To be honest I’m not sure what my reaction to “Maximum Risk” was when I first saw it in its initial release 7 years ago, but I do remember that I was excited to see Hong Kong director Ringo Lam (“Full Contact”) directing his first American movie. Now having re-visited the film 7 years later, I can safely say that “Maximum Risk” is a terrible bore. Worst, it’s an action movie with big budget explosions, shoot-outs, elaborate stunts, and yet I was bored out of my mind.
The story, such as it is, goes something like this: Van Damme’s twin brother, who he didn’t know he had, is a Russian mob turncoat who, while trying to reach his newly discovered twin brother in France, gets killed. Van Damme, who is a cop in France, must travel to America to discover the when, why, and how of his brother’s untimely death. There, he meets saucy bar hostess Alex (Natasha Henstridge), who was also his brother’s lover. Together, the two evade the Russian mob and two crooked FBI agents, all of whom are looking for evidence that the dead Van Damme had compiled against them.
In 1996, with JCVD’s fame still not yet fallen to such drastic lows (see “The Order” and “Derailed” for a comparison), “Maximum Risk” had big studio backing and a lot of money for its numerous explosions and gun battles. Screenwriter Larry Ferguson also throws in a fight in a Russian steam bath just so JCVD (who I’m sure has a clause in his contract that requires him to go in the buff in every movie) can show us his impressive physique. I guess this is supposed to make the ladies go all gooey and stuff. It just provides a lengthy and tedious fight sequence for the rest of us.
The only bright spot in “Maximum Risk” is the presence of Natasha Henstridge (“Ghosts of Mars”), who was coming off the surprise success of “Species” at the time and as a result got her name at the top of the poster right next to JCVD’s. Ringo Lam should thank his lucky stars that Henstridge was involved, because it’s only her engaging presence that keeps this film from sinking any lower. The fault mostly lies with star JCVD, who has decided to sleepwalk through the role. I think this is the “serious” JCVD; hence his character never smiles, or acts if he’s alive for that matter.
I’m not going to waste too much time talking about “Maximum Risk”. It’s a slick Hollywood production, filled with things blowing up and people getting shot, JCVD takes his clothes off again, and Natasha Henstridge providing eye candy for the guys. It’s saying something when the movie’s best scene isn’t even an action scene, but rather a funny moment when, while trapped in a hotel with the two crooked FBI agents, Henstridge and JCVD decides to do some getting-to-know-you-shagging in the bathroom. The look on the faces of the FBI agents as they realize what’s going on next to them is priceless.
Ringo Lam (director) / Larry Ferguson (screenplay)
CAST: Jean-Claude Van Damme …. Alain Moreau/Mikhail Suverov
Natasha Henstridge …. Alex Minetti
Jean-Hugues Anglade …. Sebastien