Archive for the Michel Qissi Category

Review: Kickboxer 2: The Road Back (1991)

Posted in Benny Urquidez, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Matthias Hues, Michel Qissi, Sasha Mitchell with tags , on September 23, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Sasha Mitchell, Dennis Chan, Peter Boyle, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa (CHT) Matthias Hues, Michel Qissi, Vincent Murdocco, Gene Lebell

Fight Choreography by Benny” The Jet” Urquidez and Jim Nickerson

Directed by Albert Pyun

For whatever reasons, after Jean-Claude Van Damme had his hits films in Bloodsport and Kickboxer the producers were hellbent on selling the rights off to whomever would buy them, and were successful, if not incredibly stupid for doing so, and rather than getting a new JCVD sequel, we get a film directed by B-movie director Albert Pyun (Cyborg, Captain America, the crappy one) and written by future superhero writer David Goyer (The Blade films, Dark City, and Batman Begins) for whom this was his second film, and starring newcomer Sasha Mitchell, famous at the time for starring in the American TV series Step by Step, and was a kickboxing champion.

So…

The film begins as we meet David Sloane (Mitchell), youngest brother to Kurt and Eric from the first film, who has been running their gym a few years after both Kurt, Eric, and Mylee were all murdered at gunpoint by Tong Po after the events of the first film. David is a good man, and takes care of the gym as best he can, but is having problems as the gym doesn’t have enough money to stay open, which had been kept open by the Sloane brothers by the winnings from their fights. The problem is David no longer fights, seeing fighting as the reason his brothers were killed, and has adopted a more zen way of thinking, and fighting. David gets an offer from kickboxing mogul Justin Maciah (Boyle) who wants David to become his main fighter and spokesman, but David refuses, but Maciah is able to convince his star pupil Brian to fight for him. As the bills pile up, David unknowingly sets off a chain of events by challenging Maciah’s fighter Neil Vargas (Hues) to a match, which David wins. Maciah’s business partner from Thailand, Sanga (CHT) has David injured and burns down his gym in order to get Kurt Sloane’s master from Thailand, Xian (Chan) to come to America, and Sanga sets a plan into motion to have David and Xian come face to face with Tong Po, and Sanga will attempt to regain his people’s lost honor…

The film has a decent story, if a very straightforward good versus evil story. David Sloane doesn’t get to go on a journey of discovery the same way that Kurt did, primary because the budget of the film was so low they couldn’t leave Los Angeles, so the scope of the film is limited, and the rest of the film follows suit, even down to the songs, which had to get a guy who sounded a little like Stan Bush to do the music.

Understand the implication of this: they had to get a guy who was a cheap knockoff of Stan freakin’ Bush. Yes, Stan “You Got The Touch” Bush.

That’s how low-budget this film was, but to his credit Albert Pyun didn’t waste whatever dime he had to make the film with. Sasha Mitchell was pretty good as the last Sloane Brother, even if the acting was stilted in places, more blame to the script written than anything else. Peter Boyle was sufficiently slimy as Maciah, but of course classic baddie of the 80’s and 90’s Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa stole the show as the main villain, and Tong Po, for whatever reason, actually looks far more intimidating here than he did in the original film, a good job by Michel Qissi, but he doesn’t appear until nearly the last fifteen minutes of the film. Dennis Chan is as good as ever as Xian, but taking him away from the Thailand setting was a bit disconcerting, but any amount of Dennis Chan as Xian is good enough for me. Look for the legendary Bruce Lee grappling trainer Gene Lebell as the referee, Benny Urquidez as a corner man, and Brian Austin Green (Beverly Hills 90210) as a punk kid getting schooled by Mitchell.

The fights may have been well done, but it was hard to tell, because the fight choreography is lost among too many close-ups, slow-mo, quick edits, and some long shots that are too far away from the action. Benny Urquidez and Jim Nickerson look as if they did a good job, but it was too hard to tell as the editing and Pyun’s directing (no, he doesn’t know how to properly direct a martial arts fight scene) bring it all down, except in the final fight, which has better editing and camerawork than any other fight in the film.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

A sequel to Van Damme’s film that while showcasing a new talent in Sasha Mitchell, and bringing back Dennis Chan, fails to live up to the first film’s action and training sequences. 

NEXT: Marc Dacascos and Scott Wolf search for the Double Dragon!

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Review: Kickboxer (1989)

Posted in Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michel Qissi on July 9, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Alexio, Dennis Chan, Michel Qissi

Fight Choreography by Jean-Claude Van Damme

Directed by Mark DiSalle and David Worth

After Bloodsport was a runaway success for the new action hero, he had a slight misstep with his follow-up film Cyborg, but found success again with Kickboxer, a film that allowed JCVD to create the tournament fighting films he was pioneering at the time.

So was this a good film alongside Bloodsport?

The answer is…somewhat. In some respects it is better, and worse in others, but in no way is it more or less entertaining overall.

Enter Eric Sloane (Alexio) , the best kickboxer in the United States, who is followed by his French-raised brother Kurt (JCVD) who goes to Thailand to face the fighters there, after being told that their style of Muay Thai was formidable in the kickboxing ring. Eric, being as full of himself as he is, foolishly looks for the biggest and best fighter he can find–and succeeds, facing the brutal Tong Po (Qissi), who works for the local Thai mob. Tong Po brutalizes Eric and breaks his back, paralyzing him for life. Now fueled by the fires of true revenge, Kurt wants to face Tong Po, but isn’t good enough, causing him to seek out a master crazy enough to train him, and finds one in Xian (Chan), as well as romance with Mylee, Xian’s neice. Kurt goes to train, but will his training be enough to defeat Tong Po, and in the process get revenge for both his brother and Mylee?

Kickboxer is ludicrous in many ways, but a whole lot of fun. The story keeps things lively and entertaining, even if you can see the end coming a country mile away. JCVD does a decent acting job, far improving from what he did previously, but continues to carry that onscreen presence. Michel Qissi is intimidating as Tong Po but isn’t nearly as intimidating as Bolo, for instance (in fact Qissi and JCVD were childhood friends. Both of them got noticed as background dancers in the film…Breakin’) While JCVD does the hero stuff, Dennis Chan brings the humor and wisdom as Master Xian, and once again JCVD is one of the only action heroes of the time who actually has to learn martial arts, instead of being a badass out of the gate, which is pretty much every action hero today. 

Now I mentioned ludicrous. That name really applies to one scene, and one scene only. Words are not enough. Don’t watch this while drinking soda else it may come through your nose:

Yes, the dance scenes were…brave. I don’t have the minerals to dance like that, but JCVD does. He also loves to travel around in a montage scene, making sure that Stan Bush keeps working:

God Bless you, Stan.

The training scenes were really the best scenes in the film to me, as I enjoyed all the torture Xian puts Kurt through, but also in seeing Kurt learning and getting better as the film goes on. Now, by today’s standards the Muay Thai fights are a bit simple (by today’s standards I mean Tony Jaa), and yes, pretty cheesy, but the fights are pretty good for what they are, particularly the fight inside the bar, and the final fight with Tong Po. JCVD knows what he does well, and choreographs the fights to accentuate what he can do, which is that beautiful spinning helicopter kick. The final fight with Tong Po does feature the requisite JCVD slow motion kicks, and his kiai (yell) which lasts forever. The fights really don’t compare to any of the fights in Bloodsport, but it’s decent for what it is.

Kickboxer is an American martial arts film classic that shows JCVD at his early best!

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (7) JCVD does a good job, knowing what he can and can’t do well. While the fights aren’t very fast by Asian film standards, it does have a certain charm and is cinematic to watch, which is more than many Hollywood 80’s martial arts films could claim. But whomever choreographed that dance scene needed to be shot.

STUNTWORK: (5) The stuntmen didn’t have to do too much crazy stuff, but did it well, the standout scene being the bar fight.

STAR POWER: (9) JCVD was starting a run of success that would define him as one of the best Hollywood martial arts action heroes of all time.

FINAL GRADE: (8) One of JCVD’s most fun films. Not his best, but is full of fun individual scenes that carry the entire film.

NEXT: Sonny Chiba kills a bull as Masutatsu Oyama in Karate Bull Fighter (aka Champion of Death)!