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Friday, 22 June 2018

Retro Review: Maximum Risk (1996)

Maximum Risk
Cast; Jean-Claude Van Damme, Natasha Henstridge, Jean-Hughes Anglade
Genre: Action Thriller
U.S Box Office Gross: over $54 million

Plot: A French cop discovers that a deceased man turns out to be his exact double and takes his place & must avoid the FBI and mafia in attempts to solve the mystery

'More Like Bare Minimum & Tame Than Risky & Maximum'

A convoluted plot-driven action thriller with the Muscles from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Maximum Risk is Double Impact; but whereas Double Impact was double the Van Damme's, twice the fun through the fun and exciting action scenes, Maximum Risk also has double the Van Dammes, but is only half the fun with a mediocre story that doesn't really take off and ignite the whole movie. It is also in the long line of movies from Van Damme where his good run of form practically ended with 1994's Streetfighter, and thus, along with reported tabloid stories of his doomed marriage, cocaine addiction and thus, spending only one week in rehab, as well as being diagnosed as bipolar, 1996 wasn't a good year for him. Plus, his career never truly recovered after Maximum Risk & he turned his attention to the direct-to-DVD market. Watching Van Damme here, it shows.

Mikhail Suvorov is a Russian thug, whilst Alain Moreau is a French cop. When Mikhail is murdered, Moreau is roped in by French police to investigate the matter further. He then heads off to New York, with the filming taking place in Canada, he takes on his brother's identity and with that, his brother's girlfriend and Moreau are pursued by both the Russian mafia and FBI, with the Russians who now want Alain dead.

Fortunately, it starts to heat up after 30 mins but then afterwards, the story sags once again and not making the desired impact. The action itself is routine, but also nothing that grand to brag about. It certainly feels like a un-Van Damme- like action offering, he seems out of place here. I could see someone like Sly Stallone or even Scott Adkins pull it off in a plot-driven action flick as this, but not Van Damme. Natasha Henstridge acts as Van Damme's partner and onscreen love interest, but even here she isn't given much to do other than to be eye candy, as well as to shag Van Damme.

The sauna fight was okay, but in watching Van Damme's martial arts fighting, either he lacks the deftness, finesse and athleticism that he had in Double Impact and Hard Target, - or that the fight choreography itself is just mediocre at best. When he launched a kick, here and there, it was nothing that was amazing. There was also not much in the way of hand-to-hand and kicks-based -martial arts from Van Damme, which will disappoint some fans. For the most part, the fights were slow and the choreography just didn't cut it. There are also a few chase sequences, here and there, gun battles and explosions, but for a so-called big budget offering, it was really a B-action movie through and through. Additionally, the main character, Alain was a bore and was, or is so devoid of personality.

Maximum Risk did well in various overseas markets, but other than that, this film pretty much spelt the end of Van Damme's commercial career, as, after that, all of his subsequent movies went direct-to-DVD afterwards. It's utterly unmemorable and it feels like one of those films where you watch once, and never again afterwards, or that you choose to watch it once, and watch it again, several months later. It also lacks any of the naffness in Timecop, Double Impact and Hard Target - they were out and out action movies, but there was also a fun element to them where they didn't always take themselves too seriously that made them watchable and entertaining. Yet not so for this effort. It started out in promising fashion - only to end on a weak note. For a film titled Maximum Risk, this so-called action flick barely takes any that is worth talking about.

As action thrillers and Van Damme showings go, this is as limp as 6-day-old lettuce.

Final Verdict:

Mostly tame, bland with a story that drags, this is a poor man's Double Impact, well, actually, it doesn't come close.

Whereas John Woo worked his magic with Van Damme on Hard Target, here, Ringo Lam went for the less showy, but also pedestrian approach by playing things far too straight, and as a result, Maximum Risk feels far too tame when it really ought to have been explosive and exciting. I never thought I'd come across a Van Damme movie so lacking in the martial arts department, but this was it and it made the film dull.

For die-hard Van Damme fanatics, it's worth adding, but otherwise, this was just lacklustre.


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