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Knock Off
"When I'm drunk, my acting improves!"    "Now let's all pretend like we want to be here!"

(left) The Muscles from Brussels, and (right) Tsui Hark directs traffic on the set of Knock Off.
  Year: 1998    
  Director: Tsui Hark    
  Action: Sammo Hung Kam-Bo    
  Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Rob Schneider, Lela Rochon, Michael Wong Mun-Tak, Carman Lee Yeuk-Tung, Paul Sorvino, Wyman Wong Wai-Man, Glen Chin, Dennis Chan Kwok-San, Moses Chan Ho  
  The Skinny: Good for a Van Damme film, bad for a Tsui Hark film.  
by Kozo:

     Tsui Hark's second U.S. film is unfortunately his second Jean-Claude Van Damme film. Fans of Van Damage may be happy with this creative action flick, but the lack of substance behind it can only annoy longtime fans of Tsui Hark. The Universal Soldier stars as Marcus Ray, a shady businessman in Hong Kong who gets drawn into a scam where counterfeit goods (or knock offs) are being stuffed with miniature bombs. Despite being not a law-enforcement type, Ray soon finds himself squeezed between numerous parties. Some claim to be good, but are actually bad. And some seem bad but are actually good. It's just like all action thrillers should be.
     A better-than-average cast was assembled for this Muscles from Brussels epic. Aside from some bit parts by HK actors (Dennis Chan, Moses Chan, Wyman Wong), Tsui Hark has enlisted Carman Lee and Michael Wong for semi-sizable roles. Wong has the role that initially was earmarked for Jet Li: a Hong Kong law enforcer who finds himself teaming up with Van Damme. However, Wong is not Van Damme's main buddy in this flick. Instead it's Rob Schneider of "Saturday Night Live" fame, who gets to make all sorts of homoerotic jokes about Van Damme's shapely behind. No, you did not read that incorrectly. Schneider and Van Damme spend a good portion of the film enjoying each other's company, which could be viewed as karma in some religious circles. Not unexpectedly, their comedy routines are largely unfunny.
     Knock Off was shot with a heavy sense of style, but that style is not offset by any substance. Unlike Tsui Hark's The Blade, there is no rhyme or reason to the nifty shots and dizzying camera movement that permeate this picture. The manic energy that Tsui employs seems to exist solely to bring the film in under ninety minutes. Thankfully, he did a good job; Knock Off breezes by with the disposable satisfaction of intentionally unhealthy fast food. Van Damme actually comes off looking rather silly in this movie, which is a welcome change from the usual Van Damme love-fests. Also, the action can be surprisingly entertaining. It's sad that Tsui Hark has once again chosen to go the cheap route and given us a flick that has no weight. Still, for the personnel it employs (Jean-Claude Van Damme and Michael Wong? It's a team-up from cinema heaven!), Knock Off isn't god-awful. It's most definitely crap, but it also possesses some meager cinematic charms.
     However, it must be said: Tsui Hark, go home! (Kozo 1998)

Availability: DVD (USA)
Region 1 NTSC
Columbia/Tri-Star Home Video
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
English Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1

image courtesy of Columbia/Tri-Star Home Video Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen