Kurt Sloane (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is the brother of a kickboxing champion, Eric (Dennis Alexio), who has just won his latest bout and title. As he climbs out of the ring, Eric is confronted by the reporters to congratulate him, and one asks him if he has ever tried the Thailand version of the sport, after all it did originate there as Muay Thai and if he was worth his salt he would be cleaning up in tournaments over there. He is inspired by this comment and demands his brother book them on the next flight over to Bangkok, which he does, and before they know it they are in foreign climes preparing for the match with a spot of sightseeing until they get down to the business of winning the match...
Ah, oh dear, shame about that. What this is setting up is the classic revenge story, but in the context of emulating newly-minted star Van Damme's previous hit Bloodsport where he didn't go fox hunting or anything like that, nope it was a tournament of combat we were served up in the manner of Bruce Lee's design classic Enter the Dragon (only we actually got to the end of the tournament in these). The other template Kickboxer was applying was Sylvester Stallone's recent-ish hit Rocky IV, where the mishap which befell Rocky's friend Apollo was the trigger for him to get his own back on his now incapacitated pal's behalf, so if you had seen that you would have no surprises as to what happened here.
In fact, what seemed like over half the movie was taken up with Kurt's training methods once he has seen his brother paralysed deliberately by nasty man Tong Po (Michel Qissi, who ended up credited by his character's name, an apparent error) when they are deep into combat. As this was the nineteen-eighties, it was the last year of that classic trope whereby heterosexual males could get excited by watching big, sweaty, muscular men cavorting, because it was perfectly acceptable when said men were committing acts of violence, so there was nothing funny about that, ALL RIGHT?! Not an appeal that has ever gone away, but one which reached its apex in this decade, and Van Damme was only too happy to oblige.
The star's vanity was evident in every frame, little wonder when he had co-scripted and come up with the fight choreography so he was going to make sure he was looking his best at all times. Though what he could not do was improve his acting abilities, which were limited at best, an element that harked back to Arnold Schwarzenegger's earlier efforts when he was trying to be understood through a thick European accent but still playing characters who were apparently American; Van Damme was sort of in that mould, though more showcasing his hand to hand combat stylings than picking up a great, big gun and mowing down the henchmen of the main baddies as his immediate predecessors had. Although if he had done so in this it would have been a shorter movie.
Nevertheless, there was a smattering of shootiebangs nearer the end of the film, to all intents and purposes to make sure we knew we were getting an eighties action flick and that kind of thing was compulsory. Mostly, however, it was Kurt and his training courtesy of Dennis Chan's wise old guru, over and over, kicking all sorts of stuff like a poor tree that is smashed in two, or being pulled apart by ropes for some reason - making the connection between pushing your body to the limit and the sheer torture you're putting yourself through? Probably not, they just thought it was cool. There was one notorious interlude where our hero went to a bar, got tipsy and started grooving to the jukebox, which has gone down in camp history, but in case you thought there was anything iffy about that he does immediately follow his busting moves with busting heads, so we could all breathe a sigh of relief. As for the grand finale, it was appropriately punishing with lots of perspiring and grimacing so you knew it was serious as Kurt's allies cheered on from the sidelines. You could argue if you've seen Bloodsport there's no reason to see this, and vice versa, but if you like these, of course you'll have seen them both. Music by Paul Hertzog.