If you happened to be at Siam Paragon on Thursday night and felt the shopping mall’s ground shake with a wave of awesomeness, it was probably because Jean-Claude Van Damme was there.
And yes, the man himself did demonstrate how things are done and showed off some kicks to the cast members as he attended the first global screening of “Kickboxer: Vengeance” — a reboot of the 80s cult classic, in which Van Damme stars as the master who trains a new fighter.
Yep, that’s Jean-Claude in the blue hat.
It was more than two decades ago when the world got to know Thailand and its Muay Thai through the popular action franchise “Kickboxer,” the masterpiece that made Van Damme an idol to martial artists and movie fans around the world
Twenty-seven years later, the 80s classic has been given new life with the modern, updated reboot which is scheduled to hit theaters in September.
In the remake, Van Damme plays Master Durand, the trainer of his original character, Kurt Sloane, who is now played by actor/veteran stuntman Alain Moussi in the new version.
Kurt Sloane follows his brother to Thailand to avenge him after he loses a fight to Muay Thai master Tong Po, portrayed by six-time WWE Champion Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy). At 6’6 and 300 pounds of carved muscle, I must say Bautista is menacingly scary and gives me a chill up my spine when he enters the frame. He does bring an intensity to his electrifying performance as Tong Po.
According to the co-producers, all fights are real without the use of CGI, doubles, or wires. The script, written by producer/writer Dimitri Logothetis and Jim McGrath, takes the original Kickboxer story of a great fighter coming of age and sets it in the modern world of illegal underground fight clubs, where high rollers gather to watch gladiator-style fights to the death. All the while, the Thai Royal Police are in a battle trying to shut these fights down.
Speaking of the cops, the Royal Thai Police have never looked so sexy as Thai-English actress Sara Malakul Lane plays the officer who investigates the fight club.
Sara Malakul Lane. Photo: Kickboxer: Vengeance Facebook
Sara, who escaped the rape-rich Thai soaps to pursue her acting career in the States, certainly does not “bleed like Mylee.” Sara plays a new love interest of Kurt Sloane in the modern version, which thankfully, portrays her as a badass cop not a passive leading lady.
Producer/ Writer Dimitri Logothetis (left) and Alain Moussi (right)
In terms of martial arts, it also does help that Moussi is an accomplished black-belt martial artist when he performs his gravity-defying gymnastics. He delivers his performance in the fight scenes with ease and does not disappoint those who have seen the original.
Meanwhile, Van Damme returns as Kurt’s eccentric, enigmatic, all-wise, Muay Thai sensei. He brings both humor and nostalgia to the film and proves that his martial arts skills remain intact.
Other notable cast members are Gina Carano (Deadpool, Fast & Furious 6) as the unscrupulous fight promoter and Georges St-Pierre (Ultimate Fighting Champion, 9-time World Champion) making a fresh impression as a bad guy who changes sides.
UFC fans will no doubt enjoy the generous sprinkling of other UFC World Champions including Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez. If you adored Jean-Claude Van Damme as a child or are a big fan of fight sports, “Kickboxer: Vengeance” is definitely a movie to look forward to this year.
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