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Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Retro Review: Kickboxer 2: The Road Back (1991)

Kickboxer 2: The Road Back
Cast: Sasha Mitchell, Peter Boyle, Dennis Chan, Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, John Diehl
Genre: Martial Arts
U.S Box Office Gross: over $1.2 million

Plot: Tong Po broods about his defeat at the hands of Kurt Sloan. Po and his managers resort to drastic measures to goad David into the ring for a rematch

'Can He Kick It? Erm, Yes He Can. Sort Of'

Kickboxer 2: The Road Back is the official sequel to the original Kickboxer flick that was released in 1989 starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and was supposedly going to have Van Damme reprising his role - only for the muscles from Brussels to turn it down, in favour of Double Impact, which was a massive success and that it did way better than this film did. Directed by Albert Pyun who did Cyborg and Captain America - the low- budget '90s version that is, not the one starring Chris Evans -  the story, which was penned by David S. Goyer, was retooled with Kurt Sloan, played by Van Damme, no longer the main character, as he is now proclaimed dead. In his place is Kurt's brother, David. 

Interestingly, Goyer went on to write Batman Begins, The Dark Knight movies, Man of Steel, the Blade movies, as well as Jean-Claude Van Damme's Death Warrant. Whilst the film is often criticised for being inferior to Kickboxer 1, I still prefer this over all the other Kickboxer sequels. 

Kickboxer 2 pretty much follows in the same vein as the previous film and whilst I dreaded the idea of the Kickboxer films being poor or nowhere as good as Van Damme's effort, with this film, I actually enjoyed this one in places with some very good fight sequences. 

After Kurt defeats his opponent in Po, Po (no not the Teletubby) murders Kurt, Kurt's girlfriend and his disabled brother at gunpoint, after the events of the previous film. Retired David runs a local kickboxing gym, as well as training other fighters and mentoring the youngsters. 2 years later, Kurt's younger brother, David seeks to avenge his brother's death by defeating Po when he receives an offer from a kickboxing mogul, Justin to step into the ring. 

Sasha Mitchell has nothing on Van Damme, well, fighting and ability- wise as a whole, and many fans of Kickboxer turned their noses up when the former model and star of the teen show, Step by Step was chosen out of all the other available martial arts-based actors to fill Van Damme's shoes. Despite my little nitpick, he still holds his own with his agility and being able to pull off several flying kicks and punches, and in terms of his acting, he's less wooden than Van Damme, yet lacks an even bigger presence to fully sell this film. But I did like his performance and he didn't come across as stilted and one-note and that he could convey a range of emotions. 

With a title in Kickboxer, one expects some overly decent action, and here, it doesn't disappoint. The fights, courtesy of Benny ''The Jet'' Urquidez & Jim Nickerson, are well choreographed and the story has some nice twists; however, it's not as fun as the first film and plus it lacks charm, the close-ups during the fight scenes were milked too much, the soundtrack is cringing and it does have a bit of a TV movie whiff to it as well. It does make up with some decent acting, a great final fight encounter between David and Po, and a less corny screenplay, though. 

The story wasn't much to brag about, but the film does handle the good versus evil theme in a competitive fighting sense, well. 

Kickboxer 2 is often looked down as a poor follow-up, given the exclusion of Jean-Claude, but Sasha Mitchell brings a different vibe to the film, and one I found rather refreshing also & it makes the film less goofy. Peter Boyle was the sleazy promoter jerk & Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa mixes things up as the film's second main antagonist. Even if he pulls off the same evil Asian bad guy face as he always does in Mortal Kombat and his other movies. Does that make it the better film than Kickboxer 1? No, far from it. Actually, this one was decent at best for me and thankfully, it maintains the continuity and kickboxing theme & feel of the prequel, whilst at the same time, experimenting with some different ideas. 

Final Verdict:

I enjoyed this one and whilst it's not great, it was fully watchable with some really good fights, a decent cast and it still has heart, without being too cringey or melodramatic. 


Sunday, 22 April 2018

Mini Retro Review: Vipers (1998) #badmovies

Erotic Thriller

A pool cleaner is hired by a plastic surgeon husband, who cheats on his wife, who is also having an affair with the pool cleaner/karate expert. Aka Dark Passion, this is yet another softcore erotica thriller with some interesting sex scenes that include the odd lesbian make-out session. I initially awarded this film a low mark, but I felt I was a bit harsh and having rewatched it recently, it turns out that this one isn't too bad and the story got more interesting as it went on. Acting is okay, some interesting twists and it definitely held my attention. 

Is It Worth Watching?

It's all right 


Saturday, 21 April 2018

Mini Retro Review: Killer Looks (1994) #badmovies

Killer Looks
Erotic Thriller

TV rated this 1 star out of 4 in its review of this softcore Z-movie dud and watching this, I cannot say I disagree more. It's got a lesbian sex scene with two blondes and a man who has no objections to his wife making out with several men, as part of a game so he can get worked up. He finds out, acts like the outraged spouse then scares them off. When she brings home a new guy, the dopey hubby finds his marriage in jeopardy. In any other film, the husband, who catches his wife cheating multiple times with other guys, would ditch her and file for divorce. But this guy - he lets her do whatever she wants by screwing around, as long as they play by his rules and also the wife should have known better & to get rid of him when he tells her to go along with the plan. Not one single character, but for say, one couple, felt redeemable enough & they were dumb as bricks and were all as bad as each other & it sends out a terrible message in regards to cheating, despite the okay sex scenes. I did like the ending, however. Although when have erotic thrillers ever been about setting an example? 

Is It Worth Watching?

Probably for the sex scenes, if you are into that thing, but no


Retro Review: Short Circuit 2 (1988)

Short Circuit 2
Cast: Fisher Stevens, Michael McKean, Cynthia Gibb, Tim Blaney, Jack Weston
Genre: Science Fiction Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $21 million

Plot: Robot Johnny Five comes to the city and gets manipulated by criminals who want him for their own purposes 

'More Like A Malfunction'

Short Circuit 2 is an improvement over the first film, but at the same time, it feels like something is missing and that it feels too much like the original but with some minor changes in the cast.

Johnny 5 is very child-like and has a curiosity for everything as he wanders around New York (although it is partly filmed in Canada) and ends up being taken advantage by a con man, who isn't all he seems. 

The most heart-crushing and saddest moment in the entire film is when Johnny 5 is dismantled, ripped to sheds and taken apart by a pair of crooks led by Oscar. It may not be the most shocking and goriest of 'killings' to that of Robocop, but still, it was very distressing to watch and brought me to tears. The battery fluid spurting out and with that, it is akin to a person dying with blood pouring out. & it was sadder than Weebo's beating in Flubber. But it was cool to see him all fixed up. Johnny is sweet, lovable and who comes across and good-hearted. 

The sequel strives to be both inferior and superior to the first film in many ways, as it takes Johnny out of his comfort zone, allowing him to wander around the city and explore. Johnny 5 more alive than ever before. Having said that, it did feel that the omission of Steve Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy from the original Short Circuit was a poor one and with Fisher Stevens and Cynthia Gibb in place of those two, it just didn't work for me. They just couldn't carry this one and weren't able to make it any better than it ought to have been. Stevens portrayal of Asian Ben with the tan-like make-up and dodgy accent is a bit uncomfortable to watch. Actually, before I'd heard of the name Fisher Stevens, when I was young, I assumed the actor who played him was of Indian descent. Michael McKean, in contrast, I enjoyed his performance more and when he finally warms up to the robot is really sweet. His character, Fred is a jerk at first, but he soon has a change of heart towards Johnny. He definitely adds something different to that character. The villains, however, are just stocky & that they are the poor man's Wet Bandits of Home Alone.

The sequel's poor box office showing meant it killed the franchise and the story, but for the last 30 mins or so of moments, just never really seems to go anywhere and to really explode and it dragged out way too much. With the film unravelling, it became predictable how this would turn out and it was far from profound.

Final Verdict:

Compared to the first Short Circuit, this is marginally better, but compared to many other films, especially those of this type, it just doesn't stack up. It's mildly good, but the story just wasn't as engrossing and but for Johnny and Fred, the rest of the characters were not as well developed and were a bit too one-dimensional.

I enjoyed Short Circuit 2 as a child of the 1980s in the 1980s, and as a standalone movie it's not bad, but it doesn't possess anything that makes it jaw-dropping and even with the robot premise, it lacks charm and it doesn't go far enough.


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