Retro Film Review: Maximum Risk (1996)

in film •  last month 


Hong Kong director Ringo Lam, unlike his compatriot and colleague John Woo, didn't score big success after his transfer in Hollywood. Some may blame that on his long association with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Belgian martial arts star whose acting abilities usually leave much to be desired. Their first collaboration was 1996 action thriller Maximum Risk.

Protagonist of the film is Alain Moreau (played by Jean-Claude Van Damme), former French soldier and expert marksman who now works as policeman on the French Riviera. When he is brought to investigate a murder, he discovers that the dead man has his face. His mother Chantal (played by Stephane Audran) confirms the most logical explanation - he had twin brother Mikhail and they were separated at birth. In order to find the brother's killers, Moreau travels to New York, assumes Mikhail's identity and discovers that his brother got involved with Russian mafia. He meets Mikhail's girlfriend Alex (played by Natasha Henstridge) and soon finds out that his brother stashed away evidence linking Russian mobsters with corrupt US government officials. Because of that evidence Alain and Alex become targets.

Van Damme has played dual role of twins before, in Sheldon Lettich's Double Impact, film significantly worse than this one. Reason lies in the fact that protagonist's twin appears only briefly, thus simplifying dual role into one and not putting extra demands on Van Damme's limited acting abilities. However, the script by Larry Ferguson demands much more suspension of disbelief than usual, since many of its elements are more fitting to soap opera than action film. Director Ringo Lam doesn't allow script's problems to get in the way of action, so he uses his Hong Kong experience to stage few truly impressive scenes. The result is more than passable action film that contains everything fans of that genre like – some humour, plenty of action and even brief nudity provided by Natasha Henstridge. Some of the over-qualified acting talent seem wasted in this film, especially Jean-Hugues Anglade as Alain Moreau's best friend, but those who approach Maximum Risk with minimal expectations would in the end experienced at least occasional pleasant surprise.

RATING: 5/10 (++)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on April 16th 2003)


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