- Guest Column
Runtime: 84 Mins
If you ever liked the teaming of Peter Hyams and Jean Claude Van Damme in TimeCop (1994) and Sudden Death (1995, review here), you’re probably going to like this movie, it’s their first re-teaming sincce 1995. Shit, did I also mention that Hyams senior directed the acutely Manly Narrow Margin (1990, review here), starring Gene ‘shut the fuck up’ Hackman? Hyams may be 70 years old, and they may not give him the budgets he used to get, but give him half a chance and he’ll give you a half decent movie. The same could probably be said for Van Damme – give him a good director and you’ll probably find him motivated for a change. He certainly is here, this is his best 21st century character to date, it’s good to see Van Damme enjoy himself in a movie again.
Two men must put their differences aside on a small North American fishing island and work together (keep your ‘Enemies Closer’) in order to survive a night-long assault by a gang of French-Canadian drug traffickers. In a way, Enemies Closer is a Die Hard Clone. This time it’s set on an island, not a building or speeding train, and this time there are two good guys. While it sounds simple – what helps is that the movie knows its narrative limitations, so it puts its foot to the gas (but not too heavily) to cover the cracks. What we get is a taut action thriller where character relations are not too brief but not too overwrought. The acting is probably more than you’d pay for in a movie like this too. It really does seem like Orlando Jones and Tom Everett Scott are on the verge of killing each other, and not in a buddy type of way, rather a ‘homicide in the woods’ type of way.
Aside from the return of Hyams, the other big selling point here is Jean Claude Van Damme. Van Damme plays a slightly batshit man who likes trafficking heroin and eating organic vegetables. He has a thing for healthy eating and minding the environment, see. “Did you know that 1/4 of the worlds methane polution comes from farting cows?”, declares Van Damme, to some men who had just jeered his Mountain Police clothing, before taking out the entire room of men by himself. I’m not sure if I should’ve laughed at that, but I did. Van Damme said he ad-libbed in the movie, that’s definitely one of his lines. His villainous character is good, probably even better than his slightly flat Expendables 2 ‘villain’. He’s also in the movie quite a bit, people worried about an extended cameo con job can rest easy.
This movie is a DTV, but it looks out of its league, it’s visually appealing, in the sense that it looks like a typical low-budget theatrical movie. But it would’ve lived or died on its action sequences. Well, the action sequences are fine, I’m not going to say they’re classic action sequences, but they’re competent. They’re solid. The fight sequences are hard-hitting and satisfactory, although they’re not as good as John Hyams’ (Peter’s son, director of Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning) fight scenes. It’s also the first time I’ve seen Kris Van Damme use martial arts in a movie, albeit briefly. The movie runs out of breath though in the final half hour, or around the middle, exposing its limitations, and it can also be at some points kind of oppressively dark/poorly lit. Although it does pick up for the finale again – it has a little nod to Die Hard 2: Die Harder’s finale, complete with another JCVD improvisation. And when the bad guy is down? “Not a fucking word”, says one protagonist to the other, before sharply cutting to credits. No sappy epilogue here, just Manly efficiency…
This is almost as good as DTV gets, it seems that all involved set out to make something out of it and have fun rather than give out the usual ‘what am I doing here’ vibe you get in these types of movies. Get it on Blu Ray.