Monday, 22 December 2014



How long has it been since Jean-Claude Camille Francois Van Varenberg made a really good movie? Some might suggest "never", and maybe they've got a point, but looking at his IMDb page I'd suggest the rot started in with Sudden Death back in 1996. It's a fun Die Hard clone (set in an ice hockey stadium) with lots of violence and top production values, but since then it's been a slow decline and his recent offerings have been mediocre at best. (The Expendables 2 was kind of meat-headed fun, but that's more of an ensemble piece.) UFO, aka Alien Uprising, was absolute garbage, he was the funniest thing in the not-funny-at-all Welcome To The Jungle, and the likes of Assassination Games and Until Death are cheap and disposable straight-to-video B-movies that don't showcase Jean-Claude's undoubted headkicking skills to any notable degree. But like Steven Seagal and Dolph Lundgren, he just keeps on going.

It's an even sharper decline from Sudden Death when you look at director Peter Hyams, because Enemies Closer is absolutely not the kind of thing you expect from the director of what I almost hesitate to call "proper films" like Outland and Capricorn One. Or even The Relic or End Of Days. A light aircraft crashes into the waters around an island off the coast of Maine, a squad of uniformed Mounties (led by Van Damme) show up to offer the US Customs people their assistance in finding the plane. But when they refuse, Van Damme kills everyone in the room and reveals himself as a boo-hiss evil drugs trafficker and not a Mountie after all! Meanwhile, the island's Park Ranger (who handily used to be in the military and trained as a frogman) is confronted with the vengeful brother of a young soldier who died in Afghanistan when a mission went wrong, and the two of them have to reluctantly team up against the drugs gang....

It's cheap, mostly dull and takes place almost entirely at night so the fight scenes aren't anywhere near clear enough to become exciting (and I don't think it's the TV settings at fault). Jean-Claude is now 54 and perhaps no longer able to do the leaping splits without his hip creaking, which is perhaps awkward if he's trying to sneak up on people, but he's clearly having fun overplaying as a fearsome gangster with a terrible comedy hairdo, and some of the action scenes look like they might be entertainingly painful if you could actually see what was going on. Generally pretty poor, though odd moments amuse.


No comments: