The martial arts saga revolving around the Sloan clan takes a major turn for the worse in the most unbelievable installment of the film series. While Sasha Mitchell returns, the absence of Dennis Chan as well as a new actor playing veteran series bad guy Tong Po makes this installment bad on all nearly levels despite some decent action.
The opening of the film alone becomes baffled as we see former kickboxing champion David Sloane in prison. He writes a letter to his wife Vicky and tells her about Tong Po and his brothers, as seen in flashbacks from the first two Kickboxer films. Vicky finds herself kidnapped by Tong Po, who has gone from being a kickboxer in Thailand to a drug dealer based in Mexico. Meanwhile, it was revealed that Tong Po had set David up and as a result, sent him to prison.
After making a deal with the Drug Enforcement Agency to get Tong Po and rescue his wife, David disguises himself as Jack, an up-and-coming brawler to compete in Tong Po’s Tournament of Champions, where the winner will receive a $1 million prize. As David draws closer into Tong Po’s organization, he soon learns he is being helped by DEA agent Lando Smith, whose brother was a student and eventual instructor at David’s school. David and Lando take a young female fighter, Megan under their wing as she gets herself in the tournament as well. However, what will happen if Tong Po learns that his one-time nemesis has entered the tournament and wants to seek revenge?
The film is not exactly thrilling in terms of story and the characterization of our hero David Sloane. After faring well in Kickboxer 2: The Road Back and Kickboxer 3: The Art of War, it seemed as if the filmmakers tried to make Sasha Mitchell a really tough fighter, not to mention a hard-boiled prisoner for the first fifteen minutes. Mitchell just has a character that seems too likable and that was what helped make his character of David Sloane likable in the last two films. Here, Sloan just seems more tough and reckless. Perhaps it is the fact that they practically took out the third film as well as not even involve Xian Chow, Sloan’s mentor played by Hong Kong veteran Dennis Chan, in this film.
For fans of the previous Kickboxer films, Dennis Chan’s Xian had that “comic relief” with his sense of sarcasm that made him a worthy mentor, first of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Kurt then Sasha Mitchell’s David. In some ways, one can say he drove the films to make them watchable. With his absence from this film, the film becomes more serious in tone, but it doesn’t have the drive necessary to make it a worthy sequel.
However, the one element that will get fans more riled up than anything is the return of Tong Po. While it may seem like that could sound like a good thing, in this case, it is anything but a good thing. Michel Qissi made the character of Tong Po a relentless kickboxer whose sole purpose was to hurt his opponents in the ring. Replaced here by martial artist and another of Van Damme’s friends, Kamel Krifa, it is as if we are dealing with a “doppelganger” of Tong Po, a crime lord who thrives on seeing bloodlust while having a more distinct use of the English language. While Qissi’s Tong Po had one line in Kickboxer and Kickboxer 2, Krifa’s Tong Po has more lines and tries to play it off like Qissi’s Tong Po. However, with a really terrible mask (you can even see the mask folds in the back of Krifa’s head at times), and this whole “drug dealer” angle, this is perhaps the worst of any veteran villain seen in film.
The only things worth seeing in this film, if anything, are the tournament sequences. Coming off like a rip-off of any tournament film made, there are many unique styles used in the film. There are stylists in Karate, Muay Thai, Capoeira, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Jeet Kune Do used in the film. While it is funny at times to see Tong Po get all excited while seeing the mayhem, the tournament fights themselves are quite the positive factor, thanks to its choreography by the team of Webster Whinery and Shuki Ron (Mitchell’s Muay Thai teacher), in an otherwise abysmal sequel.
In some ways, it is a relief that Sasha Mitchell did depart after this installment to focus more on the television series Step by Step. The next time Mitchell would get to showcase his martial arts skills again was in the 2000 film Gangland.
Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor is in essence, a pretty bad sequel and major downfall of the series despite some decent martial arts action in the tournament fights and the final showdown between David and Tong Po that ends well, in the vein of another Pyun film, Heatseeker. Thankfully, the final installment lives up to its name with Redemption: Kickboxer 5 (1994), starring Mark Dacascos. However, this is truly one that may be worth a rental for the tournament fights, but not exactly one to keep unless you are truly a die-hard Kickboxer fan.
WFG RATING: C-
A Kings Road Entertainment production. Director: Albert Pyun. Producer: Jessica G. Budin. Writers: Albert Pyun and David Yorkin; based on characters created by David S. Goyer, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Mark DiSalle. Cinematography: George Mooradian. Editing: Kenneth Morrisey.
Cast: Sasha Mitchell, Kamel Krifa, Brad Thornton, Jill Pierce, Michele Krasnoo, Thom Mathews, Burton Richardson.