a critiQal film review Maximum Risk (1996)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: French police officer Alain Moreau (Van Damme) makes an astonishing discovery: Mikhail, a man who died recently in a breakneck car chase, is the twin brother he never knew. Alain then uncovers a web of family secrets that lead him to New York City, where his brother was involved with the Russian Mafia. Teaming up with Mikhail's lover, Alex Minetti (Henstridge), Alain must now assume his twin's identity and go undercover to avenge Mikhail's death.

625 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 7s)

With our recent subscription to NetFlix®, suddenly a wealth of films have become available to us to watch via our any time we want. Since most of them aren’t new releases, it gives us a chance to check out films we may have missed, or just films we haven’t seen in years.

Feeling in them mood for an action flick, I seemed to be in luck when I stumbled across a whole slew of Jean-Claude Van Damme films. But which one to choose? I decided on Maximum Risk, one of his films that seemed to trigger positive memories. Would this be a good choice today, or should I have opted for something else?

The 80’s and 90’s seemed to be a heyday not only for action stars, but for action stars with broken English. Be it Jean-Claude, Arnold, or Sly, half the fun of the film was trying to interpret what they were saying as they spewed out one-liners during their one-man quests for justice. While this helped deliver such lines as “I’ll be back” (The Terminator (1984)) and “Somebody put me back in the fridge” (Demolition Man (1993)), among others, the films where these actors just didn’t seem to be up to their normal levels were rather painful to watch.

Sadly, Maximum Risk is just such a case in point for Jean-Claude Van Damme. Looking stoic and somewhat lost throughout the film, Jean-Claude stumbles his way through this mess of a film – all the while dragging a rather silly Natasha Henstridge (Species (1995)) along with him. Neither of them really look to be giving it their all, and watching them fumble their way through the scenes gets rather boring after awhile.

Surprisingly, Jean-Claude’s accent doesn’t stick out at all in Maximum Risk – in fact, with all the thick accents floating throughout the film, his is nearly the easiest to understand. While it’s an interesting way to tie in his strong accent with the character, it does make for a hard to understand film – especially when already straining to hear the voices over the background noise. Viewers may give up on interpreting the dialogue, then, and just concentrate on the action – thus losing most of the plot along the way.

That’s not really a bad thing, however, as Maximum Risk tries to fill itself with surprising twists and turns, and instead turns itself into a rather dull pretzel. The twists are barely understood and largely ignorable, as it doesn’t really change the direction of the film at all. Since the film is mostly just about all sorts of characters shooting at Van Dame and Henstridge, who is shooting at them really doesn’t matter at some point. The viewer gets the gist, and is satisfied enough with that.

Since the viewer never really gets emotionally attached to the characters, so watching the struggles they go through really isn’t enough to get the adrenaline pumping very hard. Thankfully, director Ringo Lam is decent enough at filming chase sequences – both on foot and in cars – that the viewer should get a bit of a adrenaline boost watching the characters cavort through the sequences even without really caring what happens to them.

Like a lot of so-so action films of the 80’s and 90’s, Maximum Risk would be just as entertaining with the sound off – probably more so, as the viewer then doesn’t have to worry about trying to comprehend what the characters are saying.

Despite the multiple chase sequences with little downtime in between, the lack of a connection with the characters coupled with the strong accents make this action flick rather dull. As far as Van Damme films go, Maximum Risk is somewhere closer to the bottom of the pile.

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