REVIEW: The King of the Kickboxers (1990)

kingofthekickboxers

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1990, Seasonal Film Corporation

Director:
Lucas Lowe
Producers:
Ng See-Yuen
Keith W. Strandberg
Boonlert Setthamongkol
Writer:
Keith W. Strandberg
Cinematography:
Viking Chiu
Editing:
Allan Poon
Marco Mak

Cast:
Loren Avedon (Jake Donahue)
Richard Jaeckel (Captain O’Day)
Don Stroud (Anderson)
Billy Blanks (Khan)
Keith Cooke (Prang)
Sherrie Rose (Molly)
William Long Jr. (The Boss)
John Kay (The Director)
David Michael Sterling (McKinney)
Jerry Trimble (Drug Dealer)
Bruce Fontaine (Dan Handel)
Michael DePasquale Jr. (Sean Donahue)

After two sequels to No Retreat, No Surrender, Loren Avedon once again struts his stuff in his breakout film featuring some of his best action scenes to date.

In 1981, Sean Donahue was in Thailand winning the championship belt. Sean brings his little brother Jake and when they are en route to the hotel, they are stopped by a group led by Khan, who told Sean he was supposed to have thrown the fight. However, when Sean takes on Khan’s thugs, he comes face to face with Khan after disposing of the goons. Khan kills Sean using a deadly three kick combination and knocks Jake out.

Ten years later, Jake has become a NYC cop who is known for his loose cannon ways. After a mission involving the bust of a drug dealer, Jake learns Interpol wants to use Jake to help them bust a snuff film ring. At first Jake refuses, but learns the star of the illegal films is Khan. Determined, Jake returns to Thailand and attempts to lure the filmmakers but to no avail. Jake soon learns that his skills are not good enough to face Khan but someone is capable to help him. Jake meets Prang, the only one who ever came close to beating Khan but the loss has turned him into a hermit. Despite objections at first, Prang takes Jake in and helps him master the skills necessary to combat Khan. Jake also falls for Molly, an aspiring model who had nearly become Khan’s latest conquest. With a fight set up, Jake is ready to convince the filmmakers he is ready and as a result, stop the snuff film ring and avenge his brother.

Since making his lead debut in No Retreat, No Surrender II: Raging Thunder, Loren Avedon had become the golden boy of Hong Kong’s Seasonal Films when it came to their U.S. crossovers. After No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers, Avedon got to finally break out of the “sequelitis” and have his own starring vehicle that showcases his talents. Despite some over-the-top moments in terms of acting, which are not completely his fault, Avedon’s martial arts skills and at times comic wit are the highlight of this film as a man who finds himself having to relive the past to face the man who killed his brother years ago, the same man responsible for starring in a series of snuff films, prompting him to team up with Interpol to stop the ring.

Some may see this film as a ripoff of Kickboxer and in some ways that is understandable. However, this is definitely a film of its own accord and has a great mentor-student relationship between Avedon’s Jake as the student and wushu champion turned action actor Keith Cooke as Prang, the only one who nearly defeated our villain Khan, played by the very talented martial artist and founder of “Tae-Bo” himself, Billy Blanks. According to scripter and producer Keith W. Strandberg, Khan is half-American and half-Thai whose hatred for Americans comes from the abandonment of his father. While that is not seen on screen, it justifies Blanks’ casting in the role and Blanks also lets his phenomenal kicking skills do the talking for him. The character would also inspire the character of “Dee Jay” in the Street Fighter video game universe.

Cooke himself shows off some phenomenal kicking in a very pivotal scene when Avedon attempts to rescue him from some local goons. All before the training begins, which is half serious and half-comic relief with some great verbal attacking and counterattacking from Avedon and Cooke. As for Sherrie Rose’s Molly, she starts off as a damsel in distress, then has more confidence once she has her relationship with Jake, then back to damsel in distress when she is kidnapped for the final showdown.

The action scenes are the crux of the film and they are brilliantly choreographed by Tony Leung Siu-Hung with Prang’s kicking fight scene choreographed by Corey Yuen. Leung makes good use of Avedon’s skills and Blanks’ skills. Leung also makes good use of another kickboxer turned actor, Jerry Trimble, whose brief role as a drug dealer allows him to fight against Avedon, with the help of Vincent Lyn and Steve Tartalia as his henchmen. Once Jake masters his skills, he really lets loose some nice kicking skills and the finale between Avedon and Blanks add a touch of weaponry but ultimately set in a bamboo-made dome with some booby traps at the bottom, this is truly one fight that stands the tests of time as one of the best fight scenes in American martial arts movies today.

The King of the Kickboxers is truly Loren Avedon’s best film of his career. The film gets to show both a serious and at times comedic (both intentionally and unintentionally) side of his acting plus he has the martial arts skills to boot, with excellent support from Billy Blanks as the villain and Keith Cooke as his sometimes wise-talking but agile fighting mentor. A must see for any martial arts film fan.

WFG RATING: A

DVD

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