The Order 2001 ***

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Sure, Jean-Claude van Damme can do the splits on a kitchen cabinet, or trace a consignment of exploding pants through Hong Kong (Knock Off); but have you ever wondered what his writing would be like? The Muscles from Brussels admits that he’s had significant drug problems during his career, and his script for Sheldon Lettich’s The Order suggests a star way out of control. JCVD kicks things off by imagining himself as a knight at the First Crusades in 1099, sickened by the violence of the age and having an epiphany that involves looking directly at the camera and widening his eyes as a Pino Donaggio score swells. Jump forward to the present day and JCVD is an Indiana Jones figure in the world of stolen artefacts, complete with a father (Vernon Dubtcheff) who has access to the original knight’s enlightened scrolls. The scrolls are stolen, and Rudy heads for Israel, where The Order considers cultural differences by disguising van Damme in beard and ringlets as a Hassidic Jew and having him shout ‘Oi Vey!’ as the cops chase him around New Jerusalem. If this doesn’t sound bad enough, Charlton Heston turns up looking rather less than fresh and mumbling about knickers before taking an early bath to allow the kickboxing to get into gear. The Order asks far too much of the star, with abrupt chances of tone between murder, comedy, travelogue and philosophising that require the kind of charm that Cary Grant couldn’t make run smoothly. As a ludicrous romp, however, The Order has a few choice moments; as Rudy notes with gravitas, ‘Laughter opens the soul’ and there’s lots of accidental merriment to keep your inner-being well ajar here.

Sudden Death 1995 ***

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Arguably the best of the slew of Die Hard copycat movies that followed the original John McTiernan film, Sudden Death sees action director Peter Hyams revitalise the trapped-hero conventions with muscular direction and some tounge-in-cheek humour. Jean Claude Van Damme is fire-fighter Darren McCord, who uses his time off to take his kids to an ice-hockey game. But with terrorists planning to detonate the stadium at the end of the match, McCord swings into action, getting on the ice to save a penalty and force extra-time, beating up a giant penguin mascot, and defeating the nefarious plans of Joshua Foss (Powers Boothe). Originally intended as an Airplane! –style parody, Sudden Death plays it enjoyably straight and transcends the over-subscribed genre with ease.