The other side of safe.
Sony’s disgorging of its film library onto Blu-ray continues with this resuscitation of a mediocre Van Damme effort from the mid-’90s, famous more for the ridiculous bathroom sex scene than anything else.
Here’s the skinny: Van Damme is Alain Moreau, French cop who is shocked to learn that he had a twin brother. Even more shocking: the first time he meets him is in the ambulance, his bro laid out on a stretcher, dead after a wild car chase. Compelled to investigate this never-before-seen piece of his personal history, Moreau follows the clues to his brother’s death to New York and into the clutches of the Russian mob.
Turns out Moreau’s twin was an enforcer for the mob and accumulated a damning amount of evidence on the gangsters’ shifty dealings with the corrupt FBI agents. Both parties are out to get that information, and Moreau is caught in the crossfire. Luckily he has his brother’s former squeeze (Natasha Henstridge, Species) to help him, though she doesn’t really “help” him as much as “get kidnapped.”
Good news for those of you gleefully anticipating the high-def re-release of Maximum Risk: there are some really unique online communities available these days that appeal to all sorts of people, no matter how lame they might be. Ha, just kidding. If you like Maximum Risk you’re not lame — but you might not be too far off. One of Van Damme’s more disposable action flicks, this story of a man searching for his brother in a full-length leather jacket sports a handful of interesting hand-to-hand combat sequences and nothing else.
And even those aren’t eye-popping enough to mandate a viewing. The few action highlights: the repeated throwdowns between Moreau and a hulking blonde Russian, including an engagement in a sauna while they’re wearing towels (for no other reason, of course, than to get Van Damme that requisite baby-oiled-up topless scene) and a brutal, stab-happy, close-quarters fight in an elevator; a couple of car chases that are adequate, but nothing you haven’t seen before, complete with randomly exploding bystander cars that are brushed up against; and…man I just finished watching it and I can’t think of any other action scenes worth mentioning.
Speaking of “brushing up against,” it’s rare that I’ve seen a movie, even a vapid Van Damme actioner like this, with such a useless female counterpart. Henstridge’s character exists solely for three reasons: 1) exposition, 2) a pointless love scene and 3) to get snatched by the two main bad guys at the end, thus prompting Moreau to embark on a Crappy-Car Car Chase (no way those @#$%-boxes make those kinds of jumps), which ultimately leads to a fight in a meat locker and a disappointing Final Bad Guy fight. Hey, Henstridge is a beauty that’s for sure, and no doubt the filmmakers were cashing in on her Species notoriety, but her character here is so obviously a prop, it’s laughable. As for laughable, how about that love scene, the covert bump n’ grind in the bathroom, with the two FBI agents sitting on the other side of the door?
FBI AGENT 1: Hey, you hear something coming from the bathroom?
These bare-bones high-def catalog releases (no extras on this disc except for trailers) have a lot riding on the technical specs — the audio/visual work essentially determines if it’s worth the upgrade. Fortunately, both represent significant enhancements. The revitalized 2.40:1 transfer looks great, richly detailed and colored. This is a film where the action takes place in well-lit, ornate places (sauna, streets of NYC, European cities), which are transformed brilliantly in the increased resolution. For a 1996 title, this looks quite good. The TrueHD track (English and French) is clean and aggressive, pushing the mayhem with force.
The technical merits are granted immunity from the prosecution of a below-average feature presentation.