Movie Monday: Kickboxer

Kickboxer (dir. Mark DiSalle and David Worth, 1989) with Jean-Claude Van Damme as Kurt Sloane and Michel Qissi as Tong Po

The peplum films of Steve Reeves, Reg Parks, and Kirk Morris were dead and buried by the end of the 1960s, replaced by spaghetti westerns. The 1970s popularized the chopsocky genre in America and Europe, which Hollywood then copied and whitened for the '80s, introducing a higher level of technical craftsmanship by directors familiar with Eisenstein and Kuleshov (or at least Rocky and Raging Bull).

Twenty-eight-year-old Van Damme (5'10", 170#) was a sensation, and his fans' admiration has subsequently been vindicated, I believe, despite some critics' qualms about JCVD's fearlessness in exhibiting his oiled-up body. The body, as well as its prowess, was never presented in a better light than in the climactic fight in Kickboxer, in which Sloane (Van Damme) avenges the intentional crippling of his brother by the reputedly unbeatable Tong Po (Qissi). This is not wrestling, of course, but then neither is WWE, and this is better than WWE.


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