||read the review
Review by MrBrown
2 stars out of 4
The latest vehicle for the Muscles from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van
Damme, is as nondescript as the tacked-on title (the film was originally
titled the more appropriate, though less slam-bang, The Exchange), fairly
devoid of any distinct personality that would set it apart from other action
The film starts off promisingly enough, with Van Damme being bumped
off within the first five minutes, after a well-staged and edited chase.
Unfortunately for acting scholars everywhere, good ol' Jean-Claude
resurfaces as the twin of the dead J-C, and he heads off to New York to
investigate the murder and the life of the brother he never knew he had.
Needless to say, said brother was involved with some shady characters--the
Russian Mafia--and he soon finds himself running for his life with his
brother's lover (Natasha Henstridge, reduced to playing a typical action
movie "girl" after her maneating turn in Species) in tow.
Like 1993's Hard Target, Maximum Risk marks the American debut of a
celebrated Hong Kong action director--in this case, Ringo Lam, famous for
his On Fire trilogy. Unfortunately, Lam isn't able to energize the
miniscule goods delivered by Larry Ferguson's tired, unexciting script.
Lam's visual style is a lot grittier and less flashy than John Woo's (the
flashiest bit is a shot that follows the path of a bullet), and thus the
script's flaws aren't concealed too well. He does, however, competently
stage what brief snatches of action there are, though none of it is
especially exciting. Van Damme also comes off slightly worse than usual,
appearing quite stiff, which is likely Lam's inadvertent doing. In his Hong
Kong work, he usually coaxes understated performances from capable actors
such as Chow Yun-Fat; Van Damme, on the other hand, isn't much of an actor,
and as such his attempted "subtlety" comes off as just plain wooden.
As junky as Hard Target was, its flash was enough for Hollywood to
take notice of John Woo. I'm not so sure how Hollywood will treat Ringo
Lam. He's a talented filmmaker, but without Woo's stylistic flair and a Van
Damme vehicle worse than Hard Target under his belt, his future Tinseltown
prospects, unfortunately, don't look too bright.