Bil’s rating (out of 5): B. United Kingdom/Germany/France/South Africa, 2004. Bauer Martinez Studios, UKFS, Frame Werk Produktion GmbH & Co. KG, The Tower Limited Liability Partnership, Lucky 7 Productions LLC, Blue Rider Pictures, LMCP Films, Royal Bank of Scotland. Screenplay by Mick Davis, Laurent Fellous, Philippe Martinez. Cinematography by Emmanuel Kadosh, Michael Swan. Produced by Alan Latham, Philippe Martinez, Stephanie Martinez, Stanley Roup. Music by Guy Farley. Production Design by Hans Van Der Zanden. Costume Design by Maleen Nokel, Annamarie Seegers. Film Editing by Christopher Robin Bell, Dedan Ouziel.
Jean-Claude Van Damme fans don’t need the most original plot in the world to enjoy their favourite fighter, and I don’t mean that as snobbishly as it sounds, but they will be disappointed by the low amount of actual man-on-man combat in this bland thriller. A little girl witnesses a powerful gangster murder her mother and stows away on a Chinese freighter bound for Los Angeles. A social worker takes her home but gets into trouble with the bad guy who crosses the ocean looking for the child, which means that the social worker’s husband (Van Damme) is obligated to get involved. This is a problem for him since he has just left behind his life as a morally shady bouncer (or something), but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. The star’s passive charm is in full effect, awkward accent and all, and while he is as committed to the proceedings as in his best films, there’s no denying how unfortunate his surroundings are. Terrible dubbing of everyone’s dialogue (directed by someone who is not a strong English speaker, I would guess) and a very pedestrian script means this will only appeal to those looking for the action, so where’s the action? Van Damme mostly handles guns and doesn’t get around to actually kicking ass until the end; I realize that 2004 is not 1984, but the man is still in great shape and there’s no reason for him to short-shrift us on his moneymaker (because honestly, a Van Damme movie without the splits is a rainy day without the rainbow).