Following the death of his brothers, Eric and Kurt, David Sloane (Mitchell) opts to lead a quiet life away from the professional kickboxing circuit. He is perfectly content to spend his time teaching in the gym and feels that this is the best way to honour his brother’s memory. Unfortunately though, he also has bills to pay and when things get desperate he agrees to go back into the ring for one last time. Although the fight goes smoothly, David is involved in an outside incident that leaves him severely injured. When he awakes, he finds himself face-to-face with a man by the name of Chow (Chan) who has apparently been bought in to aid his recovery. Meanwhile, one of his best students, Brian (Murdocco) has been snapped up by a hotshot promoter and believes he is on the road to stardom. However, when a mysterious opponent from Thailand issues a challenge, both David and Chow advise him against taking the fight.
With Van Damme now hitting the big leagues, this sequel to 1989’s ‘Kickboxer’ revolves around a previously unmentioned third Sloane brother. And, as any fan of B-movies might have predicted, the film sees our new hero travelling a suspiciously similar path to his predecessor; suffering an emotional loss, training with a master, and a final face-off against the deadly Tong Po. Sadly though, this ‘Home Alone’ approach to sequel-making doesn’t exactly work for ‘Kickboxer 2’. The real problem is that the film takes itself far too seriously, ditching all of the cheesy montages and Thai backdrop in favour of a far more generic Saturday morning special style of storytelling. Perhaps this would have worked if David had any character flaws or required any growth, but he seems to be a sickeningly nice guy at the start, a sickeningly nice guy in the middle, and… yes, you guessed it, a sickeningly nice guy in the end. Focusing on Brian, a character who actually seems to have a moral dilemma, would have clearly made for a more interesting tale.
Sasha Mitchell in the leading role doesn’t really do the film any favours either. He’s not a bad actor per se and actually worked well in the sitcom ‘Step by Step’, but he doesn’t seem to fit the bill here. He just comes across as far too much of a subdued “surfer dude” to really convince and you can’t help but think he would be far more at home in a ‘Bill and Ted’ movie. Then we have Dennis Chan, who pops up around the halfway mark for no real reason whatsoever. You would assume that he’s going to train David to be a better fighter and help him to find a way to beat Tong Po. But no, he just offers some rather basic physio while David wanders off to do tai chi in the park with homeless people. As for the villain, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa does his best with the material but even he struggles to sell us on a masterplan that seems to revolve around little more than letting Tong Po murder at will!
When it comes to action sequences in ‘Kickboxer 2’, it’s clear that Albert Pyun was trying to recreate a ‘Rocky’-esque style of fighting film. There are plenty of slow-motion close-ups when people get punched in the face and it all feels a lot more like a set of official kickboxing bouts (rousing all-American music included). Unfortunately, none of it is particularly exciting to watch and even established martial arts B-movie stars like Matthias Hues seem to get lost in the mix. Mitchell, who studies taekwondo in real-life, may be a talented fighter but we certainly don’t see it on screen. He just uses the same two or three kicks to win every confrontation before the film eventually winds up with an underwhelming finale that bizarrely takes place in front of an empty stadium.
‘Kickboxer 2’ is a weak martial arts movie and a disappointing follow-up to one of Van Damme’s breakout hits. Despite attempting to use several of the same ingredients, the serious tone mixed with sub-par fight sequences and an overly familiar plot somehow manages to suck all of the fun out of it.