Director: Ringo Lam
Cast: Jean Claude Van Damme, Natasha Henstridge, Zach Grenier, Paul Ben-Victor, Jean-Hughes Anglade, Stefanos Miltsakakis
Plot: Alain Moreau (Van Damme) stumbles across the dead body of the twin brother he never knew he had and sets off to find out who killed him.
I remember really liking Maximum Risk as a kid. It was a fast-paced action thriller with the job of being nothing more than a decent Van Damme action. As predicted, it doesn’t hold up too well in 2014, but there is still some fun to be had.
A dead body turns up in Nice, France, with the same face as a French cop, Alain Moreau. After a bit of digging, it turns out Alain actually had a twin that was separated from birth with him. Alain follows the clues to Moscow, where it turns out his twin brother, known as Mikhail to the locals, was a Russian mobster. Alain makes his way through the mob, ruffling a few feathers from people that either thought he vanished from the mob or that he is meant to be dead. However, the further he gets into the investigation, the less it seems the Russians are guilty of killing off his brother. The problem with the story in Maximum Risk is that it isn’t quite as surprising as it thinks it is. Yes, there are a few twists and turns, but there is nothing here that is going to majorly confuse the viewer. You kind of want to be taken on this rollercoaster ride, like a Bourne movie, struggling to figure out why everyone is gunning for Alain Moreau, and it only ends up making sense in the final act. However, here, there are some grumpy Russian mobsters and then there are some sleazy FBI agents. It doesn’t take a genius to stay ahead of the plot and as a result, Maximum Risk becomes a case of following Van Damme around as he beats people up, looking for clues.
The other big problem with Maximum Risk is a far more obvious one. Alain Moreau’s character fails outside of the fight scenes, because Van Damme has no control over his performance. The supporting cast are, for the most part, great, but with this lead balloon in the centre of the story, Maximum Risk never manages to become anything more than mildly thrilling. Van Damme does angry, and also the tinge of sadness, as he dives into a dead brother’s life, but the character needs more than that. He is meant to be sad at a brother’s death, but at the same time, he never even knew this brother existed, making the sadness a sort of forced, confused one. Van Damme just looks too much like a blank slate, as he drifts through the story, which hurts the narrative. There is a moment where he meets Natasha Henstridge, who thinks she is Mikhail, her secret boyfriend, and grabs him and kisses him. It should have been a fun, mysterious twist, but Van Damme cannot work with the playfulness of the moment. In fact, most of his scenes with Henstridge fall flat, because he cannot act. Henstridge tries her best to coax chemistry out of her co-star, with a performance far better than the material she is given, but their back and forth dialogue just doesn’t work, which makes the romance card played later feel forced and obligatory. It could have made an interesting character piece for Henstridge, as perhaps she doesn’t love Alain, but loves the memory of Mikhail. But alas, this is B Movie Wednesday and I was never going to get that.
Final Verdict: A decent Van Damme action, but it never reaches its potential with too little story and a lead star who can’t hold the plot together.