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Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor (1994)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

KICKBOXER 4: THE AGGRESSOR (1994)

Starring: Sasha Mitchell, Kamel Krifa, Brad Thornton, Jill Pierce, Michele Krasnoo, Nicholas Guest

Written By: Albert Pyun (also story), David Yorkin Directed By: Albert Pyun

The Short Version

How about we just forget the last sequel happened, okay?

Aw, man, who let Albert Pyun back in here?

The fights are one-sided and poorly showcased.

The villain is horrible in every possible way.

Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor may be better than its predecessor, but it’s still bad.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

GENERIC CHEEZ PUFFS.

One supposes that they’re an edible snack, but they’re very easy to forget about even while you’re eating them, nevermind ten minutes later.


Pairs Well With...

CORONA.

I’ll drink it if a friend offers it to me, but it’s weak and has no finish.

“Finish it!”


When my friend Kenner sent me the double feature disc for Kickboxer 3: The Art of War and Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor, his advice was simple:  Skip Kickboxer 3.  It sucks.  Move right on to Kickboxer 4.  It’s way better.  He was and is, of course, right on both counts.

You may notice that this leaves a whole lot of room for interpretation.  After all, the bar set by Kickboxer 3 isn’t exactly high; just about anything, including most Chuck Norris Total Gym infomercials, can be called way better than that.  But I was assured that I would indeed discover that Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor really is a decent movie, at least insofar as cheesy direct to video chop socky goes.

Um, yeah.  About that.  You guys saw that they hired Albert Pyun to write and direct again, didn’t you?

He starts off on the right foot, at least: specifically, he pretends that Kickboxer 3 never happened.  Good play.  Then he reinstates the iconic villain from the first two Kickboxer flicks, Tong Po –

Except that he doesn’t.  Instead of bringing back the real Tong Po, Michel Qissi, Pyun and company have cast another old buddy of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s, Kamel Krifa, in the role… and he’s horrible.  To call Krifa’s performance “acting” is little more than a technical courtesy, but frankly, many audiences won’t even notice, because it’s nearly impossible to get past the godawful makeup job that has been slapped over his head.  Instead of putting a hair tail on Krifa and hoping for the best, the crew here has loaded him up with so much pancake that his face is nowhere near the color or the consistency of the rest of him, and they’ve tacked on exaggerated “Asiatic” eye prosthetics that are just plain offensive.  I’d say he looks like a bad drag queen, but bad drag queens deserve better.  (And good ones wouldn’t be caught dead looking like this.)  Finish it off with the fact that Krifa sounds like no one more than a prepubescent take on our original hero, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and the abomination is complete.  (As for whether or not Krifa can fight… good question.  The movie forgets to ask.)

I have to say that I’m really curious about the backstory here.  What other project could possibly have kept Michel Qissi away from what would surely have been the world’s easiest payday to reprise the one role that gave him any lasting fame?  Did he look at the script and say “um, nevermind”?  Was the studio too cheap to pay him after already shucking out cash for the guy from “Step by Step”?  Or was he never approached at all?  I do wonder, but whatever the reason he’s not here, Qissi’s absence is a major nail in this flick’s coffin.  (And if I’m missing Michel Qissi… that’s saying a lot.)

But anyway; back to our story!

Annoyed that he was beaten in the ring by David Sloan – here still played by the aforementioned guy from “Step by Step,” Sasha Mitchell – Tong Po decides to take the novel approach of having his rival framed for murder and sent to prison.  (Off camera, of course; we learn of this detail via a prologue during which Mitchell reminds the audience about what happened during the first two flicks before going on to explain why he’s in a very clean jail.)  He then heads to Mexico to become the country’s biggest drug lord, apparently overnight and with no objection from the local Mexicans, who were obviously waiting for a failed Thai thug in bad makeup to come down and show them how to get things done.  Still not satisfied, he kidnaps Sloan’s wife to make her his – I’m quoting the box blurb here – “sexual captive.”

I’ll pause again to say that I really hate this.  Movies go to the rape well far too often, and here, it’s utterly gratuitous (though mostly off camera) and totally unnecessary to the plot.  Oh, Pyun and company pretend it’s necessary, but truly, Kickboxer 4 could have played just fine – indeed, much better – without the tired, overused, and just uncool rape/sex slave angle.  The character of Mrs. Sloan is never anything other than a trophy to be threatened, and could easily have been written out entirely.  But she’s not, and as we pick up the story, she’s been Tong Po’s captive for at least two years.

From here on in, Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor flagrantly rips off Enter the Dragon every chance it gets and makes no bones about doing so.  The plots are nearly identical.  In this case, the government wants Tong Po taken down, so they send Sloan in to do their dirty work for him.  Of course, Tong Po has an “impenetrable compound” (puh-lease), but it turns out that every year, he hosts a tournament featuring the best fighters from around the world, and it is called Mortal Komb- er, sorry.  And Sloan is supposed to slip into the tournament as “Jack Jones,” who will surely never be recognized as former World Kickboxing Champ David Sloan despite the fact that he doesn’t even change his haircut.  And… yeah.  Sure.  Fine.  Whatever.

It’s not like we direct to video action fans haven’t put up with worse plots before and thoroughly enjoyed them, right?  We can even ignore the fact that Sasha Mitchell has by this point lost all of the charisma that he had back when he first took Jean-Claude Van Damme’s place as franchise hero; hell, we’ll even give him a pass for barely bothering to act.  And so it goes for my friend Kenner and for many others who count this flick as a “guilty pleasure.”  As for me, I wanted to enjoy Kickboxer 4, (and would feel no guilt at all if I did), but dammit, Albert Pyun won’t let me.

Even accepting his pedestrian screenplay (except for the ending; the ending is just crap no matter how you slice it), the direction is just… so… boring…

If someone with the eye of Robert Clouse (of Enter the Dragon fame) had directed Kickboxer 4 – someone who understands how to showcase combat, make it exciting, and move things along in between – it would have had great chance of being a pretty good movie.  Instead, Pyun presents his film with almost no atmosphere, a questionable eye for combat, and no sense of excitement at all.

Our hero qualifies for the “elite million dollar tournament” by stepping into an abandoned warehouse populated by a small gaggle biker bubbas and easily beating them down.  At least we assume he beats them down; the camera is nearly always being blocked by the spectators.  (Hey, Mr. Director?  When you’re shooting a fight, I kinda want to see, you know, the actual fight, and not the back of some extra.)  So far, so dud.

Our next fight is actually the most entertaining of the entire movie – which, considering that it occurs during the first act of a tournament flick before the tournament even starts should serve as a major warning of bad news down the pike.  The bar brawl in which Sloan takes out literally every dude in the place (that’s all he comes in for, by the way; doesn’t even bother to get a beer) has the potential to be awesome fun.  Unfortunately, the folks in post prod don’t step up to provide anything like exciting music, snappy edits, or even exaggerated sound effects, and that takes away a lot of the thrill.  Sure, it’s fun to see a guy get tossed through a plate glass window only get hit by an oncoming truck and thus shoved right back into the bar through yet another plate glass window, but that kind of maneuver should be more than fun: it should be flat out awesome by default.  How about some atmospherics there, huh?  Hasn’t this crew ever seen a finished action flick before?

Apparently not, because it only goes downhill from there.

The tournament is a complete bore.  Every single fight is a one-sided smack down, and sometimes, the audience doesn’t even get that much.  (A sleeper hold?  Really?)  Some of these fighters look like they could be great in another movie (Michele Krasnoo’s talents are insulted with how weakly her character is written, for example), but in this one?  A fighter only looks as good as his or her opponent, and in Kickboxer 4, there are no real opponents.  Every halfheartedly filmed battle is a foregone conclusion… a dully shot, zero-atmosphere foregone conclusion.  So, yeah.  Yawn.

As for acting, the best effort by far comes from Jill Pierce, but the camera’s only interested in treating her as eye candy.  (At least until she becomes a pin cushion; then she’s the human canvas for the film’s only decent makeup effect.  Dubious achievement award?)  Brad Thornton does pretty well as the guy who should really have been the film’s hero, but he’s always forced back into the shadows whenever it becomes apparent that he might take over the show.  As noted above, our alleged main event guy, Sasha Mitchell, is phoning it in, and Kamel Krifa’s just plain awful.  Sorry, folks; if you’re looking for a case of thespian redemption, you won’t find it here.

With another director and greater attention paid to showcasing the fight scenes and an ending that didn’t absolutely suck, Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor could have been the flick that my friend and others assured me it was, but no.  As a fan of cheesy action movies, I can understand why so many people want to believe in this one… but I just can’t.

Bottom line, Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor should have been fun, but it isn’t.  As mindless background noise and little else, it’ll do, but there’s plenty of better cheese out there.  This one’s just for the Pyunatics.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, July, 2013


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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