KICKBOXER: RETALIATION Review: Kurt Sloane Must Scale The Mountain

Alain Moussi, Iron Mike, and JCVD against the Highlander and his man-beast.

Kickboxer: Retaliation is a dumb movie. It also may be the best in the series. Faint praise? Perhaps. This is the seventh entry in a franchise that was revived after a twenty-one-year absence with Kickboxer: Vengeance after all. Can't claim to have seen what was apparently a soft reboot of the Jean-Claude Van Damme original with Canadian stuntman-martial artist Alain Moussi as Kurt Sloane. JCVD returned to the series as well, this time as Master Durand.

Retaliation doesn't try to play head games with the audience. It's fist-flying, roundhouse-kicking meathead action fueled by personal vendettas. If you bought a ticket for Oscar-quality performances, you better look elsewhere. Moussi is about as attractive as vinyl siding when it comes to screen presence. He's at his best when he closes his mouth and lets his fists and feet talk. Plus, when your call sheet also includes Mike Tyson and Icelandic strongman Hafthor Julis Bjornsson from Game of Thrones, who needs dialogue?  

Dimitri Logothetis, a journeyman writer/director/producer, ditches any pretense of narrative structure or logic. Beginning with a dream/fight sequence in and on a moving train, Kurt Sloane is soon kidnapped and transported back to a Thailand jail, operated by fight promoter Thomas Moore (Christopher Lambert). Clearly upset that Sloane killed his undefeated champion Tong Po, Moore gives him an ultimatum: defeat my newest man-beast, Mongkut (Bjornsson), and I'll let you live. To ensure that Sloane will fight, he kidnaps his girlfriend.

Moore gives Sloane plenty of time to prep with the help of two fellow prisoners: Master Durand (Van Damme), the porkpie hat-sporting, sunglasses-at-night wearing trainer, and boxer Briggs (Mike Tyson). Durand trained Sloane for his fight against Tong Po so they have a history. Sloane's introduction to Briggs is less commiserating. Fist meet gut, then head, then repeat. Yet Briggs' Zen-like calmness has him function as a musclebound Yoda as Sloane prepares to fight the roided-up Mongkut.    

Even so, Sloane is permitted to go out of the prison walls without fear of escape, again reinforcing no semblance of story logic. Perhaps Logothetis wrote himself into a corner and made an easy fix with Moore allowing Sloane a few tune-up fights outside of prison. An asinine thought, but the fight scenes look cool, particularly one with a version of the Sufaris' “Wipeout” as the soundtrack.

Actually, for how shameless and absurd Kickboxer: Retaliation is, its stale premise is part of the appeal for action junkies yearning for the simpler times of 1980s machismo, back when action was at a premium and heroes with complex emotions weren't necessary. Thankfully, Logothetis keeps his eye on the action and leaves the emotional baggage in solitary confinement.