In his third collaboration with director/cinematographer Peter Hyams (following Timecop and Sudden Death), Jean-Claude Van Damme chews fruit, kicks ass and overacts as an over-the-top psychopathic military trained French Canadian drug smuggling vegan who hates guns and will interrupt a smackdown at a moment’s notice to talk about a beloved goose named Edith Piaf or the pollution properties of cow flatulence.
No, I am not making this up.
The credit for these odd little gems and many more are attributed in the credits to screenwriters Eric Bromberg and James Bromberg and while the dialogue – like the film – needs to be seen and heard to be believed, Enemies Closer is still a VanDamme entertaining B-movie version of Cliffhanger crossed with The River Wild.
Moreover, it’s especially enjoyable if you’re the type of person who feels that Nicolas Cage is too understated in his performances and onscreen, the sole purpose of scenery is to be chewed thoroughly in the wackiest of ways by the lead actor.
For that is precisely what happens in the most off-kilter performance we’ve ever seen from Jean-Claude Van Damme who practically channels a character blend of Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet and Gary Oldman in The Professional.
Embodying him in the otherworldly entity that is the Muscles from Brussels (with what is unfortunately one of the most unfortunate hair cuts and colors we’ve ever seen on the otherwise handsome Belgian actor), Van Damme goes all in on this strange adventure you find yourself unable to stop watching no matter how crazy it gets.
And while it sounds like I’m just 100% trashing the film, honestly and rather unbelievably Enemies transcends its dozens of oddities, somehow ricocheting and rebuffing any criticism as a movie so cheesy that it becomes an addictively appetizing snack that’s hard to resist.
At least managing to build an intriguing layer of plot onto the one that simply involves villain Van Damme and his henchmen scouring the Canadian border of water and wild for their missing drug cargo that went down in the plane crash that opens the film, the screenwriters give former Navy Seal turned forest ranger Tom Everett Scott a second challenge in thwarting their plan.
Visited on the same exact night by a man with a personal military related vendetta, although Scott’s antennae about the sudden appearance of Orlando Jones’s stranger goes up, it isn’t until they’re in the midst of their own fight to the death that Scott realizes he’s facing war on two fronts.
Knowing that if they have any hope of surviving the night they have to put aside their own conflict and work together, the two men grudgingly form a temporary truce to stop Van Damme after he and his men slaughter all of the immigration and customs agents in their way, leaving Scott and Jones left to hold them at bay until the next shift arrives within the next few hours.
A tense nail-biter with expertly choreographed fight scenes that help elevate it from some of the film’s laughably odd speechmaking and a bizarre court jester style performance by Van Damme who acts like he’s a veritable cartoon villain come to life at times – complete with obligatory maniacal laughter at the end – Enemies Closer is also augmented by its briskly paced 84 minute running time.
While the natural lighting of the woods-based setting makes for a lot of darkness in the frame, I was surprised by how much tweaking I needed to do with the Blu-ray’s color settings on my otherwise stellar 240hz television to begin to make out the various levels of night, dark, shadow and light.
Boasting an ultraviolet digital HD copy and a behind-the-scenes making of featurette, the work, which was edited by the filmmaker’s son John Hyams (who has taken over helming the Universal Soldier franchise) is an always entertaining, fast-moving, if admittedly absurd piece of cinematic Van Dammage that reminds you once again what a great team JCVD makes with his Timecop director.
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