Plot Synopsis: Kurt Sloan is the corner-man for his brother, U.S. kickboxing champion Eric Sloan. When Kurt witnesses his brother become maliciously paralyzed in the ring by Thailand champion Tong Po, Kurt vows revenge. With the help of Zion, a kickboxing trainer who lives in a remote area of Thailand, Kurt trains for the fight of his life
Kickboxer, starring the muscles from Brussels Jean Claude Van Damme is a very different film. Let me re phrase, it was a little different for its time, as it has been ripped off numerous times. It's like, Rocky 4 meets, Shootfighter, with a touch of Game of Death.
Van Damme stars as Kurt Sloan, the brother of ISKA World Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion David Sloan. See in the opening scene David disposes of another challenger to his title, and in his post fight interview is asked what he thinks of the fighters from Thailand. He says bring them on, then looks at Van Damme and tells him to get him a flight to Bangkok to fight there best. The next time we see them they are over in Bangkok geting ready to fight. Turns out Van Damme is one crappy manager. He books a third to last main event with the champ, with no reporters, no PPV, no hype, no nothing. Just some crap fight, in a crap arena, in the middle of the day.
Turns out Kurt has to fight Tong Po. I have to say, Tong Po is bad ass! Well in all of Kurt's training, I guess he forgot to check out the Thai rulebook so he would know Elbows, knees, and headbutts are legal. He didn't read that book, probably cause Van Damme is a bad manager. Eric gets destroyed, and when Van Damme goes to throw in the towel Tong Po kicks it back, winds up and prepairs to drop the big elbow on Kurt, thus proving Van Damme is also the worlds worst corner man. He was like less then a foot away, and had plenty of time to jump in, or even just grab Tong Po by the hair to stop him, but he just yells "Noooooo!!!" in typical movie fashion. So with Eric left laying, the lovely promoters have him stretchered out and left laying in the street. Thankfully an American with a heart of gold shows up and takes them to the hospital, where we learn Eric is paralyzed, leading Van Damme to swear revenge.
Van Damme starts wandering the streets trying to find a school to teach him how to Tai Box, but no one will. But wait the American with the heart of gold shows up and takes Van Damme to meet Xian who agrees to train Van Damme. He trains him by tying meat to his leg and having a dog chase him. He drops coconuts on him, makes him do forms under water, has him kick down a bamboo tree, and finally spars with him using flaming hot torches. And for his final test, he gets him drunk and has him pick a fight with 3 guys in a bar. Van Damme wins, so they set up a warm up fight with some other Tai Fighter, who Van Damme disposes of.
So naturally the head promoter, who is dirty, and a criminal. Sets up the fight. Why is the bad promoter always a mob guy? Well to make sure Van Damme loses, they grab Xian daughter, who Van Damme is now in love with and take her to Tong Po so he can rape her. Told you he was a bad dude! The evil promoter then goes to the local mob and bets 100 grand on Tong Po in the fight, and to make things more interesting they have a Taipei Death Fight, where there hands will be wrapped in cloth, dipped in glue, then dipped in broken glass. But hold on, they need one more piece of insurance. The evil guys capture Eric (See they didn't forget about him) and tell Van Damme if he doesn't throw the fight they will kill him.
Now as Van Damme is fighting Tong Po, Xian and the American with the heart of gold, his name is Winston by the way, I just like calling him The American With The Heart of Gold. go and save Van Damme's brother. Just as it looks like Van Damme is about to lose, Eric starts yelling for him to win. Van Damme has Xians daughter cut off his glass ropes on his hands, not sure why, I would have sliced the guy who crippled my brother up. He then Hulks up and throws his patented spin kicks and beat Tong Po, then he and his brother hug.
OK, a few things I have always wondered. After Eric is crippled why doesn't Van Damme go to the American Embassy and have Tong Po arrested? Also why did the local mob hang out with Tong Po? He didn't run protection for them, or traffic drugs. They must just like him because he's a fighter. Wouldn't raping the girl Van Damme loves only make him madder, and more motivated for a fight? And finally wouldn't you fire Van Damme as your manager/corner man the second you woke up in the hospital? If I was Eric, I would have bet on Tong Po, and stayed kidnapped so Van Damme would be crippled to.
With all that said I did love this film. I saw it when I was 15, and liked it so much I began studying Thai Boxing when I turned 16. I was pretty good, but Tong Po would beat my ass blindfolded with one arm tied behind his back. He really is one bad dude! I highly recommend this film. It's held up very well over the years.
Overall 3 out of 5 Stars!