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Soundtrack review: Kickboxer (Paul Hertzog, 1989, 2014)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Kickboxer (Paul Hertzog, 1989, 2014)


When I was a kid, the Jean Claude van Damme poster in my room wasn’t from Bloodsport; it was from Kickboxer. It was the movie that immediately followed Bloodsport and really put JCvD on the map and made him a superstar. I had the poster from this movie because it was his first one to follow the famous recipe that made van Damme the favorite underdog hero of my generation: tragedy strikes – wish for revenge – training hard – coming back and winning.  The formula never got old, the training part of his movie was my favorite, and I almost love those parts more than the emotional final fights. I was imagining myself going through the same thing, training from nothing, getting better. Movies like Kickboxer made this seem possible, they made me believe.
Paul Hertzog was back to score this one, and I can’t imagine the movie without his music. I especially can’t imagine those awesome training scenes without those notes that seemed to blend perfectly with the nature, with the character’s movements, everything was in synchrony. As Paul Hertzog himself says in the booklet of this new release, he imagined the fighting and training scenes as martial arts ballet and he tried to make the music and the on screen movements work together as a dance. He succeeded marvelously. As the character’s skills progressed, so did the tempo of the music. The first training cues are quieter, more melodic, while from “Advanced training” on the tempo gets closer to the awesome action cues from Bloodsport. It makes sense, because our hero’s skills get closer to the one van Damme had on that movie. Whenever I hear a track from Kickboxer, I know exactly which part of the movie it comes from, even more so then when I listen to Bloodsport. Bloodsport has the two long perfect cues that I can identify in a heartbeat, while Kickboxer has only one 4 minute long cue and a lot of short ones that easily take me through the chronology of the movie.  
Kickboxer is a score to meditate on…It’s a score to listen to when you need to calm down, gather your thoughts and focus. It’s a score to listen to when you need to shut out the world around you and connect better with what’s inside. It’s a score to train on, when the training requires slow and focused movements. It’s a score to fall asleep on; a score to listen to alone, on top of a mountain, or when you’re walking under a gentle rain. The training period cues make me feel all that. “Tai chi”, “First kiss”, “Stone city”, “Second stone”, ”Hospital”, “Mylee is the way”, “Warriors” or “Buddha’s eagle” are deep, melodic, beautiful and engaging. They are all 5 stars material. My favorite cues though, worthy of even more, are “Advanced training”, “Ancient voices” and “The eagle lands”, the magnificent end to this score.  
The cherry on top of this score are the powerful and inspirational songs performed by Stan Bush, the 80s voice who had also made Bloodsport whole. This new release has three of them, including two (“Streets of Siam” and “Fight for love”) co-written by Paul Hertzog and blending perfectly with the rest of the score.
Just like Bloodsport, the score for Kickboxer has its place among the best scores of the 80s. It also sits tightly in the box where I keep my dearest childhood dreams. It will also not miss from my marathon playlist. How could I possibly lose my way and focus during that 4 hour race with Paul Hertzog’s gems playing at the right moments…?       
My ratings:
Cue rating: 85 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 32/40
Album excellence: 80%
Cues to listen to:
To the Hospital/We’ll See
Very Stupid
Tai Chi
First Kiss
Stone City
Second Stone
Advanced Training
Ancient Voices
Mylee is the Way
Buddha’s Eagle
You’ve done it Before
Round one
The Eagle Lands
Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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