Kickboxer II: The Road Back
In Kickboxer, we saw how Kurt Sloan (Jean Claude Van Damme) was victorious in his fight against the brutal Tong Po (Michel Qissi). But Tong Po is not so easily defeated and in a burst of rage guns down the champion as he prepares to leave Thailand. For Tong Po’s manager Sangha this is a disgrace that he cannot bear, for the kickboxing championship can’t be regained unless he can goad Kurt’s younger brother David (Sasha Mitchell) into the ring to fight Tong Po for the title. Under the watchful eye of his brother’s trainer Xian (Dennis Chan), he must enter the ring and face the lethal kickboxing skills of Tong Po, risking everything – including his life – to avenge the insane violence of the deadly Thai fighter.
After doing Death Warrant, Van Damme was becoming a rising action star. The makers behind his earlier films Bloodsport and Kickboxer were both hoping to do sequels with him. Van Damme had taken a liking to me and decided I was going to be his “guy” — so he said he would do whichever film I wrote! Reasoning that they were more or less the same films, I decided to do whichever one would pay me the most money. Sensible, right? This was the first time I was paid up front to write a film.
Kings Road ponied up the most money. I set to work, trying to write a masterpiece. Albert Pyun came on board to direct. Albert is an incredibly likeable guy, with an infectious enthusiasm. He kept telling me that he was going to make Kickboxer 2 his “Raging Bull”. Um, well — bonus points for ambition. Even now, I’m grinning as I remember Albert’s insane gusto.
For some reason, Van Damme ultimately backed out of the film. But I’d already been paid, so I had the distinction of being the highest paid person on the production (since I’d originally been roped in to be Van Damme bait). Everyone involved managed to convince themselves that the film could still be successful without Van Damme. Hollywood is rife with delusion. Sasha Mitchell was cast to play the role Van Damme had originated. (Bizarre fact: Michel Qissi, the guy who plays the hulking Tong Po, was actually Van Damme’s real-life paid-friend/right-hand man/whatever. I could never quite figure out their relationship, but he was around during the Death Warrant days.)
The film took a nose-dive. But happily, it also managed to be the subject of one of David Letterman’s Top 10 lists. Something like: “Top 10 Things Overheard While In Line For Kickboxer 2.” The only “thing” I remember is: “I hear this movie is just like Star Wars, only with more kicking.”
Incredibly, Mitchell revisited the role in two more Kickboxer follow-ups. So I guess it managed to scrape up some dough in home video.
January 25, 2022