of a game so he can get worked up. He finds out, acts like the outraged spouse then scares them off. When she brings home a new guy, the dopey hubby finds his marriage in jeopardy. In any other film, the husband, who catches his wife cheating multiple times with other guys, would ditch her and file for divorce. But this guy - he lets her do whatever she wants by screwing around, as long as they play by his rules and also the wife should have known better & to get rid of him when he tells her to go along with the plan. Not one single character, but for say, one couple, felt redeemable enough & they were dumb as bricks and were all as bad as each other & it sends out a terrible message in regards to cheating, despite the okay sex scenes. I did like the ending, however. Although when have erotic thrillers ever been about setting an example? 


Is It Worth Watching?

Probably for the sex scenes, if you are into that thing, but no


Overall:

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