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review added: 8/2/99



Van Damage!

reviews by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Jean-Claude Van Damme on DVD

Knock Off

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Knock Off
1998 (1998) - Columbia TriStar

Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A/B-

Specs and Features:

91 mins, R, widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33.1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, photo gallery, film-themed menus, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: English, Close Captioned



Double Team

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Double Team
1997 (1998) - Columbia TriStar

Film Rating: D

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A/C

Specs and Features:

93 mins, R, widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33.1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menus, scene access (chapters 28), languages: English (DD 5.1), English, French & Spanish (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Spanish & French, Close Captioned

Maximum Risk

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs
Maximum Risk
1996 (1998) - Columbia TriStar

Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/C

Specs and Features:

101 mins, R, widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33.1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menus, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) & Spanish (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Spanish & French, Close Captioned


Knock Off

This was JCVD's last theatrical film, though hopefully not his last of all-time. This tale, directed by Hong Kong master Tsui Hark (Once Upon A Time In China and Chinese Ghost Story), stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as Marcus Ray, the "king of knock-offs" -- that is, the best importer of counterfeit materials into the States. Right now, Marcus is specializing in designer jeans, and he's doing a good job for himself. His partners in all this, are Rob Schneider, and a gang of Hong Kong Triad members. On the eve of Hong Kong reverting back to Chinese rule, everything seems to be going nicely for these businessmen. The only problem, is that someone (most likely the Russian Mafia) is putting micro-explosives in all knock-offs going into the U.S., as part of a twisted plan to hold the country's commercialism hostage. As the movie progresses, plastic, bullets, and jeans fly, everyone's secret pasts come out, and the CIA gets involved. And when all is said and done, men everywhere will find a new respect for Lela Rochon.

Okay, so Knock Off isn't a great movie. It's not even a very good movie. But who cares -- it's a Van Damme flick! That should be enough said. And as Van Damme flicks go, this one is pretty good. Watching it, you get the idea that Hark made it cookie cutter-style, like any number of Hong Kong flicks. It even has that whole HK feel, with slo-mo, man-on-man bonding, and inspired (yet goofy) sound effects. It's a fun movie sure, but nothing that you need to go out of your way to see. But you knew that already, right?

In term of DVD quality, the disc transfer is not as solid as, say, Columbia's other JCVD's DVDs (like Maximum Risk or Double Team), but it's a very good looking transfer. It's anamorphic (despite the lack of labeling on the disc cover), and way better looking than some of the Van Damme Universal titles. You also have a full frame version on the other side of the disc. Sound-wise, it's a good disc. There is loads of gunplay in this, and you will hear every shot. Extras include a trailer, and a nice photo gallery -- pretty packed for such a throwaway disc, and a nice effort in total.

Knock Off isn't going to win you any friends, and it's certainly not going to make you sexy to the ladies. But as a Sunday afternoon movie, when it's raining, or the computer is down, you could do worse. Then again, you could do better too.

Double Team

They say that every story has been done, and oh boy... JCVD is a testament to that. Double Team is without a doubt, the unofficial (and unacknowledged) film adaptation of cult television sensation The Prisoner. Here, Van Damme plays a world-class covert spy and anti-terrorist, on the trail of one of the greatest (and of course most evil) terrorists ever born, played by Mickey Rourke (what happened to your career, Mickey?). After Rourke's son is mistakenly killed in a shoot out in an amusement park, JCVD is sent away to a fortress-like island "retirement" community for spys "too valuable to kill, but too dangerous to set free". JCVD doesn't want to be here of course, and he does everything he can to escape from this inescapable island. Then along comes the film's second plot, involving Rourke kidnapping Van Damme's pregnant wife, so that he can get his son back (or at least get even with Van Damme). Somebody stop the disc, I wanna get off.

There's plenty of action here, not too much dialogue, and you get to see Dennis Rodman playing a weapons dealer who acts, well... just like Dennis Rodman. It's far-fetched, action flick cliché-ridden, and never boring. But is it any good? No, not really. I could pick out three better JCVD flicks for you to watch. Or I could pick out three better movies, period. It IS again helmed by Tsui Hark, but that only goes so far, and only just keeps it from being an "F".

The disc has a very good-looking, anamorphic widescreen transfer (again, you also get full frame on the flip side). All the colors (and there are lots) are sharp, and the blacks are well defined. I was very pleased with this transfer overall. The sound quality, a concern in any action film, is top notch. Extras, aside from a trailer, are non-existent -- which is fine by me in this case. "What about a commentary track with Rodman and Van Damme?," you may be asking. Please -- it's bad enough that I have to watch the film. Imagine watching it AND hearing them talking about it. Yikes. If this film has to exist at all, this DVD is the perfect way for it to do so.

Maximum Risk

Quick plot summary -- JCVD and the chick from Species find themselves arm and arm against the Russian Mafia. JCVD is Alain Moreau, a French cop playing detective here in the States, investigating the murder of his twin brother. Natasha Henstridge plays his brother's hot club-hostess girlfriend, who initially misidentifies Alain as her boyfriend, but soon falls even more in love with his by-the-book doppelganger. There are plenty of stunts, some truly inspired camera work, and an actually watchable plotline.

JCVD is his usual self: cocky, athletic and stiff. To be honest, JCVD is actually okay here -- this is one of his better performances, but it's not one of his better films. The script has holes, the dialogue is tired and the bad guys are as cliché as you can get. The directing is pretty good though, which is all Ringo Lam. Ringo gave us some really wicked HK flicks, like Full Contact and Prison On Fire, both starring Chow Yun Fat. He knows what he's doing, and this is a pretty solid looking film. Alas, JCVD is no Chow Yun Fat, and so the film slowly sinks with him as the lead.

Maximum Risk does make for a pretty good-looking DVD. It has a very sharp and nice looking transfer, with solid colors, and bold, dark blacks. This is a fine looking disc, typical of Columbia TriStar, and one of their most respectable anamorphic transfers (and yet again, you have full frame on side B, which also looks great). The sound quality is also super. You have the option of either Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0, and both are very solid sounding. There are no extras, aside from a trailer. But who really expected any, or really needs them? This disc is fine as it is.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


Jean-Claude Van Damme on DVD

Knock Off


Double Team


Maximum Risk


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