Kickboxer ★★★½

In many ways this is a better, more hardcore version of Bloodsport, but it isn’t nearly as joyous. Has a heavier focus on plot and characterization, and it’s really all about the buildup and training for the (unforgettable)  revenge match against Tong Po, one of my personal favorite movie monsters.

The relatively slow pace helps crank up the emotional stakes and investment in the characters. JCVD also seems especially committed to this role, and he combines that bizarre man-baby innocence with real madness and a hidden desire to prove himself better than his wheelchair- & mullet-bound heavyweight champ brother. 

Ultimately not as fun as Bloodsport, but probably a more “well-made” traditional movie. Has three must-watch sequences for any 80s action fan: the devastating first 15 minutes, the famous barroom dance scene, and the “ancient rules” final fight.

Kinda funny how they filmed in Thailand, but decided to cast JCVD’s Belgian best friend as Tong Po. On the other hand, the unnaturalness of the makeup is part of what makes him so scary.

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