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Film review: Kickboxer

Published: Thursday, Oct. 5 1989 12:00 a.m. MDT

"Kickboxer" is yet another shot at big-screen acceptance by musclebound Jean Claude Van Damme, who is little more than a low-budget Arnold Schwarzenegger Wannabee.

And believe it or not, the film is a ripoff of — are you ready? — "The Karate Kid"! With some "Rocky" thrown in. And even some "Rambo" at the end.

Van Damme stars as the kid brother of the American kickboxing champion of the world. Having conquered this country, they head for Bangkok to take on Thailand's champion.

But during the bout big brother gets clobbered by an illegal after-the-final-bell "thwack" that breaks his spine and puts him in a wheelchair. So Van Damme decides it's time to take up the sport himself so he can teach the Bangkok champ a lesson.

Van Damme eventually links up with an old man who is a master teacher, bringing with him more than the brutal art of kickboxing. He also shows Van Damme the way to spiritual peace and offers some Zen philosophy.

Sound familiar? No bonsai trees, however.

Finally, Van Damme lines up his match with the champ, but to ensure Van Damme will lose, the bad guys rape his girlfriend, kidnap his wheelchair-bound brother and stick a knife in his dog. These are not nice guys.

And if you can't figure out how the climactic kickboxing bout will turn out, you've been in a cave for the past decade-and-a-half.

Van Damme tries once again to dispel the notion that he can't act and is nothing more than muscles on muscles, but his efforts are in vain. One thick-tongued musclebound hero at a time is probably all the moviegoing public can take.

So what's my favorite part? The soundtrack, which offers the most outrageously loud slaps and thuds each time a foot or fish touches flesh. You can almost see the "Batman" (TV-style) "pows" and "whacks" written on the screen.

"Kickboxer" is rated R for considerable violence and profanity and some nudity in a strip bar.

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