Maximum Risk (UK - BD RB)
Scott McKenzie checks out this 1996 Jean-Claude Van Damme movie...
Maximum Risk opens in the south of France, with Mikhail Suverov (Jean-Claude Van Damme) being chased through the streets towards an untimely death. It turns out this version of Van Damme has a twin brother called Alain Moreau, who lives in the same town but never knew his sibling existed. As Alain digs deeper into his brother's life, he travels to New York and finds himself entangled in a world of shady FBI agents and the Russian mafia. Mikhail kept a secret from everyone for a long time, but with the clock ticking, can Alain get to the bottom of it before the bad guys catch up to him?
I hadn't seen Maximum Risk before and I certainly wasn't expecting much from it, especially when I saw that Van Damme played himself and his brother again, as he did in Double Impact. However, this movie focuses more on the mystery potential of the plot and I found myself drawn into the story a lot more than I expected from a movie with the muscles from Brussels. There's a revelation about half way through to keep the audience's attention so while this isn't exactly a multi-layered double-cross-athon, there's a bit more going on than their is in your usual generic actioner.
This is also apparent from the relative lack of action. Of course, there are enough fist fights and gun fights to keep Van Damme fans happy but Maximum Risk doesn't follow the template that requires him to have a punch up every five minutes. This might be due to the fact that Van Damme requested the services of Hong Kong action director Ringo Lam, who had more to offer than the journeyman directors Van Damme had worked with before (including himself). Watch closely and you'll notice a few directorial flourishes, like Van Damme looking into a broken mirror while thinking about his brother. It might be a bit heavy-handed but adds a little something extra.
With all that, Maximum Risk is by no means a perfect movie. Acting is a problem throughout the movie, with Zach Grenier as the main bad guy a particular offender with his comedy goatee beard not helping his cause. Natasha Henstridge's performance isn't very memorable and the screenplay doesn't do anything to make us believe she's mourning the passing of the love of her life. There are several leaps of logic in the plot as well, with a device involving a cigarette and a sprinkler not making much sense at all. While you're watching the movie, ask yourself why Van Damme is given a cigarette.
What this adds up to is a generic action movie that offers a little more at times. It might not quite be up there with Hard Target and Universal Soldier among Van Damme's best but it's worth a watch for action fans. When Maximum Risk was first released in the UK, the BBFC enforced cut of nine seconds in order to achieve an 18 certificate. Checking the BBFC website, it looks like this movie hasn't been resubmitted since then, so either this is the cut version of the movie or it's an uncut transfer that's been sneaked onto Blu-ray without telling anyone.
Here we go with another catalogue title from the 1990s, with the studio digging out the print and blowing the dust off. As expected, the Columbia lady on the opening titles is a little wobbly and grainy but from that point forward it's not too bad considering this isn't exactly a flagship release. The colours are very strong, but so much so that it could have done with some toning down. In some scenes Natasha Henstridge's blue eyes and red lips almost look like they've been made up with fluorescent paint. There is good detail in most of the picture – this is a transfer that makes the most of Van Damme's designer stubble – but in the wide landscape shots where HD transfers usually excel, there is a noticeable layer of dirt and some damage to the print.
I tuned into the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English audio track (of which there are a few in different languages) for this review. The quality of the content isn't too bad but doesn't exactly blow the viewer away. The music is strong without ever drowning out the rest of the audio and there are some good surround moments with gunshot effects. There is no interference over the dialogue but there is a serious problem the quality of high definition brought to my attention that may have gone unnoticed on VHS or DVD. The dubbing on some of the characters is quite frankly appalling and at some points the words coming out of their mouths bear no resemblance to the shapes their lips are making. Obviously this would require getting the actors back in to redub their lines but I thought it was a bit more than a minor issue and took me out of the movie at times.
All we get is a trailer for the movie, more trailers for Men In Black, Close Encounters and 21 and a promo for Blu-ray in general.
Maximum Risk is by no means the best action movie I've ever seen but for a Van Damme B-movie it's probably worth a look. Looking around online retailers, I've seen that you can pick this title up a bit cheaper than most brand new Blu-ray releases. The quality of the transfer and the lack of extras reflect this but fans of the movie might want to shop around for this disc because I can't imagine Maximum Risk is going to be the subject of a double-dip any time soon.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 25th August 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Italian Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Russian Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles: Arabic, Czech, Danish, English, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Icelandic, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Portugual), Spanish, Swedish, Turkish
Easter Egg: No
Director: Ringo Lam
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Natasha Henstridge
Length: 100 minutes
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