Stephen Fung Wants "Kickboxer" Remake to be "Gritty" and "Brutal"

Jean Claude Van Damme in "Kickboxer"

While in Hong Kong during the Hong Kong International Film Festival, I read an interview that Stephen Fung did with Time Out Hong Kong, a magazine that was lying in my hotel room. In the interview, he talks about his latest project: directing a Hollywood remake of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s late 80s hit “Kickboxer.”

But first, a brief introduction to Fung. He started his career in Hong Kong as a singer, then an actor, and now, a director. I first noticed him as an action star in Benny Chan’s “Gen-X Cops,” a modest hit in the late 90s that spawned a sequel, “Gen-Y Cops,” which curiously starred Paul Rudd.

Nowadays, Fung’s busy directing action films instead of performing in them. Most recently, he directed “Tai Chi 0” and “Tai Chi Hero,” a pair of martial arts films shot back-to-back for $37M. Together, they grossed $50M in China -- decent but not enough to greenlight a third film.

Now, he’s taking his action credentials to Hollywood with “Kickboxer.” Fung said it’s not a “direct remake.” Like adding video game and steampunk elements to the martial arts genre in the “Tai Chi” films, he wants to do something different and “challenging” for the Van Damme update. It’ll be “gritty,” “brutal,” and “mature.”

In regards to a cameo by Van Damme, Fung answers with a “maybe.” It sounds like they’re still negotiating.

Although I like the original, I’m not sure if star-driven films like “Kickboxer” can be remade well. Back then, it was all about Van Damme and his good looks, muscles, and splits (not exactly in that order of importance). Guys go for the splits, and women go for everything else. “The Muscles from Brussels” made “Kickboxer” a modest hit.

I’m also not sure how much of a built-in audience the remake can draw from because the original “Kickboxer” only grossed $14.5M at the box office in 1989, not a huge figure even back then.

Unless Fung and his producers can find another undiscovered martial arts star, I could easily see the finished product going direct-to-video.

The logical choice would be to cast rising martial arts star and frequent Van Damme collaborator Scott Adkins (“The Expendables 2”) in the starring role and pair him up with an A-lister who can put people in theaters.

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