The King of the Kickboxers (1991)


aka No Retreat, No Surrender 4

Hong Kong/USA. 1991.


Director – Lucas Lowe, Screenplay – Keith W. Strandberg, Story – Ng See Yuen & Keith W. Strandberg, Producers – Boonlert Setthamongkol & Keith W. Strandberg, Cinematography – Viking Chiu, Music – Richard Yuen, Visual Effects – John Ting, Art Direction – Pong, Martial Arts Choreography – Antony Leung. Production Company – Seasonal Film Corporation


Loren Avedon (Jake Donahue), Sherrie Rose (Molly), Keith Cooke (Prang), Billy Blanks (Khan), Richard Jaeckel (Captain O’Day), Don Stroud (Anderson), William Long (Big Boss), David Michael Sterling (McKinney), Michael DePasquale, Jr. (Sean Donahue), Jerry Trimble (Drug Dealer)


In 1981, young Jake Donahue is witness as his brother Sean wins a kickboxing competition in Hong Kong. Afterwards however, Sean is ambushed and then beaten and killed by the brutal Khan. Ten years later and Jake has become one of the top undercover police detectives in New York City. Jake’s captain wants to loan him to Interpol to travel to Thailand to go undercover and infiltrate a gang that are hiring fighters to make movies but are then killing them for real on screen. Jake at first refuses but when he sees one of the films and finds that the opponent is Khan, he decides to go to Thailand to settle scores. After arriving in Bangkok, Jake realises that to take on Khan he must train to become an even better kickboxer.

The King of the Kickboxers was an American-Hong Kong co-produced film designed to exploit the late 80s/early 90s kickboxing movie fad that came out after the success of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Kickboxer (1989). The King of the Kickboxers was promoted in some places as the fourth films in the series begun with No Retreat, No Surrender (1986), which was made by the same production company as this – even though it has no relation to the original film. With equal kind of arbitrariness, there have been two different films that have both been promoted as being The King of the Kickboxers IIAmerican Shaolin (1991) and Fighting Spirit (1992).

The King of the Kickboxers is fairly much what one expects of a kickboxing film of this era. It is included here as borderline horror material because of a snuff filmmaking plot. The film travels through a minimally sketched plot – it is hard to view hero Loren Avedon’s mission as being rooted in any kind of credible police procedure – he is recruited by Interpol and sent to a foreign country (Thailand) even though he appears to not even speak the language, where he receives no training, no intel, not even any backup – yet is sent into a mission where there is a high likelihood that he will be killed. The rest of the film comes by the clichés of the genre, including the inevitable martial arts training scenes presided over by a Zen master who speaks in epigrammatic puzzles.

The dialogue is extremely bad and flatly delivered by the cast. Most of this feels as though it was written by someone who is not a native English-language speaker. Witness the confrontation between hero Loren Avedon and Sherrie Rose shortly after he rescues her: “They stole your dreams, they need to be punished.” “Who’s going to do the punishing – you?” “My crusade card’s a bit full right now.” Loren Avedon has a cocky, overly self-assured presence that grates on the nerves. As his character states at one point: “I’m a fighter, not an actor,” which about sums his performance up.

The King of the Kickboxers is a film that has been construed solely in terms of pumped-up action sequences, rather than any other minimal considerations that one might ask of a film like convincing dialogue, plot or basic acting ability. As such, The King of the Kickboxers must at least be acclaimed for its fast and fierce martial arts scenes. There is a tough brutality to these – like the scene where Loren Avedon slams a one-bar electric heater into a villain’s face. The extended climactic to-the-death bamboo cage fight sequence is a classic of the genre.

(Review copy provided courtesy of Ryan Kenner from Movies in the Attic).

Full film available online here:-

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