Archive for the Darren Shahlavi Category

Blu-Ray Review: Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016)

Posted in Alain Moussi, Darren Shahlavi, Dave Bautista, Emmanuel Manzanares, Georges St. Pierre, Gina Carano, Jean-Claude Van Damme, TJ Storm with tags , on November 8, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

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Who’s in this film?

Alain Moussi, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dave Bautista, Darren Shahlavi, Gina Carano, Georges St. Pierre, TJ Storm, Sara Malakul Lane

The Film:

Alain Moussi now takes over the role of Kurt Sloane, who serves as a fight assistant to his successful karate champion brother Eric Sloane (Shahlavi). When mysterious fight promoter Marcia offers Eric a lot of money and the chance to face Tong Po (Bautista), a Kickboxing Muay Thai champion, Eric accepts, much to the dismay of Kurt. Eric goes to Thailand, and Kurt eventually follows, only to see his brother killed in the ring by Tong Po. Seeking revenge, Kurt tries to murder Tong Po, but with the help of a local cop (Lane) he hides at the home of Eric’s trainer, Master Durand (JCVD). There Kurt learns how to kick a ton of ass and finally is good enough to challenge Tong Po to a duel to avenge his brother…

The Review:

The film pretty much follows many of the beats of the original film, except for the beginning, which I won’t spoil here except to say that we first meet Kurt Sloane in a very dark place. There is a little time jumping, and the story doesn’t really allow me to connect to Kurt’s pain over his brother’s death, because their relationship isn’t touched on very much. Also a little baffling was the romance (sex) Kurt has with Liu, the Thai cop. It seems to just pop out of bloody nowhere, and there is no real resolution to it. Alain Moussi does a good job of playing Kurt Sloane, but doesn’t quite have the charisma that JCVD had in the same role. Speaking of which, JCVD was great every time he was onscreen, and in fact so much so I wish Master Durand was simply THE Kurt Sloane retired to train Kickboxers. JCVD even gets into a few scraps that show he’s still got it, but that’s no real surprise. I wonder now if JCVD being in the film hurts it rather than helps it.

The late, Great Darren Shahlavi, in his final role, is far too underutilized as Eric Sloane. I wish the film had not strayed from the original and kept Eric alive, which would have meant seeing a lot more of Darren. Gina Carano is in the film but is a complete waste. Her character could have been played by literally anyone. Sorry, if I see a prime Gina Carano in the credits of a film, I damn well expect to see her kick someone’s ass. The same can be said for Georges St. Pierre, who does have a few fight scenes, but there is one glaring edit of one of his fights— or some incident—that left me baffled as the film makes no explanation as to how he suddenly has  a broken arm after seeing him fairly healthy not many scenes before. Dave Bautista is okay as a much more menacing and intelligent Tong Po, but in the end he’s nothing more than a standard cookie-cutter baddie. Sara Malakul Lane is a stunningly beautiful woman, but her character doesn’t bring much to the story, except to slow things down too much with a useless side story.

The place where Kickboxer: Vengeance truly surpasses the original are the fight scenes, which many, and well shot and edited, and really gives Alain Moussi a chance to shine, but in the wake of Muay Thai films like Ong Bak or The Protector, some of it feels a little derivative. The best fight in the film, to me, is the fight between JCVD and Moussi. JCVD has better choreography here than I’ve ever seen this side of No Retreat, No Surrender.

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The Picture:

It’s a fantastic blu-ray transfer, as nearly all newer films are nowadays, and the colors pop appropriately.

Extras:

The only extras is the usual photo gallery and a commercial behind the scenes. The behind the scenes shows a lot of surface stuff, and doesn’t really go into the actual making of the film. In other words, incredibly disappointing. I would’ve loved to see a BTS of the fight choreography sessions (especially since Larnell Stovall and Emmanuel Manzanares of LBP Stunt Chicago are involved), not to mention maybe more interviews of JCVD or shots of him on set. Heck, even a trailer would have been nice. There were a hundred ways they could have gone with extras, and they really dropped the ball here. I also would’ve liked to hear the actors talk about the late Great Darren Shahlavi and what it was like to work with him.

Final Thoughts:

If you loved the film, or even if you just liked it, you’re going to be disappointed by the lack of extras here. It’s as bare bones as you can get. Here’s hoping the sequel will fare with better extras, ones that fans of martial arts film enthusiasts can get behind.

My original film review score stays the same: 6.5.

Kiai-Kick’s Blu Ray Score: 4

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Not even Gina Carano can save the lack of extras here.

 

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Review: Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016)

Posted in Alain Moussi, Darren Shahlavi, Dave Bautista, Emmanuel Manzanares, Georges St. Pierre, Gina Carano, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Larnell Stovall, TJ Storm on September 12, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Alain Moussi, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dave Bautista, Darren Shahlavi, Gina Carano, Georges St. Pierre, TJ Storm, Sara Malakul Lane

Fight Choreography by Larnell Stovall

Directed by John Stockwell

This is a particularly difficult film to attempt to review objectively; it’s a remake of the original, with many of the story beats the same, and still stars the main actor now in a supporting role, plus has one of the cheesiest/best dance scenes in the history of ever. Plus, I really liked the original, if for nostalgia’s sake.

Alain Moussi now takes over the role of Kurt Sloane, who serves as a fight assistant to his successful karate champion brother Eric Sloane (Shahlavi). When mysterious fight promoter Marcia offers Eric a lot of money and the chance to face Tong Po (Bautista), a Kickboxing Muay Thai champion, Eric accepts, much to the dismay of Kurt. Eric goes to Thailand, and Kurt eventually follows, only to see his brother killed in the ring by Tong Po. Seeking revenge, Kurt tries to murder Tong Po, but with the help of a local cop (Lane) he hides at the home of Eric’s trainer, Master Durand (JCVD). There Kurt learns how to kick a ton of ass and finally is good enough to challenge Tong Po to a duel to avenge his brother…

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The film pretty much follows many of the beats of the original film, except for the beginning, which I won’t spoil here except to say that we first meet Kurt Sloane in a very dark place. There is a little time jumping, and the story doesn’t really allow me to connect to Kurt’s pain over his brother’s death, because their relationship isn’t touched on very much. Also a little baffling was the romance (sex) Kurt has with Liu, the Thai cop. It seems to just pop out of bloody nowhere, and there is no real resolution to it. Alain Moussi does a good job of playing Kurt Sloane, but doesn’t quite have the charisma that JCVD had in the same role. Speaking of which, JCVD was great every time he was onscreen, and in fact so much so I wish Master Durand was simply THE Kurt Sloane retired to train Kickboxers. JCVD even gets into a few scraps that show he’s still got it, but that’s no real surprise. I wonder now if JCVD being in the film hurts it rather than helps it.

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The late, great Darren Shahlavi, in his final role, is far too underutilized as Eric Sloane. I wish the film had not strayed from the original and kept Eric alive, which would have meant seeing a lot more of Darren. Gina Carano is in the film but is a complete waste. Her character could have been played by anyone. Sorry, if I see a prime Gina Carano in the credits of a film, I damn well expect to see her kick someone’s ass. The same can be said for Georges St. Pierre, who does have a few fight scenes, but there is one glaring edit of one of his fights— or some incident—that left me baffled as the film makes no explanation as to how he suddenly has  a broken arm after seeing him fairly healthy not many scenes before. Dave Bautista is okay as a much more menacing and intelligent Tong Po, but in the end he’s nothing more than a standard cookie-cutter baddie. Sara Malakul Lane is a stunningly beautiful woman, but her character doesn’t bring much to the story, except to slow things down too much with a useless side story.

The place where Kickboxer: Vengeance truly surpasses the original are the fight scenes, which many, and well shot and edited, and really gives Alain Moussi a chance to shine, but in the wake of Muay Thai films like Ong Bak or The Protector, some of it feels a little derivative. The best fight in the film, to me, is the fight between JCVD and Moussi. JCVD has better choreography here than I’ve ever seen this side of No Retreat, No Surrender.

Extra Bits:

The film was dedicated to Darren Shahlavi, and I was really happy to see they did that.

Yes, we are treated to JCVD’s original bar dance again, along with a side by side of Alain trying the same thing during the closing credits. Sorry, but JCVD STILL wins that dance-off, Alain!

What else did this film need? Stan Bush. No, really. Stan Bush for the win.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6.5

Kickboxer: Vengeance has its moments, but reminds me too much of the original, but JCVD shines in a limited role. Alain Moussi grew on me as the film went on. Any chance we see Sasha Mitchell in Kickboxer: Retaliation? I hope so.

RLJ Entertainment has acquired Kickboxer: Vengeance!

Posted in Alain Moussi, Darren Shahlavi, Dave Bautista, Gina Carano, Jean-Claude Van Damme on March 15, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

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So this is really good news, as now we for sure will get to see Kickboxer: Vengeance on select big screens! Seeing JCVD in the film is a good thing, and with Dave Bautista on board, as well as the late great Darren Shahlavi (we miss you, man!) and the many talents on board I think this is going to be a fun film. The real key is whether star Alain Moussi can fill JCVD’s shoes. Here is the announcement below:

RLJ ENTERTAINMENT ACQUIRES “KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE”

 Jean-Claude Van Damme Returns to Star in the Reboot of the Cult Classic

 

LOS ANGELES, March 15, 2016 – RLJ Entertainment (NASDAQ: RLJE) has acquired all U.S. rights to the highly anticipated KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE.  Co-Written by Dimitri Logothetis (Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers) and Jim McGrath and directed by John Stockwell (In the Blood, Blue Crush), the film features the return of Jean-Claude Van Damme to the franchise (Bloodsport, Kickboxer) and a bevy of professional athletes including newcomer Alain Moussi (X-Men: Days of Future Past) Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), Gina Carano (In the Blood), Georges St-Pierre (Captain America), and Cain Velasquez (Term Life).  The film was produced by Logothetis along with Nicholas Celozzi (The Lost Angel), Ted Field (The Last Samurai, Jumanji), Allen Knudson, Samuel Cory Timpson and Rob Hickman (who also orchestrated the majority of the financing on the film).

RLJE plans to release KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE in theaters and On Demand later this year.  Mark Ward, RLJ Entertainment’s Chief Acquisitions Officer, made the announcement today.   

“Fans of Jean Claude Van Damme have been waiting for a long time for this reboot of the Kickboxer franchise,” said Ward.  “The film delivers more action and an amazing ensemble of fighters from Dave Bautista to George St-Pierre to Cain Velasquez and Gina Carano.   Fans will not be disappointed.”

“There is a spectacular beauty in martial arts films that audiences have been deprived of for a significant period of time.  Making KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE has been a priority and passion of mine for several years and I’m thrilled to be able to partner with RLJ Entertainment to bring this genre back to theatres,” said producer and writer Logothetis.

An update to the 1989 classic film KICKBOXER, KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE follows the story of Kurt Sloane (Alain Moussi), who travels to Thailand to avenge the death of his brother at the hands of Tong Po (Dave Bautista).  Kurt trains with the legendary Master Durand (Jean-Claude Van Damme) until he is ready to take on Tong Po in a brutal fight to the death.

Jess De Leo, Senior Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs for RLJ Entertainment along with Ward negotiated the deal with Logothetis, Field, Brian O-Shea, and Mike Weber on behalf of the film.

RLJ Entertainment previously released its theatrical titles under the Image Entertainment brand, which RLJE purchased in 2012.  Recent RLJ Entertainment releases include The Rewrite with Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei, written and directed by Marc Lawrence; The Cobbler with Adam Sandler, Cliff “Method Man” Smith, Ellen Barkin, Melonie Diaz, Dan Stevens, Steve Buscemi, and Dascha Polanco, written and directed by Academy Award® nominee Tom McCarthy; Blackbird staring Academy Award® winning actress and comedian Mo’Nique , Isaiah Washington , and Julian Walker, directed by Patrik-Ian Polk; and the critically acclaimed Bone Tomahawk starring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox and Richard Jenkins, written and directed by S. Craig Zahler.

 

ABOUT RLJ ENTERTAINMENT

RLJ Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ: RLJE) is a premier independent owner, developer, licensee, and distributor of entertainment content and programming in primarily North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia. RLJE is a leader in numerous genres including feature films and urban with distinct content via its owned and distributed brands such as Acorn (British TV), Acacia (fitness), and Athena (documentaries). These titles are distributed in multiple formats including broadcast television (including satellite and cable), theatrical and non-theatrical, DVD, Blu-Ray, digital download, and digital streaming.

 

Through Acorn Media Enterprises, its UK development arm, RLJE owns all rights to the hit UK mystery series Foyle’s War and is developing new programs. RLJE owns 64% of Agatha Christie Limited, which manages the intellectual property and publishing rights to some of the greatest works of mystery fiction, including stories of the iconic sleuths Miss Marple and Poirot.

 

RLJE leverages its management experience to acquire, distribute and monetize existing and original content for its many distribution channels, including its branded digital subscription channels, Acorn TV, AcaciaTV, and UMC – Urban Movie Channel, and engages distinct audiences with programming that appeals directly to their unique viewing interests. Through its proprietary e-commerce web sites and print catalogs for the Acorn and Acacia brands, RLJE has direct contacts and billing relationships with millions of consumers. For more information, please visit www.RLJEntertainment.com

Review: Pound of Flesh (2015)

Posted in Darren Shahlavi, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mike Leeder, Mike Moeller with tags , , on May 14, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Darren Shahlavi, John Ralston, Mike Leeder, Mike Moeller

Fight Choreography by John Salvitti

Directed by Ernie Barbarash

JCVD returns as a black-ops agent Deacon Fry who arrives in France in order to give one of his kidneys to a niece he’s never met. Thing immediately go wrong when, after having a one-night stand, wakes up in an ice bath only to find that one of hiss kidneys has been taken. Deacon must then team up with his estranged brother George (Ralston) in order to track the kidney down, and rain vengeance on those who did so. George, a pious man, must reconcile the violence committed in his daughters’ name, even as the danger grows larger the closer they get to the kidney, but even they are not prepared for what they find at the end of their journey…

Pound of Flesh hits all of the normal JCVD tropes: the splits, butt shot (yes, even at age 51! Bravo!) and the tortured action heroes he’s been playing ever since he hit DTV land. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily; but I do miss the lighter characters he played in his hit films of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Deacon is a hardened man, but regretful of actions he took…actions that caused the rift between himself and George, who seems to be his opposite. JCVD does a good job portraying Deacon, and his performance, particularly at the end, is great, and gave me something that 1) I had never seen in a JCVD film, and 2) showed me a performance I wasn’t sure he was capable of, and it struck a cord, at least with me. John Ralston is a good foil for JCVD as George, who goes through a transformation throughout the film to discover that he may be more like Deacon than he’s ready to admit.

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And of course we have to talk about the late Darren Shahlavi as the lead villain Drake. His charisma onscreen is great, and my only regret is that there wasn’t more of him. He’s a great match for JCVD as he plays his character not-quite-over-the-top, something that actually brings a lot of energy to the film when things seem like they are about a lag a bit. The film pays a dedication to Darren, and I’m so glad they did. His performance is bittersweet, as it’s a reminder of how much he had grown as a performer, both in stunts and in acting. Ernie Barbarash, even though he’s working with a low budget, always seems to get the absolute most out of every dollar spent, and here is no exception, as this may be the best looking JCVD film to date not named Universal Soldier (or Hard Target).

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The fights choreographed by John Salvitti, who has been part of Donnie Yen’s stunt teams, gives something new. I was expecting the normal JCVD kicks, ending in his patented helicopter kick, but Salvitti goes in a different direction, adding more mixed martial arts to his repertoire, especially the final fight between JCVD and Darren Shahlavi. I’m normally not a fan of the style, but it works well here.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

A damn good action film from JCVD as he rollercoasters his way to vengeance as he battles Darren Shahlavi. Jean-Claude Van Damme proves once again he can deliver the goods!

Kiai-Kick’s Q & A with Jean-Claude Van Damme!

Posted in Darren Shahlavi, Jean-Claude Van Damme with tags on May 6, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

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There are cool moments in life…and then there is this! I never thought in a million years that I would have any contact whatsoever, by email or otherwise, with anyone of the caliber of JCVD, but here is is! His newest film, Pound Of Flesh, will be out May 15th, and so I sent the Muscles From Brussels some questions, and while he didn’t answer them all, the answers he did give were really cool, and I’m happy he answered a question about one of this website’s favorite people, the late Darren Shahlavi. Please enjoy, and expect my review of the film next Monday!

KK: You’ve been playing dark characters over the last few films, but then play it for laughs in Welcome To The Jungle, and of course, some hilarious commercials. What do you look for in the roles you take now as opposed to when you were younger?

JCVD: I am a big fan of smart movies, right.  But let’s face it.  Jean Claude Van Damme is into the action category.  So I got a Facebook and when they send me response when I talk to my fans, they send me back pictures when I was 25, 28 years old with big biceps.  That’s how they love me.  That’s how they see me.  So I think it’s time for me to go back into the action genre and of course with some acting into it so it looks even more dangerous and that’s why I go to the gym every day.  So hopefully it will be ok for me to be one more time in Hollywood.  

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KK: This is your third film with Ernie Barbarash. What is it about his directing style that you gravitate towards?

JCVD: Ernie knows me.   He gets it.   He’s smart, you know.  I like smart people….He’s very relaxed and quiet with the actors…He’s a cool guy, plus he’s a good director and a good writer.

But I’m afraid for Ernie.  He’s done so many good movies.  And they call him in a sense a doctor because sometimes he comes on the set to fix movies.  And they take advantage of his good heart.  And you know, he’s got to work.  But I think Ernie should get the chance to have a movie with a studio one day with or without me where he can get the 55 days of shoot.  Then you will see Ernie Barbarash.

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KK: On a very somber note, the stunt community is saddened by the passing of Darren Shahlavi earlier this year. Many of my readers were fans of his. What was it like working with him? 

JCVD: When I was on EXPENDABLES, I didn’t talk to nobody.  Why?  I played the bad guy.  And I want Stallone to be scared when I took my glass out…and I saw the gulp.   Because you know, when you’re very truthful, and you go to a person, even though it’s Sly and it’s a movie, if the feeling is so strong, they get scared…especially when you don’t talk to them in a full shoot.

And of course, after I come to them, Woah!  So it was the same with Darren.  I didn’t want to talk to him too him so was have this fresh encountering.  And then at the end of the shoot, we started to talk, and I’m kind of a shy guy.  People think I don’t like people.  Here I’m opening myself because of the promotion.   I want this movie to work.

He came to me.  He’s such a great guy.  Hey, I love your movies because of you and this and that…I see me because of Bruce Lee. We became good friends.   So Simpatico.  I should have gone to the gym with him, this and that, but I will meet with him in Los Angeles.

So when I heard the news, I was completely flabbergasted because he was in shape.  He trained hard.  He was so happy always.  Some people.  I’m not saying.  Nobody deserves to die.  But maybe, something else is waiting for him up there because he’s such a warrior and a good person that they need him for a job that nobody can do out there except him.  That’s why I see Darren as a good warrior person.  

Thanks to JCVD and EOne Entertainment for setting this up!

Check out the Latest Trailer below, and get ready for May 15th! 

In China to donate his kidney to his dying niece, former black-ops agent Deacon awakes the day before the operation to find he is the latest victim of organ theft. Stitched up and pissed-off, Deacon descends from his opulent hotel in search of his stolen kidney and carves a blood-soaked path through the darkest corners of the city. The clock is ticking for his niece and with each step he loses blood.

JCVD returns in Pound of Flesh Trailer!

Posted in Darren Shahlavi, Jean-Claude Van Damme on April 13, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

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JCVD returns in a film that looks really, really cool. It’s refreshing that even at age 51 he can still look and be the part of a badass, and he looks really badass here. It looks like the budgets of his films have increased a bit since his turn in The Expendables 2. This leads me to still have hope that we can get a Double Impact 2 someday. Also starring the late great Darren Shahlavi, so that is another great reason to check this out! Here is a synopsis of the badassery to come:

In China to donate his kidney to his dying niece, former black-ops agent Deacon awakes the day before the operation to find he is the latest victim of organ theft. Stitched up and pissed-off, Deacon descends from his opulent hotel in search of his stolen kidney and carves a blood-soaked path through the darkest corners of the city. The clock is ticking for his niece and with each step he loses blood.

Check out the trailer below:

Get ready to watch JCVD’s kidney’s get a whole lot of people killed on May 15th!