Baldwin’s Bloody Beat: Kickboxer 3: The Art of War (1992)

Kickboxer31The film was not well received by critics.” – Wikipedia

I am shocked, I tell you. SHOCKED! Or not. Oh, Sasha Mitchell. You’re really not a bad action lead, and you deserved so much better than this. Where do I even begin?

The basic premise of Kickboxer 3: The Art of War sees David Sloane headings off down to Brazil with Xian (Dennis Chan) to compete in an exhibition match. While there, they find themselves mixed up in a child slavery/prostitution ring that is being run by a sleazy American businessman. When the police prove unable to help, it’s up to David and Xian to bust up this dirty business and seek justice for those being abused.

On paper, that sounds pretty dark, but you wouldn’t know if from watching the film itself. Everything is played in a happy-go-lucky way, with even the villains being fairly polite in most cases. This might be the most laid-back action movie I have ever seen involving child slavery and forced prostitution. Everyone just kind of wanders around nonchalantly from scene to scene, as if they don’t have a care in the world.

This was apparently shot back-to-back with Kickboxer 2: The Road Back. That film seemed to spend whatever its budget was on recognizable actors (Peter Boyle, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and overly-long fight sequences, but was mostly shot in empty buildings. Kickboxer 3 appears to have gone the opposite direction. The scenery is greatly improved, with a lot of lush jungle, forest, and beach sequences, but almost nothing happens. We are treated to a couple short fights and (bizarrely) an extended gunfighting sequence, but that’s about it.

Yes, gunfights. It seems that, for whatever reason, David and Xian are just as skilled with firearms as they are fist-and-footery, so they take a mansion by force, blowing away goon after goon, so that they can question a rich pimp. At least we get a kinetic action sequence out of it though, right? Wrong. It’s just as nonchalant as the rest of the film.

Kickboxer33Seriously, I don’t even know what to make of this. Our villain, Frank Lane, is actually a fairly easy-going fellow. At one point he has David set up to fight his champion. Martine. Frank is holding a street urchin hostage, threatening to kill her, if David doesn’t cooperate. Naturally he wants David to throw the fight, right? Wrong. He simply wants to guarantee that David shows up to the fight. He still wants him to do his best.

Huh? Well, he at least tortures David by busting him up, ensuring that he’ll lose, right? Nope. While he does have one of his goons make David exercise to the point of exhaustion for a couple of days in a row, that’s not exactly the most diabolical thing in the world. David isn’t injured, he’s just tired and sore. After Xian makes him a power shake that is composed of many weird things (palm leaves, moss, snake venom, etc.), David’s as right as rain.

David naturally wins the match, causing Frank to lose everything financially, as he’d bet it all on Martine. Frank then tries to kill David, right? Not really. He threatens him a bit and then just returns to his mansion to mope in a corner before he’s forced to move out of it. Seriously, what the hell is going on here?

Things don’t truly get violent until David shows back up at Frank’s domicile to both rub it all in and free whatever remaining enslaved servants Frank has. When Frank finally starts mouthing off about it all, David smacks him around and then leaves. Frank, finally having enough, pulls a gun on him and is stabbed to death in the gut by a knife-wielding kid for all of his troubles. Yep, our big baddie is done in by a kid who probably isn’t older than 10.

I kind of stunned. I have absolutely no idea what they were trying to accomplish with Kickboxer 3. Not only does it not fit the style and tone of the first film, but it also doesn’t fit with the second one either … and it was shot immediately after it! With a lot of the same people involved! Even David as a character doesn’t feel the same. All of the pathos (what little there were) are gone and he’s now kind of a meatheaded putz.

Kickboxer 3: The Art of War is not only a bad movie, but it’s also a bad sequel. It doesn’t repeat the mistakes of Kickboxer 2, but instead manages to make all new ones. Both films are equally bad, but for entirely different reasons. To be honest, this one might actually be worse. I came out of the second film curious about the other sequels, because even though it was crap, Mitchell was at least a capable lead. I still feel that way about Mitchell, but at this point I am dreading the next one. Perhaps the third time will be a charm for the David Sloane section of this franchise, but I’m not holding out too much hope.

Next Time: Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor (1994)

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