Kickboxer: Retaliation Blu-ray Review
Retaliation for how bad Vengeance was
The sequel to Vengeance, the unnecessary remake of Van Damme's Kickboxer, is a surprisingly engaging little affair boasting a bevy of familiar ageing action icons.What a difference a new director makes. Kickboxer: Vengeance's John Stockwell almost single-handedly ruined all the good Haywire did for Gina Carano's action career, and nearly killed this strange and unexpected (and arguably unwarranted) new trilogy remake franchise to Jean-Claude Van Damme's 1989 original even before it got started. Many who saw Vengeance would probably suggest that could have only been seen as a good thing, but Retaliation's director Dimitri Logothetis (only on his second feature, the last also featuring star Alain Moussi) manages to defy those expectations, taking up the reins on this second chapter of a trilogy that he was already heavily invested in - having written and produced the first part as well - and giving it a new lease of life. Whilst Vengeance was an unnecessary and monotone retread of the original Kickboxer movie, Retaliation is a much more brutal, action-packed affair which chooses to follow a different path.Eighteen months after he avenged the death of his brother by killing Tong Po (Dave Bautista), Moussi's Kurt Sloane is kidnapped and dumped in a Thai prison by underground fight promoter Thomas Moore (Christopher Lambert), who wants Kurt to replace Tong Po as his main attraction. Retaliation offers a better role for Van Damme, and has the likes of Lambert and even Mike Tyson in fun support, rounding out a shark of an actioner which includes a fun train battle intro, Thai jail fights reminiscent of The Raid 2, and even a great Double Impact-inspired midnight-blue cast mirror fight sequence, before we even get to the impressive final fight. Whilst Moussi is still a black hole of charisma, he's closer to Scott Adkins here at least in form (Van Damme's successor in the later Universal Soldier movies), and the long-take fight sequences help him impress more. It's not going to win any awards, but it does make up somewhat for Vengeance.
Picture QualityKickboxer: Retaliation wrestles its way onto UK Blu-ray complete with a very good 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the movie's original aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. Shot digitally, the new director makes the most of a modest budget with more impressive style and stronger clarity.
It may not exactly be conventional demo material but it's hard to fault
Detail laps up the textures and intricacies of the main characters, from their battered and often blood-soaked faces and bodies, to the hair and unshaven shadow of beard growth, to just the ageing lines (Lambert looks good for his age, but it's not pretty, and Van Damme is in great shape but is similarly worn to all hell). Background textures are just as impressive, picking up on the environmental nuances, particularly in the fight settings, but it's the style of the piece that shines through - with shadows cast across well-framed shots, a night-set train-top (dream sequence) fight, and light lens flare Thai nights. It's a far cry from what the director of the previous film did with the same budget and setting, and it makes for a surprisingly colourful and rich look (Blade Runner purples, electric neons, Hulk greens, and that great midnight blue Double Impact scene, with none of that sickly orange that plagued the first film), with strong blacks affording a foundation for the rest and boasting solid shadow detail. It may not exactly be conventional demo material (the over-and-under-cranking speed changes in the handheld fight scenes are not easy on the eye, even if it's well staged), but it's generally hard to fault.
Sound QualityThe film wields a fairly punchy DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which makes the most of an engaging score and some *cough* punchy effects, whipping up a storm for your ears, and providing a healthy atmosphere to sweep you up.
The soundtrack is a little blunt force trauma in its approach but that's not such a bad thing
It's a little blunt force trauma in its approach, with more punch than precision, but given the action-dominated nature of the proceedings, that's not such a bad thing. Dialogue is largely the least important element, barring the dominant grunts, shouts and screams, but maintains clarity and coherence across the frontal array as and when necessary, and thankfully completely avoids the Van Damme dubbing that marred the first film, whilst a surprisingly punchy score track helps keep the momentum going and further electrifies the action sequences.
ExtrasNothing but a few trailers, although the outtakes over the end credits are quite good fun.
Blu-ray VerdictIt's not going to win any awards, but it does make up somewhat for Vengeance
Kaleidoscope's UK Blu-ray release of Kickboxer: Retaliation delivers largely excellent video and strong enough audio and may only have a few Trailers in terms of extras, but is still a strong disc for fans to pick up. After the debacle that was Vengeance, Retaliation is something of a breath of fresh air by comparison, and maybe even resets the balance to leave the third and final chapter in the trilogy somewhat tentatively anticipated now.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £11.99
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