It's interesting that while Indian cinema has focused on the emotional angle of
life in its orientation towards drama and hasn't accorded too much attention to
classy action cuts, the West has mastered the action angle and lagged behind in
emotion. And that's exactly the reason that this movie, with its insipid emotional
portrayals, didn't do too well in English and neither did its inspired version
in Hindi with Ajay Devgan in the lead, with the action scenes leaving something
to be desired, make any great box office collections.
And since the major part of this movie is set in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand, it's an absolute misfit in the movie kingdom. But if Tai-Chi-Chuan or such martial arts are what you are looking for, then this movie is the perfect one.
Eric Stone is the World Kick-Boxing Champion, and since he's beaten almost everyone, he must now go to Thailand, the home of kick-boxers, and find a worthy champion, defend his title and reinforce his position as the world's no. 1 kick-boxer. But he's brought to his knees and has his back broken by Tiger-Po, the local champion of monstrous strength and beastly brutality.
Kirk (Van Damme), his younger brother, finds his way to Chan Chow, a Zen master who is also a master of Tai-Chi (what an odd way to find nirvana), and learns the finer skills of the sport. Zen master that he is, Chow keeps contradicting himself and gives Kirk Zen Koans (riddles with no answers) and teaches him the ways of Kung-Fu. His training takes place at Stone City, an ancient temple of warriors. Meanwhile Kirk gets the nickname of 'not-so-cow' which means the white warrior (so does not-so-buffalo mean black warrior?).
Finally the day of the big fight arrives, and Kirk finds his brother kidnapped. As ransom he must take punishment at the hands of Tiger Po. Tiger Po has also raped Mai-lee, Kirk's girlfriend, without his knowledge. Here comes the emotional angle. When Kirk is in the ring helplessly taking a kicking to see his brother alive, Tiger Po tells a bleeding Kirk how good she was in bed. And the hero is even more laden with impotent rage.
But Master Chow comes to the rescue by saving Eric and bringing him to the arena, and when Kirk sees him hale and hearty, the hair on the nape of your neck begins to stand as all hell breaks loose and you get to see Van Damme at his worst - which is actually his best.
One for the martial art freaks. Be clear that you are going to see the fights.