REVIEW: Kickboxer 2 – The Road Back (1990)

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1990, Kings Road Entertainment

Director:
Albert Pyun
Producer:
Tom Karnowski
Writer:
Jean-Claude Van Damme (original characters)
Mark DiSalle (original characters)
David S. Goyer (screenplay)
Cinematography:
George Mooradian
Editing:
Alan Baumgarten

Cast:
Sasha Mitchell (David Sloane)
Peter Boyle (Justin Maciah)
Dennis Chan (Xian Chow)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Sangha)
John Diehl (Jack)
Vince Murdocco (Brian Wagner)
Matthias Hues (Neil Vargas)
Heather McComb (Jo)
Michel Qissi (Tong Po)
Emmanuel Kervyn (Kurt Sloane)
Casey Stengel (Eric Sloane)

With the success of Kickboxer in 1989, production company Kings Road Entertainment decided to take advantage and using a screenplay from David S. Goyer (Batman Begins), the second chapter of the saga introduces a third brother of the Sloane family.

Actor and model Sasha Mitchell takes over the series as David Sloane, the youngest of the family. He has taken over the family gym in Los Angeles, California. He gives free kickboxing lessons to kids and even has a protégé under his wing, Brian. However, his gym is begin to suffer from financial doom and the only possible option is to fight in the ring, a thing David has vowed never to do since his brothers, Kurt and Eric, were killed in Thailand.

However, a new kickboxing corporation known as the United Kickboxing Federation has formed and its founder, Justin Maciah, fails to convince David to compete. However, in an effort to temporarily save the gym, David decides to fight one time against champion Neil Vargas. When David wins, Maciah’s business partner Sangha, feels David needs to fight again. It’s discovered that Sangha has become the new manager of the lethal Thai boxer Tong Po, who after losing to Kurt in the original film, single handedly killed Kurt and Eric in an ambush.

When the gym is destroyed in an ambush, resulting in the death of a young boy staying at the gym, David learns that Kurt’s mentor Xian (Dennis Chan) has come to Los Angeles to help David. Despite David’s refusal, Xian ultimately convinces David to as they say “step up and be a man”. Meanwhile, Brian, who had severed ties with David, is unknowingly being used as a pawn to trap David. When David finally gets to see Brian fight, Brian’s opponent turns out to be none other than Tong Po. David soon learns he has no other choice but to face the man who murdered his brothers and like Kurt, they must fight the “ancient way”.

B-movie director Albert Pyun, known at the time for directing the Jean-Claude Van Damme sci-fi film CYBORG, takes over the reigns as director. This is perhaps one of Pyun’s best efforts thanks to Goyer’s script, which combines a theme such as the evil of corporations mixed in with a man’s road to both redemption and revenge. While most B-movies have a typical plot, one can’t help but look deeper here, especially since this is a sequel to one of the best films action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme made. The biggest flaw of the film’s screenplay is that the last name has changed its spelling of the family name from “Sloane” to “Sloan” and yet for some strange reason, some do not really think about it that often.

This film would be the launching pad of Sasha Mitchell as a bankable B-movie action star. The model turned actor studied taekwondo prior to the film and appeared as an Italian-American boxer in the 1988 independent film Spike of Bensonhurst. However, he was better known prior to Kickboxer 2 as James Beaumont, the illegitimate son of Larry Hagman’s J.R. Ewing on the popular TV series DALLAS. Mitchell seemed to play it well here as what you would expect from the youngest brother of a family. Daivd is seen to have personal conflicts while attempting to stay loyal to his feelings. However, in the events that took place, he has to be forced to give himself a sense of closure by making himself strong again after an accident as well as in most of these brand of action films, seek revenge for the death of his brothers. He proved to be popular amongst martial arts film fans with this film that upon being cast as Cody Lambert on the popular sitcom Step by Step, there were a few episodes where Mitchell got to showcase his martial arts skills.

The late Peter Boyle is perhaps best known as the very hysterical patriarch Frank Barone on the popular sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. Here, he plays it more serious as what can be described as the “bald-headed Don King of kickboxing”, Justin Maciah. Not given much ample screen time, he is basically there to promote the sport but there is truly a sense of something obviously not good behind that smile of his, while the character of Sangha, played by veteran actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, truly has an agenda and goes to great lengths to make sure he gets what he wants.

Returning from the original Kickboxer are Dennis Chan as Xian and Michel Qissi as Tong Po. Chan brings his style of good natured humor once again to the role yet brings a sense of sympathy as he and David are both connected as the new teacher-student relationship, but the tragedy that befell upon David falls upon Xian as well. As for Qissi, he doesn’t get much screen time in the film as he did in the original. However, as with the original, once the Thai boxer enters for action, it makes a hard impact in the film. We are also treated to a flashback taking place in between the end of the original film and this film, in which you see a rain-soaked Tong Po in a shirt and pants slowly moving forward before seeing a close-up of the dead Kurt Sloane, played by Emmanuelle Kervyn.

The fight choreography in Kickboxer 2 was handled by legendary kickboxing champion Benny “The Jet” Urquidez and boxer/kickboxer Jimmy Nickerson. While it doesn’t highly emphasize on the kicking of a Van Damme, the in-ring fight scenes start out not too bad. A decent combination of slow motion and double takes really made the fight between Sasha Mitchell and Matthias Hues practically the best fight of the film. The climatic brawl between Mitchell and Qissi suffers from a familiar enemy of martial arts film enthusiasts: the use of the close up. At times, the impact of striking legs and knees in Muay Thai can be used when close ups are done a certain way. However, it makes more of a liability than an asset. While the “ancient way” is used again, the sadistic nature of the original is toned down for a more brutal and at times, realistic effect, which in some ways, make for a decent effective fight.

While Mitchell and Chan would return for Kickboxer 3: The Art of War in 1992, we would see Tong Po again in the very abysmal Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor with a replacement who looks utterly ridiculous. Nevertheless, Kickboxer 2: The Road Back does have its moments and while it will not be hailed as a classic, it did help the career of a budding actor named Sasha Mitchell.

WFG RATING: B

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