Thursday, 29 October 2009
Directed by: Ringo Lam
Written by: Larry Riggins & Les Weldon
Starring: Jean Claude Van Damme, Michael Rooker & Catherine Dent
Perhaps not remembered as one of Van Dammes’ best entries in the action genre, Replicant is actually a pretty solid actioner with a much darker edge than most Van Damme fair. While it’s a hodge podge of ideas, it did give him one of his better roles. Again he takes on dual roles much like he did in Double Impact and Maximum Risk but this time instead of playing twin brothers; Van Damme gets to play the good guy and the bad guy. The bad guy is a serial killer known as The Torch who almost-as-crazy cop Michael Rooker has been trying to track down for years but with not much luck. In steps some shady government types who say they have some of The Torch’s DNA (due to some inexplicable plot contrivance) and say they can clone The Torch (again, due to some inexplicable plot contrivance) thus Rooker can use the clone to help him learn how The Torch works and track him down. So, after a sequence that barely takes up a few minutes of the film’s running time, another Van Damme appears (this time with short hair compared to the bad version’s long hair: so we can tell them apart) and mucho action and an incredible amount of violence occurs at regular intervals.
While it’s about as subtle as a house brick to the face and makes about as much sense as a drunken tramp accosting you on the street, Replicant is full of glass smashing, bone breaking action. It’s pretty slick to look at, the momentum is always on the go and Van Damme actually gets a chance to act; yes, even before the critically acclaimed JCVD. Now a flick that deals with serial killers and clones may not be everyone’s (or anyone’s) idea of where great acting is born but Van Damme does really well at playing the very evil and violent bad guy and his slightly slower, confused and much nicer clone. As the clone, Van Damme has to use expression more than dialogue and is pretty good at being the confused innocent thrust into a violent world. His bad guy may be cookie cutter but it’s actually novel to see Van Damme playing the bad guy and something he should do more often. The same can’t quite be said for Michael Rooker. Usually a dependable actor, his cop is arguably crazier than the killer and just shouts and barges his way through every situation and spends most the time beating up and throwing around the clone Van Damme. I know his character is under a lot of stress and the director was maybe going for intensity but Rooker’s cop just comes off as a loud and obnoxious buffoon. Maybe Rooker himself realised how barmy the film was and decided the best course of action was just to shout and get very angry in every scene.
As mentioned the tone of Replicant is quite dark and violent. Hong Kong helmer Ringo Lam (who also made good Van Damme flicks Maximum Risk and In Hell) is known for his violent films and Replicant is no different. Lam also stages some impressive action. Unfortunately there aren’t many scenes where Van Damme gets to scrap and show off his fighting skills, this being one of his least martial arts flavoured films. There are still plenty of fights but they are more of the brawl variety with stuntmen being put through their paces by being thrown through windows, onto tables and into pretty much any available wall or piece of furniture. However, the manic showdown at a hospital is an impressive action showcase with a brilliant set piece featuring an ambulance in an underground parking lot and Van Damme does get to fight himself, albeit briefly.
Again, not the greatest Van Damme vehicle or even Ringo Lam’s best but a decent effort nonetheless that gives Van Damme something a little different to do but still delivers loads of hard kuckle action violence.