by guest contributor Saj Meister John
Beware, this review contains spoilers!
King Of The Kickboxers is a 1990’s martial arts cult classic! Many fans of the genre will know it –that it was released only a year after the more popular Van Damme starred, Kickboxer (1989). Fans of Van Damme will say that this is a knock-off of Kickboxer. Even though there are some similarities, where Kickboxer has style King Of The Kickboxers has substance. The action is actually really good and it has almost all the ingredients to make it a very enjoyable film, without worrying unduly about acting and performance!
The casting in this film is well put together; a great ensemble of talented fighters and they do get to showcase their talent. Obviously the main characters display what they can but even the minor characters get to display their skills too, such as Michael DePasquale Jr (who plays the older brother of the main character) and Jerry Trimble Jr. (who also starred in “The Master” with Jet Li) has a minor role as a drug dealer.
Our hero, Jake Donohue, played by Loren Avedon – is an unconventional (but said to be the best) New York cop who, as a teenager watches his brother get killed by the vicious Khan (played by Billy Blanks), 10 years later as a cop, he is assigned to a case of which the main suspect is Khan himself. To defeat Khan, Jake undergoes training under the one man who almost defeated Khan, a drunk former fighter known as Prang (played by the legendary martial arts kicking supremo, Keith Cooke).
In 1981, when Jake Donohue was only 15/16 years old, he goes to Thailand to watch his older brother, Sean (Michael DePasquale Jr.), win a kickboxing championship. On the way back to their hotel from the tournament, both the brothers are the ambushed by thugs, led by Khan (Billy Blanks). Khan and Sean engage in a one on one battle. Khan, being a far stronger fighter defeats Sean and then kills him while a helpless young Jake watches on…
Fast forward 10 years later…Jake – now a New York Cop, is given a file and some video tapes to watch and go on a mission with Interpol to investigate snuff film makers who are killing foreigners, mostly Americans, in their films – these are martial arts films where people are actually being killed. Then Jake sees the killer doing all the killing in the film is none other than the killer of his brother – Khan, from ten years ago.
Taking on his mission, Jake goes to Thailand where he finds an old master – a former kickboxing champion that came close to defeating Khan, Prang (Keith Cooke). He teaches Jake the old-school way, the way he learned in the forests and jungles. By using brutal and harsh methods that seem like torture, over time we see improvement and progress in our hero –a good showcase for Loren Avedon’s skills!
Finally, after being ready and giving a show of his skills in an underground fighting tournament, Jake gets the attention of the snuff films casting director where he pretends to take the bait and then gets to face-off against Khan in an epic showdown.
This film’s action is amazing and the end fight, between Loren Avedon and Billy Blanks, is known to be one of the highlights in martial arts movie history. Dynamic and well choreographed, the training montages give great account of Loren Avedon’s kicking skills, in my opinion he is one of the best kickers out there and he is able to use both his legs equally, unlike many other fighters.
Even the secondary cast of characters in this film display their martial arts prowess, such as Michael DePasquale Jr, who plays the older brother of our hero. In the opening we see him in the ring winning a kickboxing championship and the fight scene he has with Billy Blanks too. We even get to see Jerry Trimble, who plays a drug dealer (with the best mullet I’ve ever seen!) in the first scene with Loren Avedon. He pulls off some pretty nice kicks that shows he’s a professional martial artist. And let’s not forget Ong Soo Han who plays Thasi, a student of kickboxing who follows Loren Avedon and tells him about Master Prang, he shows some amazing moves too in order to humble the cocky American -that he has a lot to learn, basically, humble yourself now, or be humbled by force!
Keith Cooke, who plays Prang the drunken martial arts master, is truly amazing – his first fight scene where he fights off thugs just demonstrates how fast he really is. He has phenomenal leg control and his kicks are among the best I have seen! He knows his stuff and brings it together with perfection. Very impressive.
Now looking at our protagonist (Loren Avedon) and antagonist (Billy Blanks), they are equally skilled and they pull off their moves really well, they are equally dynamic, fast-paced and precise. The training montages in the film shows Loren Avedon’s skills and Billy Blanks is VERY powerful, you can see that he is as strong as he is skilled, his character has a trademark finishing move which is a series of three kicks that he executes; firstly a double scissor leg kick to each temple which dazes the opponent, next is a jumping double front kick to the chest that winds and even breaks the opponents’ ribs, and finally a jump-spinning back kick (which is actually Billy Blanks’ trademark in all his films – like Van Damme’s 360 split kick) that hits the face -the killing blow!
The final fight between Billy Blanks and Loren Avedon is one of the most impressive in martial arts film history, high energy, intensity and exciting all at once. They are the real deals right here!
Check out this clip! http://youtu.be/jna8FblC3dA
This film is a must see for all martial arts and action movie enthusiasts. We do not watch these films for their story or acting but rather for their action and entertainment value. The film has an easy to follow plot with cheesy dialogue but that is what we love and enjoy about such films! This film equals some of the classic Jackie Chan ones for sheer absorbability! Yes, it may echo JCVD’s Kickboxer, real close in many parts yet it could be argued that this film has better fight scenes and training montages (IMHO) which has helped create a cult classic -well known by fans or some of the older generation of viewers.
- Billy Blanks’ character, Khan, was actually the basis and inspiration for the Super Street Fighter 2 character, Dee Jay Max; whose looks, appearance and fighting style was based on Khan from King Of The Kickboxers – officially confirmed by Capcom.
- One of the films that Jake Donohue in the movie watches is a clip from “No Retreat No Surrender 3” starring Loren Avedon himself.
- The scene between Jake Donohue and Richard Jaeckel, where Captain O’Day is tearing into Jake for his actions at the drug bust, was shot completely independently, on separate days, neither Jaeckel nor Avedon knew how the other had acted!
- Loren Avedon, Keith Cooke and Billy Blanks would often train together whenever and wherever they could, be it at the hotel lobby, in the middle of the jungle, etc.
- Symbolically, the costumes worn by Loren Avedon and Billy Blanks during the climactic fight in the cage have meaning: the traditional robe and mask worn by Loren Avedon represent the Hindu monkey god, Hanuman, whose accomplishments include vanquishing the demon Lord Ravana, whose costume was worn by Billy Blanks. Interesting!
Film Rating: 7/10