Knock-Off (1998) Jan 17, 2010 7:04:11 GMT
Post by ronnierocketago on Jan 17, 2010 7:04:11 GMT
KNOCK-OFF(1998) - ***
Not the best or worst of action star Jean Claude Van Damme's theatrical-released filmography, but it's certainly the most interesting. And interesting I mean most bizarre. Van Damme is the counterfeit ("knock-off") master of Hong Kong trying to go straight by selling real label brands who gets himself entangled in one very convoluted nonsensical story involving the CIA, the Triads, and the Russians. All having to do something with smuggled fake jeans that hide a new incendiary microbomb within its stitches. Yes an action movie about bootlegged clothing. Oh and the explosions are all green.
What? I warned you.
Produced at around the time when Hong Kong martial arts cinema's stars and influence was infiltrating Hollywood through Jackie Chan and THE MATRIX, KNOCK-OFF is the reverse where Hollywood comes to town through Van Damme, (annoying) comedian Rob Schneider, Paul Sorvino (who looks thrilled like a deathrow would be for the needle), and DIE HARD writer Steven E. de Souza. An even bigger knock-off than KNOCK-OFF might be the "script" de Souza delivered. But the rest with location, production crew, director Tsui Hark, and especially the filmatics are pure Hong Kong.
That means the action cinema is slick, fast high octane ridiculous fueled by impressive stunt work and watchable fighting, mixed with a dash of slapstick comedy that makes this almost feel at times like more a Chan vehicle. The plotting is expected to be irrelevant and not get in the way of the action.
Van Damme's decent physical charimsa (and moves) have been squandered in countless dull mediocre actioneers with bland unimaginative fight choreography (like DOUBLE IMPACT). Yet with KNOCK-OFF, he seems particularly re-energized and put to capable use. As he was in John Woo's HARD TARGET, directed by another Hong Kong veteran, In KNOCK-OFF, we have Van Damme (and doubles) in spectacular scenes like dangling from a bamboo branch off the roof of a speeding truck, crashing into a grocery store, sliding around wet floors, bouncing off shipping countainers, and my favorite, engaging (with arm wrapped in chains) an army of henchmen. It's a nice reminder why some of us were taken in the first place by the Muscles from Brussels.
Asides from the sharmrock fireballs, Hark sprinkles KNOCK-OFF with other weird random touches. He has a POV frame of Van Damme's foot squeezing into a Pumma shoe. He pulls a Hitchcock by simulating a guy's head getting crushed by showing (in graphic detail) countless fruit being stomped and shot up. He has such C.S.I.-type shots (done before C.S.I.) going through phone lines, computer circuitry, and watching the evolving deterioration of Van Damme's fake shoes on a microscopic level.
My favorites are the wacky shit. After destroying the villain, Van Damme rips his shirt off for no damn good reason this side of Captain Kirk. A guy opens up his private safe only to find an activated rocket which spears him through the brick wall, into the building across street and then it explodes. What overkill. Or Van Damme knowing the signal where to meet his criminal contact by receiving a pineapple. So Dole is a CIA front after all!
I must confess I kinda enjoyed the mindless cartoon KNOCK-OFF, but for a 91 minute movie, it still feels too long. Whatever narrative energy (if inconsistent) is notably absent for the uninspired finale action setpiece at...where else...a cargo ship. You know, I'm about ready for the movies to retire cargo ships and dockyards as the setting for any action scene. They're about as surprising and unexploited as a warehouse. Which KNOCK-OFF also visits.
But more than that, fucking Schneider. Like JUDGE DREDD, he's supposed to be the comic relief except he's not funny at all. Not one bit, never has been really, I mean what was his one memorable recurring skit on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE? Loudly Repeating "I'm at the cah-pee-er!" Haha fuck you. He leads several (lousy) Hollywood pictures, but not a geniunely funny SNL alumni like the late great awesome Phil Hartman. Then again what you expect from a guy dumb enough to pick a wit retort fight with Roger Ebert?
OK I gotta admit, one gag did make me laugh. When during the cart chase scene, Schneider slaps Van Damme's ass with an eel like you would with a sled dog. Its not funny because it's humorous (it's not), but it's not everyday you get to see Van Damme getting his bum tapped by seafood.