Five Times the Van Dammage – Expendables week

Neglected in the first Expendables movie, it appears that JCVD will be the antagonist in The Expendables 2. The Muscles from Brussels will play the hilariously named Jean Claude Villain. Five of JCVD’s films are currently available on instant Netflix.

Hard Target (1993) – Rated R

“A cadre of villains hunts humans in New Orleans for evil kicks. When Yancy Butler’s father disappears, she asks Jean-Claude Van Damme to find him. Van Damme soon uncovers the villains’ twisted game, turning the hunters into the hunted.”

Easily the best of the five, Hard Target was John Woo’s first Hollywood movie. Wilfred Brimley is hilarious in it (partly unintentional) and Lance Henriksen and Arnold Vosloo make good villains. There are some wonderful action setpieces here, especially a shootout in a Mardi Gras warehouse.

The Quest (1996) – Rated PG-13

“Action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme directed himself in the role of Chris Dubois, a 1920s New York City street criminal who’s kidnapped by gun smugglers, then sold to pirate captain Lord Dobbs (Roger Moore). He eventually hands Dubois over to master kickboxer Khao (Aki Aleong), who discovers Dubois’ excellent fighting skills and forces him to participate in a legendary Tibetan competition where one wrong move could cost him his life.”

Universal Soldier: The Return (1999) – Rated R

“Retired from his career as a Universal Soldier, Luc Deveraux works as a technical adviser on a hush-hush government project to design a smarter cyborg warrior. But he soon discovers that the supercomputer controlling the soldiers has its own agenda.”

How many times are they going to remake/reboot this? The original was in 1992 and was pretty fun. This was made in 1999 and while we lost Dolph Lundgren, we gain Bill Goldberg and Michael Jai White. The UniSols then went dormant until 2009’s Universal Soldier: Regeneration. Later this year we’ll get Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning with JCVD, Dolph Lundgren, and Scott Adkins, all of whom are in The Expendables 2.

Derailed (2002) – Rated R

“NATO undercover operative Jack Logan, who wants to get past the Slovakian border and safely into Frankfurt. Things seem to be going smoothly as Jack and Galina board the train posing as a “couple” but soon, all hell breaks loose!”

Assassination Games (2011) – Rated R

“The indestructible Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to big-screen mayhem in this light-’em-up action thriller, with rival assassins joining forces to dismantle a global drug cartel operating in league with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.”

Assassination Games teams Van Damme with Scott Adkins. Scott Adkins is a very physical action star but hasn’t found a good property yet. Assassination Games is unfortunately not that vehicle. This is enjoyable for Van Damme and Adkins fans only. Adkins is also in The Expendables 2.

Assassination Games – Half the Van Dammage

 

Assassination Games (2011) – Rated R

“The indestructible Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to big-screen mayhem in this light-’em-up action thriller, with rival assassins joining forces to dismantle a global drug cartel operating in league with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.”

I could just say Van Damme and leave it at that but there is actually quite a range of quality in Van Damme’s films. I always loved the tagline for Double Impact – “Twice the Van Dammage!”. Timecop is a blast as is the goofy Hard Target (currently available on instant Netflix) but then you have Knock Off.

My best friend Pat wanted to see Knock Off for Van Damme and I liked director Tsui Hark so off we went. It was so bad that I wanted to walk out about 15 minutes in. I didn’t want to ruin Pat’s good time so I just sat through it. When it was over, Pat turns to me and says, “that was so bad I wanted to walk out but I thought you were enjoying it.” Augh! An hour and a half of my life that I’ll never get back.

Assassination Games falls smack in the middle. Jean Claude Van Damme seems much more relaxed on screen lately. He has been doing a lot of movies with other actors. Here he shares the action spotlight with Scott Adkins. Adkins is a very physical actor who can really sell the martial arts scenes. He was a lot of fun as Yuri Boyka in the Undisputed series.

The director does make good use of the industrial settings in eastern Europe. I’m not sure I would praise the cinematography but I did like the bleak cement look to everything in the film.

There are a fair number of adequate action sequences, none are stunning but all are competent. The best is actually a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment where Adkins and Van Damme simultaneously attempt an assassination. Most of the violence is gun related but there is just enough hand-to-hand to please the martial arts crowd.

Those points would add up to a pretty good movie but the final action sequence is telegraphed and not very good, the script needs a lot of work, none of the villains are compelling, and everyone besides Van Damme and Adkins is basically an extra.

If you’re a Van Damme or Adkins fan then by all means watch it. If you’re a martial arts fan who has run out of other movies then watch it, otherwise skip it. By the way Van Damme and Adkins will both be joining everyone else in the action genre (Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Norris, Statham, Li, Lundgren, Crews, Couture, and newcomer Liam Hemsworth) in The Expendables 2. That just leaves Steven Seagal for the inevitable The Expendables 3.