AKA: Maximum Soldier
Director: Peter Hyams
Writer: Eric Bromberg, James Bromberg
Producer: Joel Silver, Courtney Solomon
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Tom Everett Scott, Orlando Jones, Kristopher Van Varenberg, Linzey Cocker
Running Time: 95 min.
By Jeff Bona
It’s been nearly 20 years since Jean-Claude Van Damme and director Peter Hyams (2010: The Year We Make Contact) made a film together. Hyams first directed Van Damme during the action star’s career-peak in 1994’s Timecop, then again in 1995’s Sudden Death. The duo’s collaboration gave Van Damme’s resume a much-needed cinematic boost, making him a prime contender in the “action star” race, nearly equaling the magnitude of an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone blockbuster.
Now, 20 years later, after a life filled with ups, downs – as well as a subtle career comeback with films like JCVD and The Expendables 2 – Van Damme teams up with Hyams once again for Enemies Closer.
Despite being a Hyams film, it should be no surprise that Enemies Closer isn’t a big budget film like Timecop or Sudden Death. After all, it is a straight-to-DVD film with a lead who hasn’t had his own theatrical release since 1999’s Universal Soldier: The Return. Even if you’re expecting 1/8th the scope of any of the movies just mentioned, expect to be let down. Enemies Closer may have the stroke of a veteran director making the most out of a low budget, but from the gitgo, it’s apparent it’s a small film. Even Van Damme’s 6 Bullets and Assassinations Games felt more like a “movie” than this.
Enemies Closer is definitely one of the most bizarre titles in Van Damme’s filmography, mainly for the cast itself: Starring alongside Van Damme are Tom Everett Scott (That Thing You Do!) and Orlando Jones (MADtv), two actors who are mostly known for playing light-hearted or comedic characters. Here, they play a couple of Ex-Navy SEAL badasses who take on an evil Van Damme and his gang of criminals. The two pull it off for the most part, but it’s still a solid case of miscasting, no matter how you look at it.
The action pieces and fight choreography are decent. They would have been better if I could see what the heck was going on. Most of the action takes place at night, which is cool and all, but the way they’re filmed leaves little regard for the audience. We’ve all seen enough movies that take place at night and most filmmakers – despite a dark setting – are able to capture a fight scene that’s perfectly visible to the audience. Come to think of it, maybe this is why I thought the action was decent?
If there’s one thing that’s great about Enemies Closer, it’s Van Damme. This is not the first time he has played a bad guy, but it is the first time he plays an impressive one. He’s no Alan Rickman from Die Hard, but his portrayal is natural, humorous and full of character. Minor spoiler: The last thing Van Damme’s character says before we say goodbye to him is one of the best moments in the movie (by the way, look for the nod to Die Hard 2).
There are basically three types of people who should make it a point to watch Enemies Closer: 1) Die hard Jean-Claude Van Damme fanatics; 2) Those who have wet dreams about Tom Everett Scott being an action hero; and 3) Those who have wet dreams about Orlando Jones being an action hero.
Overall, Enemies Closer is a disappointment. Maybe I’m guilty of high expectations knowing that the Timecop duo were back. Regardless, I stand behind my opinion. But if Hyams and Van Damme make another film together, I’m there.
Jeff Bona‘s Rating: 6/10