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  Maximum Risk Didn't You Kill My Brother?Buy this film here.
Year: 1996
Director: Ringo Lam
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Natasha Henstridge, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Zach Grenier, Paul Ben-Victor, Frank Senger, Stefanos Miltsakakis, Frank van Keeken, David Hemblen, Stéphane Audran, Dan Moran, Donald Burda, Rob Kaman, Herb Lovelle, Denis Costanzo
Genre: Action, Thriller
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mikhail Sukerov (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is in trouble, he is being chased through the streets of Nice by two burly men and he knows if they catch him they will kill him, so he does his best to run past obstacles that will get in their way, such as those found in a market, and takes a detour up into a building though the men notice and follow. Only one thing to do: smash down a door and race towards the window, jumping across the narrow street to hang onto a balcony which gives way under his weight, and he tumbles to the ground. He is not off the hook yet, and is still pursued so jumps behind the wheel of a little grocer's truck, but the men have a car, and before he knows what has happened he has crashed and died!

Well, that was a short film. Ah, no, it was one of those Van Damme movies where he played a twin, only in this case there was no chance of him using split screen special effects so he could share scenes with himself for hee-hee acting fun. Nope, the first brother expires around five minutes in which leaves his twin, Alain Moreau, wondering who the Hell this guy is who looks like him, for he had no idea he had a twin at all. This set up what was to all intents and purposes a mystery thriller for at least the first half of the story, as Alain traces the provenance of the sibling he never met when he was alive, and naturally it turns out Mikhail was a bit of a bad boy in contrast to Alain's by the rules cop.

Yes, Mikhail was a gangster, or he was working with gangsters anyway, and they were Russian in origin which fast became a cliché of mob thrillers, especially the examples which were on the lower end of the budget scale. This was notable because Van Damme's movies were, with this, about to wind up in the straight to video section for the most part, because while he remained popular in Europe, worldwide he was growing more associated with the sort of action flick you didn't venture out to the cinema to watch, but rented (or bought a cheapo copy of) and watched on a Friday night with your beer and pizza before forgetting they had ever crossed your path until the next time you wanted some easy to consume entertainment.

They would secure the big screen release in a tiny handful of territories, but it was clear Van Damme was becoming yesterday's man which belied the fact he continued to put in some degree of effort for each project, unlike his contemporary Steven Seagal who had a comparable career arc. Credit Jean-Claude with some self-awareness, and he did develop a sense of humour or perspective about his career that made him more interesting than many others in his position, which was why in spite of that fanbase diminishing, they would loyally turn out for his works, if relaxing at home in front of them could be classified as "turning out". But don't go thinking Maximum Risk was one of those which was verging on the post-modern, as Van Damme had not quite reached that point of consciousness yet.

Actually this was pretty serious all the way through, certainly veering away from the admittedly goofy charms that the star's canon could be accused of containing. Natasha Henstridge was his leading lady, gamely contributing a couple of topless scenes including the world's least appropriate time to have sex in an action movie without it being during one of the combat sequences. Those fights were pretty decent, with the highlights probably occurring when Van Damme grappled with real-life champion fighter Stefanos Miltsakakis, here resembling Red Grant from the Bond classic From Russia with Love; there was even a setpiece located in a bath house just so they both could get all sweaty and physical wearing nothing but skimpy towels - this was more sensual than the sex scene that turned up later. The plot was just complex enough not to be particularly worth bothering with following too closely, but involved those Russians and some corrupt FBI agents, and the grand finale took place in a meat locker which seemed oddly appropriate. Nothing awards-worthy, then, but perfectly watchable, and director Ringo Lam made sure it powered along nicely. Music by Robert Folk.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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