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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Kickboxer
Kickboxer
CAV // Unrated // May 14, 2002
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Hkflix]
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted June 25, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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If you want a Van Damme movie review, sorry you're in the wrong place.

The Story: Martial arts students Lau Zhai (Yuen Biao) and buck-toothed So (Wu Ma), members of the esteemed Po Chi Lam school, put the school into a mess when the herbs they brought over from Hong Kong actually contain a large amount of opium hidden within the crates. Lau Zhai takes the fall for the unfortunate mess and begins to track down the smugglers who are smearing his and, more importantly, his schools name. He soon discovers that old friend Ming is working for secret opium impresario Chairman Wah (Yuen Wah), and poor Lau Zhai must team up with the local constable, Panther, and go undercover within the criminal organization in order to get proof of their nefarious activities. But, going undercover means he must go it alone, separate himself from his school and friends, and play at being a bad guy while receiving scorn from his buddies. But, when Chairman Wah discovers Lau Zhai's ruse, it may be too late.

The Film: Well, you cant really blame cinema imitators. If something is popular the natural inclination is to try to profit from it; that can often mean a new genre is born and theres no reason why a film cannot be inspired and still tell a good story. Such is the case with Once Upon A Time In China, the period martial arts film, with a folk legend hero, and slick, wire enhanced combat that spawned a new wave in Hong Kong martial arts action. 1993's Kickboxer is one such imitator. Instead of taking the hero of OUATIC, Wong Fei Hung, it focuses on his students dealing with corrupt opium smugglers while Fei Hung is away on business.

Unfortunatley this is a case where a cash in trend imitator doesn't live up to its potential. Hampered by both budget and directorial vision, Kickboxer is a fairly entertaining diversion, but not a classic by any means. The great Yuen Biao gets to show more of his martial talents as the star in Kickboxer which is thankful due to his highly underused presence in OUATIC, but it is an average Yuen Biao performance not the classic Biao of Dragons Forever, Eastern Condors and Prodigal Son. Veteran HK actor/director Wu Ma handles the directional reigns. While in his day Wu Ma made his mark with old school kung fu films like Manchu Boxer, The Shaolin Heroes (which had a better undercover hero plotline), Kung Fu Eight Drunkards, and All Men are Brothers, he was not he best choice to helm a new wave HK action film. Wu Ma tries to throw in the energetic flair and visual panache of the new wave with handheld camerawork, odd angles and such, but it looks like he is trying to ape Tsui Hark's OUATIC style instead of it being a natural inclination. Wu Ma's comedic leanings are evident in quite a bit of the film, and its grand finale duel between Yuen Biao and Yuen Wah where the two square off on large swinging chandeliers (sort of kung fu War of the Roses) is impressive, but it is all too little too late. Overall in the fight choreography, there are some constraints and some continuity errors, making its low budget, wannabe OUATIC nature far too evident.

The DVD: World Video. Same old World Video huge layer change and chapter stutter, but a few more extras and lower MSRP than their older releases.

Picture- Widescreen, though not the films full aspect ratio as evident by the squished look and burned in subtitles which are cut off in long sentences. Overall the print shows quite a bit of wear and tear, faded contrast, and many of the night scenes are muddled, too dark (although the worn contrast makes it gray-black instead of black-black), muddy color, and a loss of sharpness making the transfer appear like it came from a vhs- and not a very good one.

Sound- Mandarin or Cantonese Dolby Digital Mono with burned in white Chinese and English subs. Audio has a constant buzz distortion throughout which just further hinders its unimpressive mono soundtrack. Considering how soft burned in subs usually are, Kickboxers subs, when they are not horribly cut off, are actually pretty sharp.

Extras- 8 Chapters--- 17 World Video Trailers including such films as Shaolin Temple, Heroes Among Heroes, Eight Escorts, Green Dragon Inn, and Legend of the Liquid Sword.--- Yuen Biao Filmography and Bio--- Web info.

Conclusion: Not the best effort by all involved but still an okay film.- Just okay. -The transfer on the other hand isn't really worth owning, could be much better, but since this film hasn't appeared on DVD anywhere else, maybe worth a rental for the curious HK action fan.

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