Sasha Mitchell returns as the youngest of the fighting Sloan clan in this third installment, which in essence, takes away practically all the emotional drama that helped make the first two films successes and just ends up a routine action film that takes place on the streets of Rio de Janeiro.
On a trip to Rio to compete in an upcoming title fight, David Sloane is joined by his mentor Xian. Shortly after arriving, David gets his camera stolen by a homeless boy, Marco. Chasing after the kid, David confronts three men who think he is going to hurt the boy. After taking the thugs out, David confronts Marco and manages to take both his camera and Marco’s knife from him.
Marco returns to David for his knife and introduces himself and his sister Isabella. Soon enough, the two siblings befriend David and Xian and offer to show them around the city. Meanwhile David is preparing for the match by staging an exhibition of some of his kickboxing skills. When an up-and coming fighter takes on David’s opponent, Eric Martine, Martine unleashes hard against the newcomer and David is forced to break it up before things get worse.
David soon meets Frank Lane, Martine’s manager who offers David and the group to a party. However, his true intentions are for Isabella as Frank is also the man behind a local teen prostitution ring. When Isabella is kidnapped shortly after the party, David and Xian, along with Marco, begin an exhausting search to find Isabella. Eventually, David himself is forced to undergo very unorthodox and very exhaustive training by Frank before his fight against Martine, as if Frank wants David to get too tired during the fight. Will David, Xian, and Marco be able to stop Frank and rescue Isabella?
This third installment becomes the signal that the series, which started with the original Jean-Claude Van Damme film and then followed by Sasha Mitchell’s breakout role, begins to undergo the downward spiral effect. While Sasha Mitchell still happened to be a bankable lead, what helped him in Kickboxer 2: The Road Back was a sense of emotion as he had a double shot of tragedy befallen upon him.
However, here, he just attempts to play the straight B-movie action lead, using both his martial arts skills and some gunplay as well. From how it looks at times, it is as if Mitchell had learned how to use a gun on set and it doesn’t look all too great. On the other hand, he has not lost his touch of martial arts and shows off some decent looking kicking and Muay Thai strikes.
Dennis Chan returns in the role of Xian, David’s mentor and once the mentor of middle brother Kurt Sloan, Van Damme’s character from the original film. Xian is probably one of the most likable mentor characters since say, Mr. Miyagi. He still brings some of that sarcastic comic relief at times to the film, but at the same time, he brings a sense of heart and consciousness to the people around him. While being a mentor to David, he has a heart for both the homeless Marco and Isabella and even with infiltrating a local nightclub, brings a sense of that consciousness to a local hooker when he inquires about Isabella. This is why, perhaps, the most favorable character of this installment is Xian.
While the first two films had a very good villain in the Thai boxer Tong Po, the real villain of this film is more of a mastermind. Richard Comar plays it off not too bad as Frank, the ring leader of a local prostitution ring who is also the manager of David’s opponent. Kickboxing champion Ian Jacklin, for some reason, has that villain quality and plays it well here as Eric Martine. Jacklin only appears for two fight scenes, but he is quite an impressive martial artist, holding his own against Mitchell. Jacklin would go on to bring this “arrogant fighter” role shortly after as the villain in Ring of Fire II: Blood and Steel (1993), opposite Don “The Dragon” Wilson. Thankfully, the fight sequences here, choreographed by Webster Whinery, do not suffer from too many close up shots and has a decent use of the double take method, where the same move is shown from different angles consecutively. There is even a nice scene involving the Brazilian martial art of capoeira, one year before Mark Dacascos starred in the movie to feature the art, Only the Strong.
Nevertheless, while this shows the beginning of the downfall of the series, Kickboxer 3: The Art of War can be said to be much better than the next installment, Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor, which sees the return of villain character Tong Po.
WFG RATING: B+
A Kings Road Entertainment production. Director: Rick King. Producer: Michael D. Pariser. Writer: Dennis A. Pratt; based on characters created by Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mark DiSalle, and David S. Goyer. Cinematography: Edgar Moura. Editing: Daniel Loewenthal.
Cast: Sasha Mitchell, Dennis Chan, Richard Comar, Noah Verduzco, Althea Miranda, Ian Jacklin, Milton Goncalves, Ricardo Petraglia, Gracindo Junior.