Maximum Risk

Has anybody here seen Jean-Claude van Damme or Jean-Claude van Damme? Has anybody here seen Double Impact? Or is this just a case of deja-deja-vu-vu?

Alain Moreau (Van Damme) discovers, to his great surprise, that he has a twin brother named Mikhail Suverov (Van Damme), or rather had a twin brother (since his body has just been discovered in the streets by Alain), and, due to a case of mistaken identity, unexpectedly finds himself in the middle of the Russian syndicate's crossfire in New York's Little Odessa.

Van Damme expertly sums up the main characters by explaining, "Alain comes from the south of France, almost a country boy. He fought for his country with his best friend, Sebastien, who is now a detective, and his mother, Chantal, lives in the same town. So he's tough, but also a very warm, regular guy." (Of course, this is what we would all expect of Jean-Claude.) "His brother, Mikhail, was adopted by a Russian family and grew up a tough guy on the streets of New York, becoming a part of the Russian Mafia. Mikhail never wanted to betray Kirov and the Mafia because he loves them in a sense. But to them he was a betrayer because of the way he tried to protect himself in order to return to his real mother and brother." (So, to recapitulate, in short, what we've got here is one tough, warm, French guy unacquainted with his past and one tough, cold -now very cold- , Russian guy searching for his roots.)

Van Damme explains further, "There is action, romance, mystery, danger, a fast-paced style, and at the same time it is very believable." (Do you believe that?) He continues, "I've done many great action movies, but this is the first time that I believe so much in the script and in the character because there is depth, dimension, and such a reflection of real life." (All I can say is, Brooklyn must have changed a lot since I lived there.)

The love interest this time around is Natasha Henstridge as Alex Minetti, the beautiful hostess at the Bohemia club. She had the brother and now she's got the brother. (The mind boggles.) The big, blonde, biceped hit man Red Face, played by Stefanos Miltsakakis, is not the type of person you'd want to run into one night in a dark alley with or without a lethal weapon. (The mind boggles again.) Semi-sidekick French police commissioner and male bonded childhood friend Sebastien is portrayed by highly acclaimed actor Jean-Hughes Anglade. Frank van Keeken plays a New York taxi driver with aspirations of becoming a successful writer, but if his role gives any insight to how a scriptwriter might expect to be handled on a Van Damme production, then watch out, guys. (Super-mind-boggle.)

Celebrated Chinese director Ringo Lam has created a well- paced, nicely designed action thriller for his American debut which will undoubtedly enthral thrill seekers out there. An admirable piece of work, it ranks among the best of Van Damme's films to date. Assisting him admirably were stunt experts Remy Julienne, who has worked extensively throughout the years on the James Bond films as well as Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, and Charles Picerni, whose credits include Lethal Weapon II & III, Demolition Man and True Romance.

Attesting to and supporting the special place this film deserves are the words of costume designer Joseph Porro (who has worked on no less than nine of Van Damme's features): "Maximum Risk is unique from most of Mr. Van Damme's recent films in that his character starts out as a regular guy, a simple man living in the south of France. And so we had the opportunity to dress him, not in a uniform or space suit or in just a tank top, but in what you could call everyday clothing. For a lot of the film we were actually covering up his body." (Truly astounding.)

The one thing I was left wondering at the end of the film, considering this is the second time van Damme has starred in a dual role, is whether the starring role gets two salaries. In Hollywood, anything is possible.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett