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Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Retro Review: Replicant (2001)

Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michael Rooker, Catherine Dent, Peter Flemming
Genre: Science Fiction Action 
Italy Box Office Gross: over $71, 200

Plot: Scientists create a genetic clone of a serial killer in order to catch him, who teams up with 2 cops

'A Van Damme- Led Thriller Repli-Can, Rather Than Repli-Can Not'

The Replicant sees Belgian action movie star, Jean-Claude Van Damme in his third iteration of the twin Van Dammes, following on from Double Impact and Maximum Risk, with the latter directed by Ringo Lam, who also has a hand in this one. Although The Replicant, much like with the former, the twin concept becomes the main arc of the story, compared to the latter wherein Van Damme's other twin brother is murdered. In this film, set in Seattle, Van Damme, who had the mullet look in Hard Target, now rocks a Brandon Lee of The Crow shaggy hairdo with dark-rimmed glasses as a cold-blooded serial killer, The Torch, who targets his female victims, more specifically mothers by torching them and setting their bodies alight. Van Damme#2 is a clone of the killer, but for his martial arts abilities, has none of his personality traits. Michael Rooker is a cop, Jake assigned to the clone as he tries to nail the bad guy: he's been trying to get his hands on him on several occasions but has had no such luck.

As ever with many of his pre -1993 hits but for Sudden Death, Replicant comes nowhere close to Sudden Death, Timecop, Hard Target and Double Impact, but it's a considerable improvement over Knock Off, Double Team, Maximum Risk. The Replicant also has a sci-fi, mystery thing going for it, along with the action, which is good to see. It also revisits the two Van Dammes are better than one theme, like with Maximum Risk and Double Impact - only this time, each one of them is on opposite sides of the law: there is a good guy Van Damme and the bad guy Van Damme.

Strangely enough, it later descends into a buddy action flick with 2 heroes instead of just one in the Van Damme clone and cop, Jake Reily. As the clone, Van Damme doesn't emote much, say much, he's almost a mute, but what he does do is fight, and fight well he does, but then, what do you expect from the Muscles from Brussels? He also does well acquitting and differentiating between himself in the dual roles as The Torch and Replicant and though he's more known for his good guy roles, Van Damme can also pass off as a convincing villain, which he later replicated-no pun intended- in Expendables 2 and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. It's not an easy task taking on 2 different roles in the same film, but if an actor can make it work through skill, timing and being able to assimilate into different characters (like someone in Robin Williams), then the payoff is worth it. & Van Damme does okay; as the Replicant, his mannerisms at first verge on being childlike and similar to that of his character in the first Universal Soldier film. He may not be a great actor, but as a star, he still entertains when he is in a movie that isn't too shoddy. 

Michael Rooker is a good actor: he proved it in Sea of Love, somewhat, and 1993's Cliffhanger alongside Sylvester Stallone, and whilst he worked better with him in that movie than with Van Damme in this one, he still does decent work. 

This is better than Maximum Risk as it is better paced, the story has some good twists and the action is better, whilst the fights are not bad, even if it is Van Damme vs who is clearly a stunt double that JCVD is battling. But one issue is that it never develops the film's characters, aside from Van Damme's. It just meanders on without really becoming spectacular, although really, being as a B-movie, it's not that big of a deal here. 

Final Verdict:

Whilst it is still a far cry from his superior earlier outings of the 1990s and Kickboxer and has little of the proficiency in big-budget action flicks in general, Replicant is still a Van Damme movie that is not too very Van Damme- like, yet it plays to his strengths. 

A B-action thriller film, as a Van Damme vehicle, it's definitely refreshing to see; even if the formula is the same, it's not the atypical movie of his that I usually expect and rather this is sufficient, yet still passable. 


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