1994 / Director. Albert Pyun. Movie #18
I love the KICKBOXER series and Albert Pyun's KICKBOXER 2 is my favourite of them. It is also arguably the best instalment... that movie introduced Sasha Mitchell as a new leading action man and tailored a new narrative, while remaining true to the set-up of the original. Sasha Mitchell then returned for part 3 and that film, while solid enough as a stand-alone, was hard to take as a KICKBOXER story. It was almost devoid of martial arts and relied heavily on gun fights, chases and explosions. It was a different type of action movie... and so then Albert returned to the franchise with part 4, which ignores the previous film and continues David Sloan's story following part 2 (ya with me?). THE AGGRESSOR sees Sloan in prison after he was stung by a botched undercover operation for the feds. In the mean time his wife is kidnapped by the infamous Tong Po (from the first two movies) and he is released from jail on the provisor that he goes undercover once more to infiltrate an illegal fighting tournament held by Tong Po at his remote Mexican ranch (also an opportunity to rescue his wife). Being a fan of the franchise, THE AGGRESSOR is a tough one to swallow. On the up-side, it is a return to the original themes and puts it's emphasis on the fighting... but there are a lot of shortcomings that ultimately bring the movie undone. The story seems far more convoluted than it needs to be and the fight sequences are laboured. The biggest weakness is the character of Tong Po. He is a movie villain that has become iconic thanks to his deep voice, cool name and trademark ponytail... and in this sequel his entire character has been sullied. Michel Qissi didn't reprise the role and Kamel Krifia stepped into his shoes. The unfortunate consequence of this is that Po's deep gravelly voice is now high-pitched and whiney. He looks like a weakling and not the brutal barbarian we've come to know. His make-up is also unforgivable. So poorly done are his prothetic Asian eyes that at times he has two sets of eyelids when he blinks... and then there's his wrinkled bald-cap which becomes displaced several times throughout fight sequences. All of the movie's foibles are unfortunate because it is still fun to watch Sasha Mitchell kick ass and the concept had the potential to be a welcome addition to the franchise. The frustrating part for me is that I still enjoy watching KICKBOXER 4. It's a lot of fun, but I wish I were enjoying it as a good sequel rather than a hokey 90 minutes of cliches. There are far worse fight movies out there and this one's simply good for shits 'n giggles.