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dir John Stockwell
scr Dimitri Logothetis, Jim McGrath
prd Dimitri Logothetis, Rob Hickman, Allen Knudson, Samuel Cory Timpson, Nicholas Celozzi, Ted Field
with Alain Moussi, Jean-Claude Van Damme, David Bautista, Gina Carano, Sara Malakul Lane, Georges St-Pierre, Cain Velasquez, Fabricio Werdum, Steven Swadling, Matthew Ziff, TJ Storm, Darren Shahlavi
release US 2.Sep.16, UK 30.Sep.16
Wax on, wax off: Moussi and Van Damme
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
So absurdly over-serious that it's funny, this remake of the 1989 Muay Thai action thriller is almost more of a pastiche than a proper martial arts adventure. With a plot that's predictable and pointless, the movie is essentially little more than a series of alternating fight scenes and training montages populated by flexing, shirtless musclemen. At least they know how to kick with style.
Kurt (Moussi) travels Thai to train with the legendary Tong Po (Bautista), entering the master's inner sanctum. But he has a secret agenda, seeking revenge for the death of his big brother Eric (Shahlavi) during a competitive fight with Tong Po, after which the police did nothing. With the help of a super hot cop Liu (Lane), Kurt turns to Eric's trainer Durand (Van Damme) to improve his skills so he's ready to challenge Tong Po. But the police are on his trail, and illegal fight promoter Marcia (Carano) is up to no good.
The film is nicely shot, but written and edited like a cheesy B-movie. Most scenes are awash in a corny mythical glow, livened up only by the varied settings. About every five minutes, a massive fight breaks out for little reason, each with its own gimmicky touch (a sudden rainstorm! a pair of elephants!). Choreography feels strangely half-hearted, only rarely achieving any sense of brutality. And the actors aren't good enough to rise above the lazy and cliched script.
Clearly, this was intended to launch a franchise for Moussi. He has a fit, youthful charm, but is far more skilled as a fighter than an actor. Much like Van Damme, who played the role in the original movie and is more relaxed and funny here. Their scenes together only work when they're knocking each others' blocks off. A silly romance with Lane feels cursory, crosscutting their tepid lovemaking with much sexier training montages. Bautista's just a brute, Carano a sneak, and so on.
Without even a hint of resonance in the story, this is the kind of movie you can only watch with detachment, knowing where it's headed and not caring about anything or anyone. But if watching the sweaty, barechested hunks pummel each other is your cup of tea, you won't be bored for a second. And you'll be happy to know that a sequel is already in the works.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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