Kickboxer - Cinematic Cheese Series: #1
“Everybody follows the leader, everybody follows the man.” That Stan Bush, he was a profound creature, what exactly was his intimation here? Is Jean Claude Van Damme the leader? Is he the man in this equation? Could it be possible that he be not one but both entities? I’m not sure, I doubt even Kant has a secure handle on these kind of hermeneutical quandaries, but I do know one thing, and that is when Van Damme is out to kick your rectum across the cosmic swirl you best run away, then again he’s a quick one, so he’d surely catch you, so unless you have some cyanide on your person, I’d just take the beating and be glad it’s Van Damme and not Pauly Shore.
Kickboxer concerns an ace kickboxing champion who gets a thrashing to rival the string-shred of Testament by a large Thai named Kung Po. It is then up to the champ’s little brother, one Van Damme, to avenge his now paralysed big bro.
And so, on we go. Opening scene conjures pictorial resurrection of some sort of ethnographic documentary, set to the backdrop of 80’s big beats, our faithful American Belgians arrive in Thailand on a hover-boat thing, kinda like all that malarkey at the end of Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach, except that that particular comedic affair had fewer naked local youths taking a dip in the murky waters. Probably influence from Mondo Cane there. Will we see Van Damme and his moustached big bro entering into the array of local cultures to make notes and learn some mind-expanding hand gestures? Or maybe dissect a few monkeys? Perhaps.
I returned from a hasty bathroom break to find the projections of Cartesian moustache on my picture screen reeking of Magnum and his 3.14 equations. It was a good one, but was nevertheless overshadowed somewhat by the prospect of some up-and-coming Van Damage.
It is all rather powerful when Van Damme’s brother gets that horrific beating, we are witnessing the very downfall of a once strong and united family there. I think Bergman tried to play with similar familial relationships, like in Autumn Sonata, but it looks weak in comparison to this. Did Bergman ever have a giant Thai elbowing someone in the spine? I don’t think he did. I’d wager Wild Strawberries would have been better if it had more paralysing elbow wallops, or if old Von Sydow had whacked a few teeth out of Ullmann’s jaw in Hour Of The Wolf. The major failing with Bergman’s career is that he didn’t even have action scenes choreographed AND directed by Van Damme, too busy thinking about art and identity, the fool.
Van Damme’s iron tears of sorrow reminds me of one night down old Portstewart way where I happened upon a man whose rectangular countenance masked a deep pearlescent glow, one of Van Dammic proportions. He probed me with the question of where he could find a nice carton of pizza at this late hour, I of course told him that Tornado Pizza was shut and he best get out of my seeing spot before I get out my Ian Curtis Pez. He started to weep the soiled sheets of a young enfant long forgotten by TV reruns and Pog fads. The outpour was one that had Noah browning his very cottons.
Following our moustached mullet-head’s hospitalisation it’s all up to Van Damme, who goes off to train with a Mr Miyaki wannabe. You could tell his aspirations from the outset, probably decided to audition just after a viewing of The Karate Kid. I imagine the very thought running around his cranium was, “Well that guy did it, obviously means there’s a market there.” He was wrong, but lets not let that get in the way of the true hypothethical we all really want to get out there, that of Van Damme in The Karate Kid. Or even just The Next Karate Kid. Would have been much better than that Swanky girl.
So Van Damme trains it up with his mentor around some nice Buddhist backgrounds. Lovely. Reminds one of that other great training scene, where a man comes back from the brink of eternal darkness to regain strength in order to enact revenge. I’m talking about Hard To Kill of course. Except Kickboxer has less punching of wooden stands, and beards.
As a test Van Damme is liquored up and set to duel against a bunch of rogues. Post-liquor and pre-duel we get what will probably be remembered as one of the defining moments of late twentieth century cinema, the unleashing of the Van Dance! He boogies like a pro to the mighty sounds of Stan Bush. “Feelin’ so good today, ain’t no body standing in my way.” Watch him wiggle those hips and release the rhythm. The presence of those frolicking movements makes one want to arise out of their chair to join in a gesturing symbiosis with the mystical qualities of the Van Dance. Unfortunately it lasts all too short a time, for he must kick and punch those who dare interrupt the majesty, the very ethereal shake and romp of his extremities.
Some training involves Van Damme hanging about under water, pretending not to breath, but I’m pretty a sure he has gills about there somewhere. Maybe beneath that smock.
The final fight has Van Damme rising to the challenge of Kung Po, the man who handicapped his brethren. Not just a regular kickboxing showdown I might add, and I will; no, this is old rules right here. Something along the line of fists covered in shards of broken glass. Makes for a good drinking game also so I hear. I won’t spoil the outcome, but Van Damme wins.
So, what did I learn from this talky picture? One, don’t call your dog KiKi, because it’s liable to metamorphose into a mugwump and eat all your Toblerones. Two, a double punch to the gut is acceptable in extreme cases of shot repetition avoidance. Three, if you want to improve the suppleness of your groin muscles, use a couple of trees. And finally, four, if someone is doing the Van Dance, but either they are doing it with too much cajoling, or not the right 80s beats, or not in a dirty vest, or not alongside some Asian ladies, then the best course of action is a swift palm to the nose and knee to the jowls.