The Order (2001) Movie Review

Let me preface my review of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s new movie, The Order, by saying that I hate chases that takes place in movies. I generally don’t like car chases, people chases, or even spaceship or airplane chases. Why? I don’t know, I just find myself very bored while watching them. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen so many chases, of every variety, that after a while it becomes hard to feel any excitement to seeing yet another [insert mode of transportation] chase.

That having been said, The Order is a direct-to-video movie in the States, which means the film has no theatrical run and goes directly to video or cable. It could be different in your part of the world, depending on the current star status of Van Damme. Now let me also say that a movie that goes direct-to-video isn’t necessary a bad film in and of itself. There are plenty of good movies that never make it to the theaters. Then again, as The Order proves, there are plenty of bad ones that deserve to be shunned from the theaters.

The Order stars Jean-Claude Van Damme, the Muscles from Brussels, as Rudy, a professional thief who is the son of a well-known archaeologist studying and writing a book on a secret sect formed during the Crusades called The Order. Rudy is something of a disappointment to dad, since dad spends his time writing and researching history while son spends his nights, well, stealing from people.

When daddy goes missing, Rudy tracks him down to Israel, where Rudy finds himself being followed and then being chased by the Israeli police and other assorted shadowy characters. It turns out Rudy’s father has been abducted by the present-day version of the Order, and they want to use Rudy’s father to help them start World War III and bring about an ancient prophecy. Will Rudy reach his father in time? Will Brian Thompson overact again? Better yet, will we see Van Damme without his shirt on and doing slow motion jump kicks? The answer is yes to all of the above.

To be fair, The Order is not that bad of a movie. It’s just not, well, all that good of a movie, either. For one, the film relies on way too much action, and it’s the kind of boring, repetitious action that makes your eyelids heavy and allows your brain to wonder about that girl in High School that got away. If you’ve seen as many Van Damme movies as I have, you will know to expect quite a few things from his movies, and one of them is over-reaction.

What I mean by this is that Van Damme tends to over-sell all of his emotions. Take his fight scenes (from any movie, it doesn’t matter) and wait until Van Damme’s character gets hit. He’ll let out an “Earrrggh”-like grunt, make a contorted face, and roll over. A better actor wouldn’t bother with the grunt and the face and just go down because that’s what happens when you get hit. You don’t let out an unnatural sound from deep in your throat and make faces. The thing is, I saw a noticeable improvement in Van Damme’s acting. He actually sells his role very well except for a few spots when the “old” Van Damme re-emerges.

Of course, Van Damme isn’t all to blame for The Order’s boring nature. Director Sheldon Lettich tries to make up for uninteresting direction with fast cuts during Rudy’s action scenes, particularly in the beginning. It reminds me of a music video. A bad music video. Although Lettich does improve once the crew is in Israel and the action does get much better, not to mention more fluid in movement. At least when it comes to the fights. The chases, on the other hand, are another thing entirely. Which brings me to my original beef with the film: It has way too many chase scenes.

Once Rudy arrives in Israel, it’s one chase scene after another. I counted two car chases, four running-in-the-street chases, one airport chase, and the finale consists of a chase through a series of catacombs. Now do you understand why I hate movie chases? The worst part about all these chases is that they’re not all that exciting. Then again, as previously mentioned, it takes a lot to execute an exciting chase nowadays, and the majority of filmmakers fail. I can’t really blame director Lettich for the uninspired chases, but I do blame him and writer Les Weldon for giving us so many of them.

By the time all the running, chasing, and driving is done, the movie has just 25 minutes or so to wrap up its plot. Before now, there has been very little mention of the plot or storyline, and indeed the villain, Cyrus (Brian Thompson) shows up briefly in the Second Act, kills his mentor, and disappears again until the Third Act. By the time the movie’s A-plot kicks back into gear, it’s way too late to have any sense of urgency, and the result is the audience isn’t invested in rather Rudy stops the plot or not. And then there’s the catacomb chase scene…

Although I don’t recommend The Order to anyone with tastes, I should still point out once again that Van Damme’s acting has noticeably gotten better. This isn’t saying much, of course, since the man was never that good in front of a camera to begin with. But improvement is improvement, so he should get some credit. Old reliable Charlton Heston shows up as a professor for about 5 minutes before he’s killed off. While he was onscreen Heston was easily the best actor in the whole movie and seemed to be relishing his brief cameo.

Sofia Milos (Dalia) is Rudy’s obligatory love interest, a beautiful Israeli cop with smothering good looks who was once a member of the Order. For whatever reason, she decides to risk her career and life to help Rudy escape the police and other factions, just hours after having met the man. I suppose you could chalk it up to love at first sight, but I call it “ludicrous character motivation.”

If you like movie chases, you’ll love The Order. If you’re like me and is tired of movie chases, then you might not like The Order all that much, since more than half of the movie’s running time is devoted to some sort of chase or another.

Run, Jean-Claude, run!

Sheldon Lettich (director) / Les Weldon, Jean-Claude Van Damme (screenplay)
CAST: Jean-Claude Van Damme …. Rudy
Charlton Heston …. Professor Finley
Ben Cross …. Major Ben-Ner
Sofia Milos …. Dalia
Brian Thompson …. Cyrus

Buy The Order on DVD