Saturday, April 17, 2010

'Maximum Risk' is a safe bet

Maximum Risk (1996)
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Natasha Henstridge, Zach Grenier and Jean-Hughues Anglade
Director: Ringo Lam
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

Alain (Van Damme), a French police detective, learns that he has a twin brother when the brother turns up violently murdered in Nice. Deciding to solve the mysterious death of the brother he never knew, Alain assumes his brother's identity and finds himself in the middle of a tangled conspiracy involving violent Russian mobsters, corrupt FBI agents and his brother's beautiful girlfriend (Henstridge).

"Maximum Risk" is a fast-paced action thriller with a well-written script that's performed by a talented cast. Although it is predictable, the storyline is sensible and action-packed with expertly staged and photographed fight- and chase-scenes scattered evenly throughout the film. (In fact, if I have a complaint, it's that there are too many chase scenes and car crashes in the film. By the time we get to final one, I'd grown tired of watching crashing cars.)

However, the film makes up for this with an ending that's far more intelligent than what actions films usually offer up. Instead of offering a quip and then executing the villains in cold blood, Van Damme's character behaves a little more like the honest and good cop that he's supposed to be... and by letting those who are truly the most evil villains in the film live, he not only subjects them to the humiliation and disgrace of a trail but he also ensures that their partners in crime will suffer similar fates. (This is the exact opposite of the idiotic ending in "Transporter 3" where the bloodlust of the writers actually leads to justice not being served when a main witness against that film's real villains is murdered by the hero in cold blood.)

"Maximum Risk" is a well-crafted action film that, strangely, was deemed a failure when it first appeared in 1996 and is one of the film's that some analysts blame for damaging Van Damme's career. Why that is, I can't figure, because while the film did tank at the US box office, it went on to make more than twice what it cost to make in other countries. A movie as good as this that also ended up more than paying for itself should have helped Van Damme rather than hurt him. (Of course, I far from understand the business of movie making... I just know when I've just watched a good movie.)