I want Tong Po! Give me Tong Po!
The first time I saw this film I loved it so much that I watched as often as I could and never got tired of it. Now after many years I watched it again and damn it still is good people. It holds up pretty well and Kickboxer is definitely one of the best Jean-Claude Van Damme has been in.
If you ask me I don't see any reason to do a reboot or remake since you will never recreate the magic that made the original so successful. I have seen the trailer for the reboot and it looked horrible. Say what you will about the original Kickboxer, it did not look like a C movie as the reboot (see trailer underneath.)
But we will see how that one fares when I get the chance to watch that one. Back to the original.
You know there is more than just the action that made Kickboxer appealing. First of all the locale provided a lot of great atmosphere and ambiance. Then you had a pretty good soundtrack with poppy songs and oriental sounding tunes. Another important element were the supporting actors like Haskell V. Anderson III as Taylor. The reluctant sidekick who helps out Kurt Sloane (Van Damme). And Dennis Chan as Xian. You could argue he is merely copying Pat Morita as Miyagi from The Karate Kid. But I think he is more like Yuen Siu-tien in The Drunken Master. Ruthless but funny and very capable. This should not come as a big surprise since Dennis Chan is from Hong Kong and not Thailand. Actually most Asian actors in this film are Hong Kong Chinese. Judging from the names they have given the actors they might be portraying Chinese since none of them have Thai names. Just so you know. Another actor who makes quite the impression is Michel Qissi (Mohammed Qissi who produced and directed Terminator Woman). Also a martial artist and long time friend of Jean-Claude Van Damme who in reality is Moroccan and not Asian at all. Although he always looked a little funny. Now you know why. In the credits you will see mentioned that Tong Po is played by himself. I don't know the exact reason why they did this but it's important to realize that Menahem Golan had very little faith in Jean Claude Van Damme as an actor let alone that he would give Van Damme's friends a chance. Mind you this might be speculation on my part but I did read something in that nature in an interview with one of the writers of Bloodsport Sheldon Lettich. In any case Qissi nails his villain role. As Tong Po truly is terrifying. Mostly because of his physique and not saying that much. But when he does say something it's vile and despicable. Last but not least there is a good balance between comedy and drama. Kickboxer knows when to intensify matters and when to give comic relief. Especially in the training sequences you will laugh because of Xian's antics.
But of course this film would be nowhere if it weren't for the action and the martial arts. And that certainly is top notch. Next to also have contributed to the story he choreographed all the fights in the film. So if for some reason you have not seen this yet go watch it at once. Kickboxer is easily one of the best Van Damme has ever been involved in and it is almost saddening that none of his contemporary films are as good as this film.