Action Heroes – Van Damme: Replicant

Bonus Review!

Jean-Claude Van Damme just can’t help himself. Barely a film goes by when he isn’t at it again.  What am I talking about? Why, playing dual roles of course!  Let’s see if we can count the times. Well of course there was Double Impact where he played twins. Twins who hilariously beat each other up in one scene. He also played past and future versions of himself in Timecop. (Hang on? Past and future versions of himself? There’s a sentence that could only apply to a van Damme film). He played twins again, briefly, in Maximum Risk (although one died in the opening sequence). And now here he plays a clone of himself. This is basically a Van Damme trait. He’s pretty much tried every other type of playing himself twice on screen. I guess the only way left is to play a version of himself inside his own head and call it schizophrenic.

So,Van Damme’s character is a bad boy.  A very bad boy indeed, and perhaps one who was told off once too often by his mother as he’s now out there murdering and burning mothers who tell off their kids. Well, nutters generally have strange issues, and this is his.

Michael Rooker plays the pissed off and foul mouthed copper on his tail. But he isn’t having too much luck. Even after he quits the force he finds himself roped back in (via telephone taunt). Out of the blue he discovers a team of scientists who can grow clones. So they grow one of the killer in order to help him track him down. So enter Van Damme the good boy.  And “boy” is the operative word here as he plays this replicant as a frightened child.

I must say that despite the ludicrous story, I was actually quite impressed with his behaviour as this character. Sure, when he talks he talks a bunch of crap and doesn’t sound very convincing. But when he’s silent he has some very telling gestures down. And Rooker plays a demented animal owner, often abusing his new pet and handing out a shouting lesson or even a beating. Van Damme reacts as any scared child or animal would, recoiling in fear. The “simple Simon” side of his character is also endearing as demonstrated by the small step walk. Following his master around, calling his name.  He only becomes unpredictable when faced with his evil other.

When this happens we discover that he’s blinded more by curiosity and a sense of needing to know who he is, and who his other is, in order to find any logical sense in the world. When the evil other tries to seduce him over to his side, poor naive clone is at a loss of what to do. Rest assured though, he comes through for his cop partner and all ends well for him – even if it means faking his own death a little.

To be honest the film is only truly disappointing in two areas: The first that the director is Ringo Lam (who should have put in a little more effort) and second the action. While never terrible, it’s way below par. Even when we see the replicant exercising it’s clearly a body double. Yes, Van Damme was around 40 at the time but surely he was in good enough shape to do some of his own stunts (but, according to Knock Off – only a select few! And that film was years before this). Replicant works well as an idea, but it wasn’t given the support it needed, ending in disappointment.

There have been rumours of a Replicant sequel (that seem to have disappeared). There’s also the idea that Double Impact 2 could be a reality. So we may get further evidence of double the Van Dammage. Personally it’s an idea that Sylvester Stallone should have applied to the Expendables sequel. He could be good and bad, hell I’d even have him on screen just bickering with himself.

Steven Hurst

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