Exiled to a video-only release when its distributor balked after the flop of Jean-Claude Van Damme's previous film Knock Off, this lavish adventure deserved a chance at theatrical success. Action icon Van Damme recasts hi... more »mself as a tragic romantic hero in this entertaining old-fashioned adventure with a modern sensibility. "The Muscles from Brussels" is no Brando, but he acquits himself nicely as a cocky boxer who double-crosses a Marseilles mobster and joins the French Foreign Legion when his half-baked plan backfires with tragic consequences. Surrounded by a better than usual cast (including Steven Berkoff as a Teutonic drill sergeant, Jim Carter as the ruthless ganglord, and Nicholas Farrell as a gentleman soldier with a taste for gambling and a dark past), Van Damme's dour performance sometimes gets lost in the colorful characters around him. But that's okay--there's adventure enough to go around and he's willing to share it. The Marseilles scenes evoke a quaint movie past with their smoky bars and shadowy streets, but the film is reborn as an ambitious, stoic platoon drama in the sands of French Morocco. Legionnaire alludes to classic films from Beau Geste to Casablanca to Lawrence of Arabia, but ultimately marches its own macho course, reveling in testosterone-driven heroics and bonding-under-fire while acknowledging the irony of its colonial mission ("We're the intruders," realizes one soldier). It's a calculated risk for Van Damme (who also cowrote and coproduced), but if Legionnaire never quite grasps the epic scope it's reaching for, it remains one of his best films, a handsome, exciting, and surprisingly grim desert adventure. --Sean Axmaker« less
"Van Damme has a few movies under his belt, but they are a mixed bunch, that's for sure. Legionnaire, however, is one of Van Damme's better movies. Van Damme plays a Frenchman who joins the Foreign Legion after a tangled love affair goes wrong. We get some action before Van Damme joins the Legion, by way of boxing matches and then we are provided with some quality military action set in the desert. I must confess to enjoying this movie. Van Damme didn't overact and he actually suited the role. His supporting cast also did a nice job. The locations were quite inspiring. The script was very cliche in parts, but was acceptable. The highlight for me was the ambush and climatic battle scene in the latter stages of the movie. They were very well done. Overall, a well done action movie set around an uncommon theme and location. Recommended."
Different from Van Damme's other action movies
T O'Brien | Chicago, Il United States | 05/30/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Legionnaire is a flashback to the old Foreign Legion films starring Gary Cooper like Beau Geste or Gunga Din. The movie tells the story of a boxer who betrays a French mob boss when he goes back on a deal. He is then forced to join the Foreign Legion when he has nowhere else to turn too. The film follows the training of the new company and then there battles against the Rif tribesmen. This film is very different from most of Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, but it is very good. He doesn't fight throughout the movie instead actually talking although there are plenty of action scenes.
Surprisingly, Van Damme is very good as Alain DuChamps, the boxer forced into the Legion. He is very believable in the role. The supporting cast for this movie stands out as above average compared to other Van Damme action movies. Nicholas Farrell is excellent as Macentosh, the ex-soldier with a weakness for gambling. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje plays Alain's friend, Luther, a man fed up with his past and how he's been treated. He is excellent in the supporting role to Van Damme and Farrell. Also starring are Steven Berkoff and Jim Carter. This is an excellent movie with grand landscapes in the African landscape, well put together action scenes, and believable characters. This movie deserved better than its straight to video release. The DVD offers widescreen presentation, a theatrical trailer and teaser, rare photographs of the Foreign Legion in action, and several behind the scenes documentaries and interviews with the cast and crew. There is plenty here for Van Damme fans and also action fans. Check this movie out!"
A "Beau Geste" for the Modern Era
Daniel Waitkoss | St. Charles, Missouri USA | 12/30/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I grew up watching "Beau Geste" (which is a film which deserves to be on DVD)and all other films about the French Foreign Legion fall or rise to that film's greatness. That being so, "Legionnaire" stands as a solid drama of the men who join the legion to forget their past lives and to rebuild new ones--if they survive. The film is well-crafted and the wide-screen format is perfect in bringing the viewer the feel of the desert--its vastness, its heat, and its beauty. The film's action scenes are sensational and the final battles are both memorable and brutal. Jean-Claude Van Damme proves he is more than just a good body or fighting machine--he does some fine acting in this film. One wishes that it could be seen on the large screen--it deserves it."
The Best 'Acting' Action film of recent memory
Daniel Waitkoss | 02/15/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In truth, I thought the end was here for Van Damme--his last few films were uninspired, humourless, shameless retreads of better films by worse actors. But Legionnaire redeems his oeuvre by ignoring him throughout much of the film, giving the best lines and most of the drama to a group of relatively unknown but excellent character actors. The editing is flawless, and let's face it; no director ever went broke by ripping off Lawrence of Arabia. I love Van Damme films, and I'm telling everybody to rent it because it's not a true Van Damme picture."
"I will break you, then re-make you!"
L Gontzes | Athens, Greece | 12/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Definitely a good movie, Legionnaire, brings to the screen the story of a French boxer, who refuses to take part in a rigged match resulting in his joining the Foreign Legion. It is the 1920's. France's North African colonies are experiencing Arab national revolutions and the French Foreign Legion is looking for new recruits in Europe as they sense their hold is weakening. The movie is action packed, the special effects are great, the acting is excellent and the cast are wonderful. Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Berkoff, Nicholas Farrell, and the rest of the cast have truly outdone themselves with their performances, which are outstanding to say the least! All the actors, without exceptions, give it their 100% and it really shows (the chemistry is AMAZING)! Consequently, they have done a superb job of providing an entertaining film that can be watched over and over again. There is a wonderful feel of History; the clash between the French and Arabs is as fascinating as the interaction between the different nationalities found within the Legion, and both are presented very well in the film. History, Battles, Intrigue, Duty, and Honor are all about. The setting, the plot, the dialogues, the costumes, and the music are all wonderful! The film combines romance, drama, action and adventure making it a movie definitely worth watching and one to seriously consider adding to your movie collection! "