Film / Kickboxer

Kickboxer is a 1989 martial arts film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.

It focuses on two brothers, Kurt and Eric Sloane, who go to Bangkok to challenge Tong Po, Thailand's undefeated kickboxing champion. After a brutal first round, Kurt realizes that the two are out of their league against this guy, and tries to convince his brother to stop the fight, but Eric is unwilling to give up and goes for a second round against him. Tong Po proceeds to hand Eric the worst beating of his life, culminating in paralyzing him from the waist down despite Kurt throwing in the towel in a bid to stop the fight. Kurt is mad as hell and vows to avenge his brother by defeating Tong Po.

Winston, Kurt's friend, is at first reluctant to help Kurt in his quest for revenge, but eventually tells him about a guy by the name of Xian Chow, a locally famous muay thai trainer, who might be able to train him in the martial art. Xian Chow puts Kurt through a hellish training sequence that hones his skills as a kickboxer. Along the way, he also meets Mylee, Xian's pretty niece who soon becomes his Love Interest, and makes an enemy of Freddy Li, a local Thai mobster whose men are continually threatening and stealing money from her. After Kurt proceeds to take down Freddy's men in a barroom brawl, Xian is able to arrange a match with Tong Po on Kurt's behalf, a match where both fighters will fight in the "ancient way" — both fighters wrap their hands in hemp rope, which is then coated in resin and dipped in broken glass to make them deadly weapons.

In the days leading up to the big fight, things go straight to hell for the people that Kurt loves. Mylee is viciously brutalized by Tong Po, and Eric is kidnapped by Freddy Li with the intent of blackmailing Kurt into Throwing the Fight. To save his brother's life, Kurt is instructed to go the distance with Po before losing the match. Kurt endures a torturous beating at Tong Po's hands, but Xian and Winston are able to find and rescue Eric before the fight can conclude. With Eric out of danger, Kurt is free to exact vengeance for Eric and Mylee and take down Tong Po once and for all.

Six sequels were released since the first film:
  • Kickboxer 2: The Road Back (1991)
  • Kickboxer 3: The Art of War (1992)
  • Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor (1994)
  • Kickboxer 5: The Redemption (1995)
  • Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016)
  • Kickboxer: Retaliation (2018)

This film provides examples of:

  • Jerkass: Eric is one of these before he winds up paralyzed. Still, his jerkassness doesn't come close to Tong Po.
  • Kiai: Obviously.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Tong Po commits two of these during the movie: paralyzing Eric from the waist down despite Kurt throwing in the towel, and beating and raping Mylee.
    • Later, some minions attack Eric, throw him from his wheelchair, and then they literally stab Xian's dog.
  • Mighty Whitey: Jean-Claude Van Damme goes to Thailand and winds up learning muay thai well enough to beat the national champion. Played with, though: in stark contrast to Eric, Kurt shows nothing but respect for muay thay, and he has to show himself worthy of learning it entirely at the whim of his (Thai) master.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: Winston smokes, drinks, chases skirts and doesn't agree to help Kurt find Xian until he spends a night partying with him, but his second meeting with Kurt is helping Kurt take his brother to a hospital after the latter is unceremoniously dumped in the street after being seriously injured.
  • Old Master: Xian
  • Post-Rape Taunt: Tong Po taunts Kurt during the big fight about how Mylee was a "good fuck."
  • Rape as Drama: Mylee is beaten and raped by Tong Po as the big fight approaches.
  • Rated M for Manly: It's a revenge movie called Kickboxer starring the "Muscles from Brussels" and featuring fists dipped in broken glass.
  • Same Language Dub: Dennis Alexio (Eric) was dubbed. His natural voice can be heard in a deleted scene.
  • Throwing the Fight: Freddy tries to make Kurt do this by kidnapping his brother. Only after Eric is rescued can Kurt finally take down Tong Po.
  • Took a Level in Badass: It's required to beat Tong Po.
  • Training from Hell: What Kurt goes through when preparing to fight Tong Po
  • Training Montage: It goes without saying.
  • White Male Lead: In a majority Asian cast, JCVD is the main guy.
  • Worthy Opponent: Averted at first but played straight to some extent. Tong Po shows no respect to Eric Sloane during their match and tears apart his belt after crippling him. However in the fight against Kurt later on he does show a sliver of respect towards Kurt's skill when Kurt does land a few blows on him despite taking a horrendous beatdown.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Tong Po would hit anyone.
  • Your Mom: During his training, Xian at one point goads an entire bar into attacking Kurt. After he kicks all their asses, Kurt asks what he told them.
    Xian: I tell them you say they no good fighters, and that their mother have sex with mules!
    • Which was famously censored in the Spanish dub, changing the last part of the sentence to "and that any mule could kick better than them" in order to remove the sexual reference.