When last we saw David Sloan (Sasha Mitchell), he was leaving Brazil with his friend/trainer Xian. They had just taken down a child slavery/prostitution ring and used prize money from a fight to put two orphans they befriended into school. All was right with the world. Life is good for David. High fives, everyone!
Cut to the beginning of Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor…
David has been wrongfully imprisoned, and the series’ recurring villain Tong Po (now played by Kamel Krifia) is to blame. Also, sometime between the third film and this one, David had gotten married. Shortly after his imprisonment, Tong Po kidnapped David’s wife Vicky (Deborah Mansy) and made her one of his personal concubines. Talk about a massive buzzkill after the feel good actioner that was Kickboxer 3: The Art of War!
How did Tong Po pull all of this off? It seems that since the events of Kickboxer 2: The Road Back, he has managed to become a criminal kingpin down in Mexico! He has his own private army and a lucrative drug trade, which has made him a target for the DEA. David hooked up with them before the events of the film, for whatever reason, and had attempted to bring an informant back to the U.S. to provide the DEA with information on Po’s operation. The mission went south and David ended up in the slam.
It’s now a few years later and the DEA has finally decided to pull David out of the clink. His charges cleared, he is given a new mission: kill Tong Po. They don’t want the Muay Thai master turned drug lord brought in. They just want him dead.
Tong Po is holding a private martial arts tournament in his compound, so David is tasked with making sure that he is invited, albeit under an alias. After all, there’s no way Po is going to intentionally let David in. As a bonus, said compound is also where David’s wife is being held, offering him the opportunity to save her, as well as destroy his arch-nemesis.
David’s disguise? He puts on a pair of sunglasses and goes by the name of “Jack Jones.” No facial hair, no change in haircut, and no change in clothing. Just a goofy fake name and shades. After winning a street fight and impressing the right promoter, David gets the invitation he needs. He heads off to Mexico, hitchhiking and then just casually walking across the border.
Along the way he gets into an hilariously over-the-top barfight in an effort to save a random girl named Megan (Michele Krasnoo), who ultimately turns out to be one of the fighters he’ll be up against. At the compound, he runs into his back-up: a former student turned DEA agent named Lando Smith (Brad Thornton). You read that right. Lando Smith. Paired with Megan, David now has a decent support system to aid in the completion of his goals.
Lando also has a way with the ladies, because of course he does. He uses this “talent” to seduce one of the female workers at Tong Po’s compound. They need all the help they can get, because although Tong Po’s goons are pretty dumb, his right-hand man Bill (Thom Matthews) is a real piece of work. Add in the fact that most of the competing fighters are shitty people eager to kill their opponents and it’s a pretty hairy situation all around.
This is a massively mean-spirited film. It’s like director Albert Pyun decided that not only was Kickboxer 3 too lighthearted, but the first two films were as well. This outing is filled to the brim with senseless violence, sexual violence and murder. It’s a pretty dark film with a lot of ugly elements, but this also serves to help set it apart from the rest of the series thus far. For better or worse, Kickboxer 4 stands alone as its own film.
Mitchell is extra beefy this time out and once again a capable lead, although he seems to struggle a bit with this more hardened, grimmer take on David. It’s a far cry from the mostly charming and happy incarnation of the character in the last two films. Still, he gives it his all and still looks great in the fight scenes (of which there are PLENTY), so it’s hard to complain.
Krasnoo and Thornton are non-entities as Megan and Lando. Both characters are really only there to get knocked around and help fight people in the background when things go south, but neither is bad enough to harm the film. Thom Matthews, probably best known for his leading turns in Return of the Living Dead and Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, is a treat as Po’s henchman Bill. A sleazy son of a bitch, Bill is as nasty and violent as they come, which is the best way for any villainous sidekick to be.
As for Po himself, between the altered career path for the character and Krifia’s performance being very different than the original actor, he might as well be a different character. He now plays like a comical cross between Shang Tsung and Kano, with this connection only further strengthened by his Mortal Kombat-esque tournament of death.
Prone to ridiculous expressions and silly speeches, this Tong Po is actually pretty entertaining overall. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t bring up the Road Warrior-style ballyhoo speech of an introduction that Bill gives him when the tournament begins. Instead of parroting parts of it, I’ll just give you the direct quote itself, because it’s too wondrous to bust up …
“Now let me introduce our host. He’s a great humanitarian! A board-certified psychotherapist! A visionary record producer! Three-time national Thai champion! Six-time Sian Tournament of Champions champion! TOOOOOOOONG POOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”
I rest my case.
I sat down with Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor days ago and I still don’t know what to make of it. It’s not a good film, but it’s so damn mean and weird that I just can’t bring myself to dislike it. It’s just too offbeat to dismiss. It’s also left me with a bittersweet feeling. Why? Because, as far as I know, this is the end of David’s story.
I’m not sure how much the next film, Kickboxer 5: The Redemption, ties into the series overall, but I do know that Sasha Mitchell didn’t return for it. Marc Dacascos is the lead of that film and plays an entirely different character. Further complicating things is the fact that … SPOILERS … Tong Po gets away at the end of Kickboxer 4. David does indeed save Vicky, but his nemesis slithers away yet again. Since I’m pretty sure Po doesn’t come back in Kickboxer 5 either, their battle remains unresolved to this day. Bummer.
Still, lack of a resolution, I feel comfortable proclaiming this the best of the David Sloan trilogy that lies at the center of this franchise. It might not be a good movie, but it’s certainly better than the two that came before it. I’ve got two more entries left to go, so wish me luck!