You'd think with Van Damme vs. Van Damme the action would be
Alexander M. Walker | Chicago, IL USA | 08/12/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
""Now, now, perfectly symmetrical violence never solves anything!" ~ Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth, Futurama
Ten years after fighting himself in Double Impact in 1991, Jean-Claude Van Damme realized that he'd never fought quite a foe like himself since and resolved to fight a rematch in Replicant. However, anyone tuning in for a solid 110 minutes of martial arts action will leave sorely disappointed. Maybe Jean-Claude's age had caught up to him by 2001 or maybe he wanted to try his hand at actually acting for once - who knows. What is known is that Replicant leans heavily on a traditional cop/serial killer plotline with little room for the head-spinning acrobatics of Van Damme's younger days.
`The Torch' (Van Damme) has taunted Detective Jake (Michael Rooker) for years with his pattern of burning women alive in their homes. The game of cat and mouse seems like it will end though when Jake's last night on the job leaves the pursuit unfinished. Retired to a job in boat repair, Jake grows restless within a matter of hours; so when `The Torch' calls him up (they have a phone relationship, apparently), Jake finds himself back on the job, but with a new partner. Just like Jet Li, apparently Van Damme is easily cloneable; Jake's new partner, a telepathically linked clone (here called a replicant) of `The Torch', starts life anew slowly learning to walk, talk and kick-ass using a stretch on the concept of genetic memory.
The flashes of `The Torch's life received by the replicant lead him and Jake closer and closer to the murderer until the two learn of each other. Upon the two meeting, the quandary of how the impressionable replicant will react arises. Whose influence will hold over the replicant's mind? The abusive and violent Jake? Or the bloodlust-crazed psychopath who revels in the pain of others? The replicant's mind becomes a whirling torrent of conflicted feelings as he questions his fate after the case has ended and also whether or not he can participate in the death of a man who is quite literally himself.
But for all the film's success as an interesting detective procedural, it neglects to give the audience the one thing it wants above all else: a no-holds-barred fight featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme versus Jean-Claude Van Damme. We don't get what we want. Maybe Farnsworth knew what he was talking about when he lectured us on symmetrical violence - because in the end the mirror-match doesn't solve anything; which only makes the wait to get there all the more infuriating. After 100 minutes of drama with next to no typically fun Van Damme fight scenes, the final conflict is so hum-drum that we feel cheated.
On the bright side, and this is only a minor recompense, both Van Damme and Michael Rooker give atypically good dramatic performances for a Van Damme film. Catherine Dent (of The Shield fame) gives a good supporting turn as the intimately close co-worker of Jake.
Visually the film looks quite polished and the hi-definition treatment only helps. The increased resolution doesn't add much to the film though as there are very few stunts or explosive sequences. The audio quality bump is negligible.
Blu-ray Extra Features:
The accoutrements won't blow you away, but hearing a commentary from Rooker and Van Damme does make for an interesting experience. Beyond that you'll find deleted scenes and storyboards, neither of which holds much value to the casual viewer."