Kickboxer King (1992)

Directed by: Alton Cheung
Written by: Elsa Tsang
Produces: Joseph Lai & Betty Chan
Starring: Kenneth Goodman, Bruce Fontaine, Nick Brandon, Wayne Archer, Steve Brettingham & Panna Rittikrai

Joseph Lai and IFD always wanted to catch and capitalize on trends and while their brand of cut and paste movies with every conceivable title variation involving the word ninja made their name, Lai clearly saw the impact Jean Claude Van Damme made with Bloodsport and Kickboxer and thus ninjas got replaced by kickboxers. Sourcing the Thai actioner 2 Nuk Soo Poo Ying Yai (given the English title Thai Police Story when released on US dvd) starring Panna Rittikrai (Angel III and the stunt coordinator on Ong Bak), the original doesn't even run an hour so IFD for once had to make sure their Western cast kickboxed enough alongside it to fill a feature (EDIT: I was informed the original does run feature length but a the hour edit edits out among other things comedic sections). A very notable acquisition as there's jaw dropping sights to be had seeing these passionate Thai men perform stunts under no regulations and a micro budget, together with Ken Goodman, Bruce Fontaine, Wayne Archer and the rest, Kickboxer King adds up to a very limp (but somewhat sincere and fun) time at IFD while the jaw dropping Thai footage cementing it as a sure fire recommendation for those with a nose for appreciating the fun in the somewhat inept.

Connecting itself to Thai Police Story in the most threadbare way ever, cocky boxer Joe (Kenneth Goodman) wants to further his career for underground promoter Costner. Setting up a match versus Johnny (Bruce Fontaine) who's lost his way through enhancement drugs, he expectedly gets defeated outside of the arena but trains his little heart out while gearing up for the finale in the ring. Costner has gangster connections and that's how Panna Rittikrai and company walks alongside IFD's events as we get Thai gangster turf war, corrupt police officers and stuntmen hurting themselves for our enjoyment.

In IFD's hands anyway, it's very easy to lose track of 2 Nuk Soo Poo Ying Yai but it does exist merely as a showcase for what Panna and crew were capable of, were willing to go through for celluloid entertainment and boy is it a pain- and daredevil showcase. Panna's strength is taking Hong Kong cinema influence (in particular from Sammo Hung) and transferring his fandom to his own creativity. Favouring a lot of power, full contact and often throwing himself and stuntmen into the environments, the crew fight on top of trucks, take hard and high falls and really sets a tone for Thai action cinema that would eventually break out big time through movies like Ong Bak. Clearly aware of their limitations as filmmakers, it's all functional string for the steady stream of often jaw dropping action without regulations, a union or a producer telling them what to do and what not to. Anyone skilled enough or willing to deliver celluloid in this manner deserves the recognition Panna eventually got.

Being showcased internationally thanks to IFD putting the majority of the footage in Kickboxer King, their own, very limp Rocky-esque tale is delivered with a sincere energy with some basic, underdog storytelling, fairly gritty fights but no one will mistake the action for something out of the elite. But everybody involves means what they are doing, what they can and can't do and after all, Kickboxer King in an overall sense delivered for IFD. It's still somewhat hidden being ninja less, which is amusing in its own way as you are so used to them appearing but a terrific pick up featuring a terrific set of Thai performers means it's cheesy, painful fun and the tuned audience will have no problem appreciating that passion. From both camps of filmmakers.


reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson