Kickboxer’s Tears (1992)
Director: Shen Da Wei
Writers: Shen Da Wei (???)
Starring: Moon Lee, Ken Lo, Billy Chow and Yukari Oshima

The Plot: Michael Li (Ken Lo) is a kickboxer whose sister is fresh back in town. His sister, Feng Li (Moon Lee) who has never approved of his fighting ways, makes it just in time to catch one of his matches for a seedy promoter who wants him to throw his fight. This evil promoter tells Michael in no short order that if he doesn’t throw his fight, he’s going to pay big time. During the fight, all seems well until Michael’s opponent (Billy Chow) rubs down his glove with chili powder and begins to batter Michael with it. During the fight Michael is blinded and then beaten to death right in front of his sister. After the funeral Feng sticks around in order to help out her brother’s gym, but the seedy promoter hasn’t finished with the Li family. Unknown to him though, Feng Li isn’t one to be trifled with!

The Review
I never realized how much I enjoyed watching women kick butt until I recently stumbled upon She Shoots Straight, but that movie really made a world of difference for me. The closest I had ever come to anything like it was watching Michelle Yeoh’s stunt-crazy performance in Police Story III, but if there are movies out there that feature tough women trying to compete with the men and succeeding at it – then you can always count me in. Kickboxer’s Tears marks my personal introduction to the beautiful and brilliant Moon Lee who made her name during the 80’s and 90’s as a tough, no-nonsense action heroine who took part in some pretty outlandish stunts. Including a noted explosion on the set of Devil Hunters (1980) that would cover her in burns.

While Kickboxer’s Tears doesn’t look to be one of Moon Lee’s most dangerous productions, it is infinitely entertaining as a piece of early nineties Hong Kong action. Made during the height of 90’s martial arts cinema, which saw the entire genre being upgraded to modern settings and brought upon the revitalization of Kung Fu cinema in general, this is a film that delivers in all of the right ways. Featuring dynamic fight sequences, an amazing cast and plenty of onscreen violence; Kickboxer’s Tears is a film that was guaranteed to deliver. Pairing Moon Lee with the incredible Yukari Oshima (AKA: the male gang-boss from Ricky Oh: The Story of Ricky that looked a LOT like a girl… and was a girl) together, this is a project that had a whole lot going for it. The two starred together in other titles before, but this was one that really paired the two together in a “unstoppable force meets movable object” type of dynamic. You throw Billy Chow and some unusually disturbing bits of violence in the midst of the action, and you have a potential classic!

A very strong piece of Hong Kong action, Kickboxer’s Tears partially belongs to the “girls with guns” subgenre of HK action cinema mixed with a more traditional form of martial arts cinema. The big difference from your average piece of Kung Fu is the modernization of traditional martial arts away from both the “period” setting as well as the “street combat” that was and is quite popular. Not that the fight choreography has changed up that much from most films of the time, but the “Kickboxing” back-drop for the movie provides a “new” factor. The setting for the movie is based around the world of semi-professional kickboxing, which is an interesting thing to see because it isn’t an area that one immediately equates with Chinese martial arts. The number of Kung Fu artists within K1 (the world most premiere mixed-Kickboxing organization) are very slim and outside of San Shou the western world has seen very little from China’s legendary fighters within modern times.

That doesn’t mean that Kickboxer’s Tears demonstrates some hidden form of martial arts, not in the least. The choreography is very much what one expects from your average Kung Fu feature, but only this time the fighters are wearing shorts and traditional kickboxing garb. The choreography is still the same back and forth (punch, block, punch, block) set-up that you expect from choreographed Kung Fu, but its certainly of the more exciting and fast-paced variety. When the girls take to fighting, in particular, the choreography seems all the more brutal. Moon Lee is the standout from the performers and she truly holds the weight of the film on her back. In terms of her athletic and acting performance, she is the solid rock foundation that the film rests upon and she makes this the exciting piece of action cinema that it truly is.

Listed as a CAT III title of all things, Kickboxer’s Tears features very little of the excessive violence or sex that one seems to expect from the genre. The rating is a bit perplexing to be honest, but I can sort of see where it comes from. The goriest and most shocking sequences in the movie are very small in terms of screen time, but the violence that is here is a bit on the disturbed side. There are some brutal moments that generally involve a box-cutter and some severe spinal cord damage, but this isn’t a title that I would recommend primarily for the on-screen violence.

Part of what makes the movie as memorable as it was for me is the utterly terrible English dub that I watched the movie with. Terrible in all of the ways that make a bad movie “great”, Kickboxer’s Tears packs a considerable amount of really fun dialog. “Stay close to him, and then jab, punch!” may be my favorite line throughout the movie. In the context of the scene, which is during the first kickboxing sequence (which is awfully long, by the way), there are so many things wrong with the line. For one, the two fighters are keeping within range throughout the course of the fight and never step out into jabbing distance. There are no pecking shots thrown from the shoulder, because jabbing doesn’t exactly translate to an “exciting” fight. Just look at Floyd Mayweather Jr. (oh, I went there). Second of all, a jab IS A PUNCH! I’m sure the dialogue was meant to be “jab, hook”, “jab, uppercut” or maybe “jab, straight” but I guess the filmmakers weren’t very knowledgeable about martial arts or the fight game in general.

The Conclusion
Kickboxer’s Tears isn’t a perfect movie by a longshot. In fact, even as a piece of Kung Fu cinema it has issues. The fight sequence between Yukari Oshima and Moon Lee is far too short and doesn’t have the impact that most audience members might expect after the entire movie seems to pit these two against one another. Then there’s that dreadfully long kickboxing match during the first half of the movie, where we see nearly an entire match round-by-round. These are minor inconveniences however, as the overall product is of a high quality standard. I can’t help but recommend the movie, because I haven’t had this much fun with a movie in quite a while. Check it out!