Sunday, June 26, 2011

June 26 - Kickboxer 2: The Road Back (1991)

The very wrinkly cover of my VHS copy of Kickboxer 2

Kickboxer 2: The Road Back (1991)

Director: Albert Pyun
Format: VHS (First Release)

Sasha Mitchell (the goofy brother on 90s TV comedy STEP BY STEP) takes over from Jean Claude Van Damme in this sequel to 1989's Kickboxer. He plays David Sloan, younger brother of JCVD's character Kurt (who we learn died in Thailand, shot by the man he defeated at the climax of the first movie, Tong Po).

A retired kickboxer himself, David owns his own run-down gym, where he trains fighters and helps out local kids, but the business is struggling. Out of desperation he gets back into the ring to fight for ruthless promoter Justin Maciah (Peter Boyle, the hiliarously-grumpy dad on TV's EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND).

When he beats Maciah's champion (Mattias Hues, DIGITAL MAN) and badmouths the crooked organisation, Maciah's men attack David and burn down his gym, killing a young student.

In comes his brother's former teacher from Thailand (Dennis Chan, reprising his role from the first movie) to help him recuperate. David is reluctant ("you didn't do my brothers any good") but eventually agrees to the guy's unconventional training methods, while an ambitious former student of David's (Vince Murdocco) trains under Maciah's people makes his way up to the championship match (via one of dozens of montages in this flick).

When Maciah's business partner (the always great Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO) pulls a switch in the championship match, bringing in Tong Po (Michael Qissi, also reprising the role), David's former student is destroyed and killed in the ring.

It soon becomes clear the whole thing was a setup to get David in the ring with Tong Po, so the Thai fighter can finish off the Sloan family (remember he also killed Eric, which was Kurt's motivation in the first movie).

The finale has David and Tong Po facing off in an unsanctioned muay thai match (with the by-now familiar broken glass-encrusted fists), with a twist that is well foreshadowed.

The fights in Kickboxer 2 are well-done, but that's not surprising considering most of the participants were actual martial artists (Mitchell was an amateur kickboxing champ and taekwondo black belt, Hues was a world kickboxing champ and Murdocco was North American kickboxing champ).

The plot is also very good, written by David S Goyer, who went on to pen the Blade trilogy, Batman Begins and the Dark Knight. The acting is top notch, particularly Boyle and Tagawa, who are great as the "bad guys in suits".

My only minor complaint is Mitchell's way of talking reminds me of Keanu Reeves in that it makes him sound like a surfer dude (maybe due to his California accent), which doesn't help me take him seriously as an asskicker. But otherwise he has good screen presence and, while he's no JVCD, he does a good job of taking over the lead in this series (3 more sequels followed in the 1990s, 2 with Mitchell).

Keep your eyes peeled for a very young future Mr Megan Fox, Brian Austin Green (BEVERLY HILLS 90210) in a brief role in the opening moments.

There's not much in the way of cheesiness (aside from the great, cheesy songs that play during the opening and closing credits), but Kickboxer 2 is just a solid martial arts actioner.

Previews on my VHS tape: Mortal Thoughts, Switch, The Commitments, Barton Fink, The Addams Family, Bingo!

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