Action Heroes – Van Damme: Knock Off

Bonus Review!

This film has no right to be as much fun as it is. It’s all over the place. The action and editing is nonsensical, the plot is all over the shop (although provided by Steven E De Souza – Die Hard, 48Hrs and er, Street Fighter) and there’s a large cast who sometimes barely get screentime. And yet, the film flows beautifully, and the fast-paced alternatively shot comedy works a charm.

Van Damme enters the film singing along to something in his car. It’s almost cringeworthy to watch a guy doing some half-assed singing to a very poor sounding Asian pop song, but whatever. The idea is that he’s a businessman who sells knock-off products (like Pumma, instead of Puma). After a friend of his is seemingly killed, he and his business partner (Rob Schneider) are dragged into a plot involving a myriad of double crosses.

Basically some bad people on American and Russian and Chinese fronts are implanting micro-bombs into these products with the sole aim of taking out countries. By the end, those pretending to be good turn out to be bad and vice versa and a big battle takes place with assorted villains getting offed in many different colourful ways.

Now. Rob Schneider is someone I loathe, but his wacky style actually fits in here. I hate to admit it, but he isn’t the annoying sidekick he was in Judge Dredd. But although he turns out to be an agent of the law, he doesn’t really have much of a plan beyond this revelation. Paul Sorvino turns up as his boss gone bad, picking up a pay check and laughing all the way to the bank. Laughing so hard to the bank was he, that it actually shows up in both scenes at the end where he gets caught up in an explosion.

Now some comedy highlights. The street race. Van Damme, carrying Schneider in a cart. After crashing through a market, Schneider uses a recently appropriated large eel to belt Van Damme’s arse to make him go faster. Hilarious.

In case anyone gets on their Van Damme-is-terrible high horse, just look at the first shot of them in the English commander’s office as they get reprimanded for the race/superstore fight. The camera is almost fisheye-like, looking down on two grinning faces that have barely paid attention to the voice that’s shouting at them. Relax folks. See? This one is fun and is meant to be laughed at.

This is the second film that Van Damme did with Tsui Hark (or is it Hark Tsui – the internet can’t seem to make up its mind compared to the box covers) after Double Team. Thankfully they took the kinetic energy of that film forward and injected a high level of comedy visuals and performances.

Action hounds also have plenty of leaping, lumbering and jumping around to enjoy as well as over the top deaths and explosions, which often happening together. A chase sequence involving a truck through the city streets is one of the better sequences. Van Damme does battle atop the truck and sends his opponent off the side to his immediate impalement on a scaffolding pole. As mentioned earlier the end sequence has multiple fights as cops, agents, gangsters and all sorts get thrown into the mix at the dockside location, moving then onto a freighter.

Don’t expect anything to make any sense. Don’t waste time worrying why apparent English speakers are poorly dubbed (Yes, you, English commander!). Just enjoy the fast pace and the happy lack of poor attempts at dramatic pauses.

Steven Hurst

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