Directed by: Dimitri Logothetis
Starring: Alain Moussi, Jean Claude Van Damme, Christopher Lambert, Mike Tyson,
Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson
Set 18 months after the events of Kickboxer: Vengeance, this film finds Kurt Sloane back in the USA, taking part in a MMA style championship. However it's not long before he finds himself kidnapped and taken to a Bangkok prison at the command of Thomas Moore, a crimelord who lost a lot of money in the fight where Sloane killed Tong Po.
With his wife also kidnapped for leverage, Kurt must prepare for an even bigger challenge than before - taking on the mighty Mongkut. Luckily Kurt has some allies to help him train...
Kickboxer: Vengeance was a huge disappointment for anyone who is a fan of martial arts films and the original Kickboxer in particular. It was therefore with some trepidation that I approached Kickboxer: Retaliation. Perhaps going in with low expectations helped, but Retaliation is a huge improvement on the previous film.
First of all, Alain Moussi is given a lot more work to do. This film has more fight scenes than you can shake a stick at, and often involving long takes and dynamic camera moves. He is still a stiff actor and is difficult to engage with, but his presence as a screen fighter has greatly improved.
Then there is the cast. Christopher Lambert (Highlander) is a great villain, with his evil smile and cackling laugh. He even gets to have a short sword fight. Then there's Mike Tyson, who has been doing the rounds recently in genre films (he'll also be appearing in China Salesman later this year). Although his character disappears for a big chunk of the film, he is very good as a fellow inmate who imparts some important lessons to Kurt - but not before the pair have a great fight sequence where Tyson's fists smash though countless pipes and wooden beams.
Even Jean Claude Van Damme, who seemed so tired and disinterested in proceedings in the previous film, is much more engaged this time round, his character given a new quirk to keep things interesting. There's a nice moment where he sizes up the two opponents and realises Kurt doesn't stand a chance at surviving and tries to call it off. It's a good acting sequence between Van Damme and Lambert and leads into the aforementioned sword fight.
Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (Ser Gregor Clegane from Game of Thrones) makes for a formidable opponent - bigger, meaner and stronger than Tong Po. He remains out of sight for much of the film, until it is necessary for him to up the stakes with Kurt and set up the final fight.
The final fight between Mongkut and Kurt is much more expansive and dramatic than the Tong Po fight. The setting is a scenic ancient temple, lit with torches. Kurt has a clear strategy but it hardly matters - Mongkut is able to throw him around like a rag doll! Kurt is able to do "just enough" to keep going in these early rounds.
There are moments of silliness among the good stuff. During the final fight, Kurt has a habit of pausing for an eternity after doing a nifty block of evasion, which is very frustrating to watch. While Alan Moussi[s fighting skills have improved, his acting unfortunately hasn't, which makes for some very stodgy drama scenes.
I cannot stress enough how much of an improvement Retaliation is over Vengeance. There is so much more going on in this film, it is packed with good action (and a couple of silly moments), the cast is great and the end fight is really well done. It's a huge step in the right direction, and if Kickboxer: Armageddon gets off the ground, there is definite reason to get excited by the prospect.
8 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)