o 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