Another stinkbomb from the Belgian Waffle.It boggles the mind as to why a stylish Hong Kong director like Tsui Hark would make not one but two movies (in a row!) with Jean-Claude Van Damme. Admittedly, Knock Off looks slick, and it's got the definite Hong Kong look to it (not in terms of location, but how it's shot and other technical aspects, such as the generous use of slo-mo), but it's a dog of a movie, thanks in no small part to the star.
Van Damme's popularity is on the wane and has been for some time. This movie should only continue him on the downward spiral. He's not completely lifeless (like in 1997's Double Team) but his acting just plain sucks. When he's in his action sequences, he looks like a martial artist going through (fast-paced) motions. When he's forced to act, he's almost too earnest. He overplays the part to the hilt, where it's past comical and more into a feeling of pity for him. It doesn't help that the film is an uneven blend of action and semi-comedy. The blame for that lies where it has often lied before: in the lap of writer Steven E. De Souza.
If you're not familiar with De Souza, you're no doubt familiar with his work: he wrote Die Hard (and Die Hard 2), and 48 Hours. What's wrong with that, you say? I like those movies, you say? Well, nothing's wrong with those, exactly. But he also wrote Judge Dredd, Beverly Hills Cop 3, Ricochet, and Hudson Hawk, not to mention wrote AND directed Street Fighter. He's probably the most directely responsible for five of the most horrible action movies of the 1990's, complete with mind-numbing action and scripts loaded with one-line quips rather than an actual story or plot. The guy's a hack.
It's that aforementioned blend of action and comedy that causes Knock Off to stumble and ultimately not be able to right itself. Van Damme and partner Rob Schnieder have scenes where they're absolutely giddy in front of police and Lela Rochon (although, who wouldn't be giddy in front of Lela Rochon), making wisecracks and jokes that aren't the least bit funny. Normally pasable action seqeunces and stuntwork are overshadowed by a too-cute script that constantly tries to beat you over the head with its one-liners and then winks at you after you've been clubbed. Oh, and every line in this movie has been dubbed. Badly. It makes the dub work in Jackie Chan's Mr. Nice Guy seem spectacular by comparison.
Van Damme is practically comatose and Schnieder is doing the same role he did in Judge Dredd, just as badly. Only Rochon escapes the idiocy unscathed, looking quite yummy as always.It ain't no Double Team. Take that however you want to.