Rating: 3/4 (Super clichéd, yet good fun!)
Every Bollywood movie viewer must be familiar to death with a story that goes like this: 2 brothers who dearly love each other. Elder brother gets hurt in a duel with a badass fighter. Younger brother decides to take revenge on his behalf. He finds a teacher who stays in the middle of nowhere who trains him. Throw in a girl for the hero's love interest. The plot is boiling now, let us add in a few more baddies for the hero to fight with. To get the hero even more roiled up, let the badass villain now rape his girl. Hero is fuming now at the right temperature, put him to a duel with the baddie, so he can defeat him in the climax. That in essence is the plot of Kickboxer. It should have been a forgettable movie, but surprisingly it is not.
This is one of the earliest movies of Jean-Claude Van Damme, who has real martial arts background in karate. Kurt Sloane (Van Damme) and his older brother land in Bangkok, Thailand for a Muay Thai fight. The local champion Tiger Tong Po is a baddie and beats the pulp out of the older bro. While his brother recovers in a hospital, Kurt finds an old teacher in the hills to teach him Muay Thai to take revenge. The training is very reminiscent of movies like The Karate Kid. Some of the training takes place in the middle of some spectacular Wat ruins, which the teacher calls Stone City. (I could not identify what place in Thailand this is.) Kurt also falls in love with his teacher's beautiful niece. The predictable climactic fight turns bloody as the players fight with hands wrapped in broken glass.
As I said before there are no surprises, yet the movie is a good watch. For one, it is shot well and on location in Bangkok and other places in Thailand. There are no CGI and special effects, so it is thrilling to see real fighters and real action. I cannot stand Van Damme in his older movies, here he is very comfortable in the role of a pure martial arts fighter. Many times during the movie he demonstrates that he can do the splits, which for a man of his massive build is quite something. His martial arts moves and training routines are a delight to watch. Muay Thai fights here are actually more interesting than the typical boxing fights in say the Rocky series since the legs are involved. Lastly, the music in this movie is very good. Some of the 80s beats and the Western-Asian fusion music that plays a lot in the background are all very notable. All in all, Kickboxer is super clichéd, yet good fun!