Just when people thought the Kickboxer saga was dead after the very terrible fourth installment, a surprise comes in the form of this fifth installment, which in some ways lives up to its name. However, Sasha Mitchell is out and in comes the future “Chairman of Iron Chef America”, Mark Dacascos, leading the way plus a familiar face to martial arts film fans returns as well.
For those who wonder what had become of the Sloan clan, the film opens in South Africa, where a ruthless ex-kickboxing champion, Negaal, has been trying to form his own organization with every champion in the world. When David Sloane refused to join the Negaal Kickboxing Federation, Negaal sends his henchmen to kill David. The opening credits sequence show a shadow-esque pictoral of David Sloane’s untimely death.
Back in Los Angeles, an old friend of David’s, Matt Reeves, has retired from competition and has become a teacher. That night, Matt heads to the local arena to see old friend Johnny Styles compete for the U.S. Heavyweight Kickboxing Championship. When Johnny wins the title, he meets Negaal’s men and asks him to join his federation. When Johnny considers having a meeting with the trio, Matt learns that the same trio were around at the time of David Sloan’s demise. Matt realizes that Johnny will be killed and that is what happens. However, Matt is able to dispatch one of Negaal’s goons before they escape.
Negaal, frustrated about Matt’s interference, sends Paul Croft, a prisoner, to kill Matt. However, Paul doesn’t kill Matt and only accepted to do the job to go back home to South Africa. Matt, determined to find Negaal and seek revenge for the deaths of David and Johnny, heads to South Africa as well. Soon enough, Matt finds himself an unlikely ally in Paul as they are constantly pursued by Negaal and his goons.
After appearing in the capoeira film Only the Strong in 1993, it was fitting that martial artist Mark Dacascos take the mantle to complete the Kickboxer saga after Sasha Mitchell’s departure from the series. Written by Rick Filon, instead of just having Dacascos play David Sloane, it was written off the bat that the Sloanes’ youngest brother is killed off. Dacascos gets to showcase his talented skills as Matt Reeves, who has something in common with David Sloane. Both are former kickboxers who retired to become teachers. While Sloane would get back in the ring, Reeves settled for a life as a teacher.
It is somewhat of a shame that Dacascos never really got to make the big A-list of films as a lead actor in an action film. Along with Only the Strong, this movie has some of Mark’s best skills in both acting and martial arts. Both would come into play as he would be known today as the Chairman on the Food Network’s popular show Iron Chef America.
However, the big surprise comes in the form of James Ryan. The South African born martial artist and actor is best known for two films made in his homeland, Kill or be Killed (1977, released in 1980) and Kill and Kill Again (1981). While Ryan, an expert in karate, made some more lower budgeted fare after his South African martial arts films, this is a welcome return for Ryan to the martial arts action film genre. Ryan makes for a very good villain in Negaal. In one scene, Ryan uses his karate skills against a refusing German champion, played by Gavin Hood, who would direct the Academy Award-winning film Tsotsi and the recent blockbuster X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Geoff Meed makes for a pretty good ally in the role of ex-prisoner Paul Croft. Meed, a practitioner of various martial arts, shows some pretty good martial arts moves. He may have somewhat of a villain look, but he truly shows his true colors as both an ally and friend to Matt. Meed and Dacascos recently reunited for the rip-off film I am Omega, which Meed wrote the screenplay and played a villain while Dacascos played the hero of the film.
The fight choreography was done by Mark Dacascos and martial artist Burton Richardson, who makes an appearance as one of Negaal’s financial planners. What can be seen as laughable is Dacascos strutting a pose and whipping his arm before beginning to unleash his skills at times. However, there is one sequence that made absolutely no sense. Near the finale, which takes place in Negaal’s home, we are treated to a kung fu fighting casino dealer, played by martial artist June Castro. She wasn’t part of the intricate plot, so the question that still comes to mind is what is she doing beating the heck out of Negaal’s goons? That is something that remains a mystery to this day.
Despite this miscalculated flaw, Redemption: Kickboxer 5, lives up to its name as it puts an end to the martial arts saga on a decent note and it proved to be a bankable lead role for martial artist extraordinaire Mark Dacascos. Definitely worth at least a rental.
WFG RATING: B
A Kings Road Entertainment production. Director: Kristine Peterson. Producer: Michael G. Murphey. Writers: Rick Filon; based on characters created by David S. Goyer. Cinematography: Paul Michelson. Editing: Kert VanderMeulen.
Cast: Mark Dacascos, James Ryan, Geoff Meed, Tony Caprari, Greg Latter, Duane Porter, George Moolman, Denney Pierce, Rulan Booth, Robert Whitehead, Gavin Hood.