Maximum Risk Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1997

What is it with all the best directors that Hong Kong has to offer and them getting stuck with having to direct Jean-Claude Van Damme out of a paper bag? John Woo put up with him for his first stateside feature, "Hard Target". Tsui Hark ("Peking Opera Blues", "A Better Tomorrow III") will have to put up with him and Dennis Rodman in "Double Team". And Ringo Lam had to put up with him in this horrid should-have-gone-straight-to-video.

32 years ago, it was luck that kept me in France. He made a sacrifice and he didn't know it. I have to go.

"Maximum Risk" follows the story of a cop, Alain (JCVD), in Nice, France who learns suddenly that he has a twin brother, Mikhail, living in New York. Unfortunately, after a claustrophobic chase through the narrow streets of this French city (probably one of the few high points in this whole movie), Mikhail dies. Faster than you can say "North by Northwest", Alain assumes his dead twin's identity and goes to Little Odessa in New York, crossing paths with Mikhail's girlfriend (Natasha Henstridge of "Species" fame, who considers acting walking around without any clothes on), the Russian Mafia, and some crooked FBI agents in bed with the Mob (hey, it's Fled/Bulletproof/Fair Game/Eraser all over again!). Alain soon learns that his brother died over a safety deposit box in Nice that has a list of 'dirty' agents (at least it wasn't a computer disk again). Throw in a talkative New York cabby that can find anything for the right price, an obligatory scene in a strip bar, a six-foot tall blonde killer that keeps the same facial expression through the whole movie and some pretty lame action sequences (considering it was directed by Ringo Lam), you have one BAD movie.

Which is sad, since Ringo Lam has done some impressive work in the past. His most celebrated work, "City on Fire" from 1987, followed the story of a police informer who was in too deep undercover and his friendship with one of the few honorable and decent members of a jewelry heist gang. The last half-hour of this film was ripped off by Quentin Tarantino for "Reservoir Dogs" (even the dialog remains relatively the same). Another blast-from-the-past would be "Full Contact", which is apparently being remade with an American cast sometime soon. It was an entertaining "Chinese biker" movie about a heist gone bad and screamed "eighties", with a flamboyantly-gay ringleader that does magic tricks with knives, a trashy-miniskirt-wearing tramp, a mohawk-wearing tough-guy, and Chow-Yun Fat ("The Killer") as the biker with just way too much style who, having been left for dead, comes back to exact revenge on those who betrayed him. The only other memorable Ringo Lam picture I can recall was "The Adventurers" from 1995, about another undercover agent who marries into a Mafia family to bring down the leader, rife with the moral dilemmas between duty and honor that so typify the 'Heroic Bloodshed' genre of film in Hong Kong.

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