Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Film Round-Up #13

Oh hey, what's going down? There have been many and varied pursuits here in RKS-Land and that includes films. I've seen quite a few lately and, of course, time is always found for good old Jean Claude Van Damme and his zany exploits. This latest selection is from either end of his filmography - a few of his earlier efforts as well as a couple of very recent releases. Are any of them good? Read on and find out!

AWOL / Lionheart (1990)

This film is one of many names and was probably the most popular of JCVD's early films after Bloodsport and Kickboxer. He stars as Lyon, a French Foreign Legion paratrooper who's denied leave to see his dying brother. So he goes AWOL. En route to the U.S. his brother dies, leaving behind a wife and young son. Soon afterwards he stumbles into the world of underground bare knuckle fighting and, with the help of his self-appointed manager Joshua (Harrison Page), he starts competing to provide his sister-in-law with some much-needed cash while avoiding the legionnaires attempting to haul him back to the desert. Basically then, it's kind of like Bloodsport, only with hoodlums fighting for the amusement of a bunch of elitist fat-cats. It's not as good as Bloodsport, obviously (nothing is), but it's quite an entertaining take on the same sort of premise. Van Damme's kicky action isn't his greatest but it's decent enough, and just as memorable are motormouth Joshua's constant babbling and Deborah Rennard as the organiser of the fights who keeps trying to seduce our man (why wouldn't he just slip her one?)... 7/10

Double Impact (1991)

I haven't seen this one since I last watched my old VHS copy so it was good to recently see it again. It features JCVD as twin brothers, Chad and Alex. While still a baby, the former was smuggled out of Hong Kong, where their father was in charge of the Victoria Tunnel's construction, when their parents are executed by Triad hitmen keen to claim ownership of the tunnel. Many years later they are reunited by their father's old bodyguard, Frank (Geoffrey Lewis) who wants to help them 'reclaim their birthright', and that means returning to Hong Kong and smacking up the Triads. That's if the very different brothers can avoid smacking each other up in the meantime, obviously! Luckily, there are enough bad guys to share between them both - their father's ex-partner, Nigel Griffith (Alan Scarfe), the Triad boss, Raymond Zhang (Philip Chan), and his various goons who are headed by Moon (Bolo Yeung - Bloodsport's Chong Li). It's as basic and generic as action movies get, with typical acting, story, and dialogue, but Van Damme does quite well as the two distinct characters, and it's good if silly fun... 6/10

Nowhere To Run (1993)

I could've sworn I'd seen this one before but, having just watched it again, absolutely nothing was even slightly familiar so perhaps I hadn't. Oh well, nonetheless... Here, JCVD plays Sam, a convict who's sprung from custody on the way to prison by his bank-robbing partner for whom he took the fall. When the escape results in his friend's death, however, he's on his own. He sets up camp on some land which he soon discovers is owned by a nearby farmer, Clydie (Rosanna Arquette), whom property developers are trying to force off her land using increasingly aggressive tactics. Predictably enough, he soon intervenes (not before spying on her stripping off for a shower though!), first seeing off numerous stock goons before locking horns with the main bad guy (Ted Levine) and his employer, the unscrupulous developer himself, Franklin Hale (Joss Ackland). Cue lots of bonding scenes with the appealing Clydie and her two kids along with the odd bit of ass-kicking (with surprisingly little chop-socky action). I'm not sure there's enough of the latter to call it an out-an-out action film but it's pretty decent all the same. It's hard to imagine Sam as the criminal he's meant to be though... 7/10

Enemies Closer (2013)

Just as I started watching this one I was thinking "I wonder why JCVD doesn't play more bad guys?", and what do you suppose happened next? I found that he was the bad guy in this very film! At first you're meant to think he's a mere Mountie but he soon reveals his true nature when he starts killing people. He's actually Xander, a drug-dealer who lost a load of heroin when a plane went down in a lake just past the U.S./Canadian border. Luckily for him, the forest ranger working in the surrounding wilderness is an ex-Navy SEAL diver, Henry Taylor (Tom Everett Scott). Less fortunately, Clay (Orlando Jones), a brother of one of the SEAL's under Henry's command turns up seeking revenge for his KIA sibling. Can they put aside their differences with the enigmatic Xander on their tail? Once again there's barely any story here but it works almost entirely thanks to Van Damme. His oddball bad-guy is pretty funny for a stone-cold killer and he's very charismatic too. I almost found myself willing him to win! It's a bit gloomy as almost the whole thing is filmed outdoors at night but I rather enjoyed this untypical JCVD effort... 7/10

Pound of Flesh (2015)

The most recent film featured and, at time of writing, still the last of Van Damme's to be released is this one which must surely be among his silliest yet. He plays Deacon, a former black-ops agent who has travelled to Manila to donate one of his kidney's to his dying niece. Unfortunately, the day before the operation he meets some ho, shags her, and wakes up the next morning with a kidney missing! So, he soon goes on the rampage with his brother and old business partner in tow, in order to retrieve his kidney before it's too late. No, I promise I'm not making this up. Naturally, lots of nameless hoodlums are dispatched before he faces head goon, Drake (the late Darren Shahlavi), and hopefully recovers his kidney. It all sounds pretty preposterous and it is really. It often seems like these production companies just make up any old bullcrap to give them an excuse for yet another generic actioner and Pound of Flesh, even with Van Damme in centre-frame (who's definitely showing his age now), seems like one of the worst offenders yet. It has some passable action scenes but that is literally all... 4/10


  1. Universal soldier is a bit of a guilty pleasure.

  2. I should include that one on my next JCVD round-up actually, I haven't seen it since it first came out :P