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  King of the Kickboxers, The The Splits Are ItBuy this film here.
Year: 1990
Director: Lucas Lowe
Stars: Loren Avedon, Richard Jaeckel, Don Stroud, Billy Blanks, Sherrie Rose, William Long Jr, David Michael Sterling, Keith Cooke, Ong Soo Han, Jerry Trimble, Bruce Fontaine, Patrick Shuck, John Kay, Michael Depasquale Jr, Dean Harrington
Genre: Thriller, Martial Arts
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ten years ago, Detective Jake Donahue (Loren Avedon) was in Thailand with his brother (Michael Depasquale Jr), who was an expert kickboxer. On the night of his greatest win, Jake was delighted but it all turned horribly wrong on the way back to their hotel as the taxi was prevented from going any further when a gang of hoods blocked their way. His brother got out to confront them in the forest, and did very well in beating them up until their leader appeared. He was Khan (Billy Blanks), and bested him, leaving him dead as Jake could only look on in disbelief...

But now there's a chance Jake can get his own back because he's a dab hand, and a dab foot for that matter, at kickboxing himself which comes in handy when he's out busting drug dealers, as we see in the next, modern day sequence that comes straight after the opening flashback. This turned out to be the last film star Avedon made in this series, for it was actually No Retreat, No Surrender 4, as indeed it was known as in some territories, though as with the previous instalments the plotlines had little to do with one another aside from providing the opportunity for major league ass-kicking. On a budget, that was.

Yes, this wasn't exactly a franchise which had an abundance of cash to spend, but the Hong Kong producers knew precisely what would make up for it, being of course the lead character getting into fights at regular intervals. Once the plot had been established, you could practically write it yourself, as this was not a film to go bucking any trends, so it was all here: the hero's revenge motive, the lengthy training sequence, and the final victory over whatever big boss the narrative cared to throw at him. This time there was even a slight horror movie inflection to the baddies' dealings as what Jake uncovers is a snuff ring led by American expats in Thailand who film people getting killed in brawls with Khan and sell the results at a profit.

Watching this at home on the orders of his chief (Richard Jaeckel), Jake recognises Khan as the man who executed his brother ("NOOOO!!!"), so leaves behind his previous cavalier work with the drug dealers and books his ticket on the next plane out of New York City. Once in Bangkok, he makes it clear that he's looking for a match, which alerts the interest of the evil videomakers, though not before Jake meets his contact and gets his ass handed to him by the formidable opponent. There's only one thing to do, and that's undergo the by now de rigueur training regime at the behest of, no, not an old man with a long white beard, but a relatively young man (Keith Cooke) who lives in the jungle with a chimp.

Just ignore the points in the script where he's called an old man, then. Anyway, after a lot of doing the splits, which appears to be the main visual motif, our man is ready - oh, wait, there's a love interest too, in the form of Sherrie Rose who Jake, ever the knight in shining armour, saves from Khan's gang after she flees his rape attempt. Naturally, she has to be captured once again to be rescued once again, but it was as ever the combat which would be the attraction, and if the rest of it was, if anything growing creakier with every movie - it's hard to believe it was made in 1990 - then the cast threw themselves into the physical side with gusto. One problem remained in that during the mad flurry of activity that was the finale, it wasn't clear if the baddies had been caught; obviously one of them wasn't going anywhere, but the "Let's get the hell out of here!" scarpering of those evil filmmakers suggested they'd got off scot free. There was one more in the series to go... but Avedon wouldn't be in it. Music by Richard Yuen.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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