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Kickboxer Acrobatics Alain Moussi, Christopher Lambert, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jessica Jann, Mike Tyson, Miles Strommen, Sam Medina, Sara Malakul Lane, Steven SwadlingKickboxer: Retaliation – a year after killing Tong Po to avenge his brother’s murder, MMA champ Kurt Sloan is kidnapped and forced to fight a new underground deathmatch champion. After a dubious opening Bond-lite salsa dance / train fight, the film is rigidly punctuated with some outstanding action set pieces. The choreography in a couple of the fights is jaw-dropping, especially the single takes at the jailhouse (3 mins uninterrupted), and riverside rumble (inexplicably set to the Surfaris ‘Wipe Out’). The ‘Final Boss’ fight against Game of Thrones“The Mountain” is 20 minutes of bone-crunching savagery that reaches previously uncharted levels of OMGWTF twists and turns. Outside of the fights however, the film doesn’t feel particularly well put-together: the direction is weaker than the previous outing – jerking between various scenes, locations, filler Thailand Tourist Board type shots…  and there’s no attempt at updating anything about the generic 80s action plot. Cast-wise, almost everything else is in the shadow of Moussi’s physicality and technical ability: Bjornsson is an intimidating force (when he’s not strumming an acoustic guitar for no reason!); JCVD’s charisma brightens up his scenes; Tyson hams it up and gets some laughs; but disappointingly, Christopher Lambert has nothing more to do than growl some threats and react to big hits (away from everyone else). What it lacks in originality and direction, Kickboxer Retaliation makes up by leaving no stuntman unscathed and no prop unsmashed; the fight scenes are top-drawer, and it makes you wish that Alain Moussi would get the chance to go toe to toe with the likes of Iko Uwais and Donnie Yen.

Score: 5/10

Kickboxer JCVD Menton Alain Moussi, Christopher Lambert, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jessica Jann, Mike Tyson, Miles Strommen, Sam Medina, Sara Malakul Lane, Steven Swadling

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Kickboxer: Vengeance – when his brother is killed in an underground deathmatch by the brutal Tong Po, a young fighter plots his revenge with the help of a master fighter (JCVD). I love martial arts movies and despite what you’ve read elsewhere this is a solid remake. First off; there’s shitloads of fighting – as in every five minutes, fight fight fight. There’s all the punches, all the kicks, a homoerotic rain fight, workmen walking through fights with panes of glass… there’s even a couple of street / marketplace fights that remind you of something like Ong Bak. Director John Stockwell clearly knows and respects the ancestry of this film; retaining key markers like the training montages, and bringing back key cast members; he even throws in some gratuitous boobs… however, most of the cheesier elements have been dropped and the story is more (Tong) po-faced. Just when you think they missed out the infamous car crash drunk dancing scene our new lead pays his respects with some truly horrendous Van Damme jivin’ during the end credits. Casting-wise, the new lead (Moussi) isn’t much of an actor, but what he lacks in charisma he makes up for with some high end fighting/action/stunt prowess; Batista doesn’t have a whole lot to do, although he’s a larger-than-life baddie; meanwhile JCVD steals all of his scenes with his cheeky acting chops, legendary moves, and unbelievably shredded torso. My only real niggle was the weirdly flashy subtitles clearly aimed at people who don’t read subtitles!. There’s a lot of misplaced nostalgia for the original Kickboxer: it’s ultra-80s, it hasn’t aged well, didn’t actually contain much fighting or action, and was basically a showcase for JCVDs moves. Kickboxer Vengeance however is a worthwhile and respectful remake that’s short on acting but crammed full of action. A sturdy modern martial arts movie.

Score: 7/10

The Expendables 2: when they’re ambushed during a simple job the team have to avenge a fallen comrade… and shoot the crap out of anything that gets in their way. First off, the costume department deserve a medal; these guys are going in to action with cardigans, wooly jumpers, trench coats, French berets, designer jeans, cashmere scarves – they’re the most metrosexual mercenaries on the planet! The action is a whole other level of ace… blood, guts, explosions, limbs flying, heads exploding, bullet-riddled bodies dropping everywhere – only downside is that everything from the weapons to entire set pieces feel like copy/paste jobs from recent Call of Duty games. The majority of the runtime is like eating a cheese sandwich, made with cheesy bread whilst drinking mozzarella brine, but in a totally knowing, tongue in cheek fashion – like Willis and Arnie mocking each others characters and catchphrases. Lundgren should be singled out as a great sport, being the butt of almost every scene & joke. My only real petty concern is that there’s only one big/famous baddie – and considering some of the iconic action villains over the years, it’s the only thing they could really have done with upping. Having a real director makes such a big difference – everything is improved, although the comic timing is so far out that it’s embarrassing to watch (but does help add to the cheese-effect). The Expendables is essentially the male equivalent of Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve – an ensemble of big names that puts an entire demographic’s bums on seats, and where everything else is secondary. In saying that, there’s still something inherently satisfying and watchable about seeing Willis / Arnie / Norris and co firing big guns at things. Expendables 2 is a highly enjoyable Action/Comedy romp – it’ll be difficult to top.

Score: 9/10