Kickboxer is a 1989 American martial arts film produced and directed by Mark DiSalle, and also co-directed by David Worth, and starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and former world kickboxing champion Dennis Alexio. The film was released in the United States on September 8, 1989. The film is considered to be a cult classic and one of the definitive works in Van Damme's movie career as a martial artist.
Kurt and Eric Sloane are kickboxing brothers. Eric is currently the world champion in the United States with Kurt serving as his cornerman. After another successful title defense, Eric is enticed by the media to compete in Thailand where kickboxing was invented to further prove his legacy. Eric and Kurt travel to Bangkok where they are matched against Tong Po, Thailand's undefeated top fighter. Eric is supremely confident but Kurt has some apprehension about the upcoming fight, particularly after witnessing Tong Po kicking a concrete pillar in preparation for the fight. Kurt begs his brother not to go forward with the fight, but Eric dismisses any concerns.
The first round is a one-sided affair in which Po manhandles Eric with his superior strength. In between rounds, Kurt once again begs Eric to forfeit the fight, but Eric refuses to give up and continues to be beaten badly in the second round. Kurt throws in the towel, but Tong Po kicks the towel out of the ring and continues his assault. He viciously strikes Eric in the back with his elbow, immobilizing him, then rips apart Eric's world championship belt. Kurt retrieves the belt and leaves with his brother on a stretcher, but the fight officials simply leave them on the street and lock them out of the arena. Winston Taylor, a retired US Army special forces member agrees to help the pair and drives them to the hospital. As a result of Tong Po's brutal assault, Kurt is told that Eric is paralyzed from the waist down and will never be able to walk, let alone fight, again.
Furious, Kurt vows to avenge his brother but is warned by Taylor that the only way to fight Tong Po is inside the ring. Reluctant at first, Taylor eventually tells him about Xian Chow, a locally famous trainer living in a remote area of Thailand. Upon locating Xian, Kurt is able to convince him to train him in the art of Muay Thai ("Thai boxing"). Xian trains Kurt using many primitive methods and focusing on speed, agility, and the ability to protect himself through balance and timely breathing. While training, Kurt attempts to foil the operations of a group of Thai mobsters led by Freddy Li, who continuously steal money from the store of Xian's niece, Mylee and threaten her. After Kurt makes short work of the thugs in a bar fight with Freddy Li looking on, Xian is able to convince Freddy Li to arrange a match between Kurt and Tong Po. It is determined that they will fight in the "ancient way", in which both fighters wrap their hands in hemp rope, which is then coated in resin and dipped in broken glass to make them deadly weapons.
Freddy Li arranges to have the fight fixed, and borrows $1 million from the crime syndicate's boss to bet on Tong Po. In the days leading up to the match, Mylee is beaten and raped by Tong Po, and Eric is kidnapped by Freddy Li's henchmen to blackmail Kurt into losing the fight. To save his brother's life, Kurt is instructed by Freddy Li to go the distance with Tong Po before losing the match. He endures a torturous beating, but Xian and Taylor locate and rescue Eric before the fight concludes. With his brother free from danger, Kurt finds a second wind and defeats Tong Po in a vicious fashion. For good measure, he also kicks Freddy Li, knocking him out.
- Jean-Claude Van Damme as Kurt Sloane
- Dennis Alexio as Eric Sloane
- Dennis Chan as Xian Chow
- Michel Qissi as Tong Po
- Ka Ting Lee as Freddy Li
- Rochelle Ashana as Mylee
- Haskell Anderson as Winston Taylor
- Richard Foo as Tao Lin, boss of the Thai mafia
Sequels & Legacy
The film spawned several sequels. Despite Van Damme not returning, the film series between parts two and four continues the ongoing battles between the Sloan family - expanded to include third brother David Sloan, essayed by Sasha Mitchell - and Tong Po. The fifth entry is related in name only.
- Kickboxer 2: The Road Back (1991)
- Kickboxer 3: The Art of War (1992)
- Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor (1994)
- Kickboxer 5: The Redemption (1995)