AKA: Knock Off
Director: Tsui Hark
Writer: Steven E. De Souza
Producer: Shi Nansun
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Rob Schneider, Lela Rochon, Paul Sorvino, Carman Lee, Wyman Wong, Glen Chin, Michael Wong, Moses Chan, Michael Ian Lambert, Mike Miller
Running Time: 90 min.
Usually when I answer the phone in the other room I quickly press pause on the remote fearful I’ll miss a vital piece of dialogue or important plot twist in whatever movie is spinning wildly in my DVD player. Yet when my wife called me halfway through “Knock Off” the other night I not only left the film running, but was hoping the movie had ended in the few minutes I was away. No such luck. When I lazily crawled back onto the futon Jean Claude Van Damme and Rob Schneider were still wackily interacting; Michael Wong and Lela Rochon still looked embarrassed; and Russian mobsters were still trying to commit some heinous crime involving plastic dolls and bad dubbing.
Sure, I could have stopped the DVD and resume watching Spanish language videos on L.A. T.V., but then I wouldn’t have felt comfortable submitting a review to cityonfire.com on a film I hadn’t watched all the way through. This is all you need to know about “Knock Off”: There is one scene early in the film that features Van Damme, clad in knock-off “Pumma” sneakers, competing in an illegal high-stakes rickshaw race. He’s pulling bug-eyed Rob Schneider through the streets of Hong Kong desperate to reach the finish line before his midget-pulling rival. Russian mobsters intervene and Carmen Lee gets hit in the head by a can of something tossed by Rob Schneider. Har har.
Alexander’s Rating: 3.5/10
This film is cooler than it should be. When I rented this I didn’t expect much. Maybe that is why I liked it so much. No, this movie is no masterpiece, but it is quite enjoyable, due to great direction (Tsui Hark is the man) and well done action scenes. The leads aren’t bad (Even Van Damme ain’t too bad), but all of the extras and bit characters suck ass. Michael Wong has great screen presence as always and thankfully doesn’t have much dialogue.
The action scenes are for the most part very inventive and well choreographed. What makes this film better than most of it’s kind is Tsui Hark’s direction. The camera seems to always be moving, and there are some strange as hell POV shots (a foot going into a shoe, a throat being cut as seen from inside the throat, etc.). This movie really has the feel of an HK film. But the best thing about the film isn’t the direction, the action, Michael Wong. It’s the fact that Dennis Rodman is not in it. Oh yeah, you gotta love those Pummas! Recommended.
Yates’ Rating: 8/10
By James H.
It’s a general rule to be skeptical with every Van Damme movie on the shelf. Even his legitimate looking movies (“Hard Target”, “Maximum Risk”) aren’t sure things. “Knock Off” is Van Damme’s first truly entertaining film.
Van Damme plays a Hong Kong fashion dealer, who gets mixed up in all sorts of trouble. He and his business partner (Rob Schnieder) are coaxed into helping the CIA take down a group of knock off artists. The paper thin plot does all that it needs to. It doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a clothesline for action scenes and some bad (and some good) jokes.
The story is admittedly, rather stale and by-the-numbers. What keeps it interesting is Steven E. DeSouza’a script. There are some interesting situations and moments of creativity.
What pushed “Knock Off” above the mark is Tsui Hark’s excellent and competent direction. The action is top-of-the-line. Hark’s action scenes usually seem like John Woo Lite (if you don’t believe or agree with me, watch “A Better Tomorrow III”). In “Knock Off” they take a whole new spin. The film is directed with more style than you can shake a stick at. It is easily one of the most visually impressive American action movies of the last five years.
James H’s Rating: 7.5/10
Bad Script. Horrible. Atrocious. Wickedly awful dubbing. “A-movie” gone “B.” Good, arty direction. – Unfortunately, all of the above describe this movie. Oh wait, how did the last one slip in there? By Tsui Hark, that’s how. Sadly, the direction is the only semi-redeeming factor of this movie, appropriately named “Knock-off,” because it succeeds in knocking-off almost every action film of recent times. Not to waste too much space on this review, I will describe the plot in ten words or less: Van Damme rips off jeans, gets caught, gets chased. That’s the whole plot, and I even fluffed it a little bit.
One thing that bugs me is the presence of Rob Schneider, the hilariously UNfunny Billy Crystal wannabe that makes guest appearances in Adam Sandler’s overrated garbage. Why is he in this movie? He is not funny in this movie! Why do we need him when the dialogue is so unintentionally laughable and disappointing? Good question.
Tsui Hark must have felt sorry for a potentially great action star, and decided to help him out again. He saves this movie from becoming a total bomb. Van Damme is actually pretty good here, and if the movie took away all the distracting “humor” and “acting” and the rest of the “supporting” characters, this movie would have been a good 3-star action flick. Too bad. Good premise, but bad script. Aside from that, the action scenes are directed by Sammo Hung, but none of the fight scenes last longer than 15 seconds! Too bad.
Anyway, Michael F. Wong seems to be the best thing in the movie, and you know that when this happens, you better stay away.
S!DM’s Rating: 5/10
Although this highly entertaining film was produced by the powers in Hollywood and scripted by Stephen de Souza, the writer of Die Hard (one of the coolest America action pictures of all time), Knock Off is without a doubt a pure Hong Kong effort. Its cleverly directed by Hong Kong King Tsui Hark. The director’s camera and unique style of editing moves the action along fast. The choreography, designed with the help of Samo Hung contains some of the most stylish movements captured in a long time. The dialogue is horrendously dubbed, giving it the feel of an old style chop-socky flick, which makes Knock Off an instant cult classic, one that will gather more following and be remembered as one of Van Damme’s most unusual and undoubtedly best film. Speaking of the star, Van Damme makes one great HK action star; he flips, kicks, and chews off bad dialogue with style and confidence.
On its theatrical release, Knock Off was ignored by both the critics and audiences alike, even more surprisingly, the fans of HK cinema also viewed the film negatively. Obviously, the film flew over their heads faster than Hark’s camera movements. Those who expected Lethal Weapon or Tango and Cash were disappointed, and those who wanted the pure HK film felt betrayed by the casting of Van Damme. Moreover, it seems that no one got the idea behind the film, Knock Off is truly a knock off, its low budget credits, awful special effects, laughable plot, and every other aspect of its cheese-like-value is part of its charm, it’s the soul of the film, and it makes the whole experience fun.
Knock Off is an exciting surprise, and a must see for every HK/Kung Fu fanatic. Like other films that first went unnoticed (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) but later gained respect for their originality, Knock Off should receive another chance and be recognized not for what it should have been, but for what it is: One freaky/messed up/furious mother of a movie.
Amir’s Rating: 8/10