Thursday, 14 February 2008

Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor


Directed by: Albert Pyun
Screenplay by: Albert Pyun & David Yorkin
Starring: Sasha Mitchell, Thom Matthews & Kamel Krifa.

Kickboxer 4 gained a fraction of notoriety when it was initially denied a UK release in 1996. Albert Pyun’s third sequel (after helming Part 2, while Part 3 was directed by Rick King) to the Van Damme classic was banned for unrelentingly violence. There is no denying that the film is extremely brutal, as a succession of fights and gruesome deaths will attest, but in this day and age it will probably be seen as a trashy, mildly entertaining action film rather than an outright video nasty. In fact, Kickboxer 4 is a fairly enjoyable slice of martial arts nonsense.

Sasha Mitchell (star of Kickboxer 2 & 3, as well as Class Of 1999 2) returns as David Sloan, the brother of Van Damme’s character from Kickboxer. Framed by the seemingly indestructible Tong Po (returning as chief bad guy after being absent in Kickboxer 3) and stuck in prison, Sloan discovers Tong Po has kidnapped his wife and is holding her hostage in a drug fortress down Mexico way. A sliver of salvation arrives when the FBI enlists Sloan to enter Tong Po’s illegal fight competition. Sloan is supposed to take out Tong Po but instead sees it as a way to rescue and be reunited with his wife. So the stage is set, once again, for another bout of kickboxing mayhem.

Even the most casual of cinefiles will notice the major flaw in the script: won’t Tong Po recognise Sloan when he turns up for the competition considering he has already faced off with Sloan in the past and, oh yeah, kidnapped his wife? Well, yeah, he would. But the film gets around this rather glaring point by keeping Sloan and Tong Po apart for most of the time; by Sloan turning his face away from Tong Po when fighting; and by giving Sloan a different hair cut (it’s shorter now than it was in Kickboxer 2. Now that’s a disguise!). It’s not the only problem as there are boom mikes in shot, shadows of the cameraman on the actors and a very obvious glare on the camera lens in certain scenes. This is surprising as Pyun’s long serving cinematographer, George Mooradian, is usually a competent and creative cameraman. Yet the major flaw is Tong Po. A menacing and unstoppable force in Kickboxer 1 and 2, he is now a somewhat camp and rather useless villain. The terrible make-up and questionable acting by Kamel Krifa do not help either.

However, despite the flaws this is still an entertaining B-movie. Sloan is now a damaged soul compared to his naive fighter in Kickboxer 2, making his character a more sombre and tougher protagonist. Pyun manages to keep things pretty coherent for a change and delivers some brutal fight sequences. The tournament scenes feature a variety of fighting styles and while occasionally repetitive, they are effectively barbaric. A bar room brawl is the standout as Sloan almost destroys the building taking on a bevy of drunken bikers. The film’s tone is a lot sleazier compared to others in the series due to the dubious nature of several characters and a couple of sweaty, explicit sex scenes.

Not a classic of its genre, Kickboxer 4 is still an entertaining slice of martial arts exploitation that non-judgmental fights fans should enjoy. It was followed, nonsurprsingly, by Kickboxer 5: The Redemption starring Mark ‘Drive’ Dacoscas.

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