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'Maximum Risk': Crashing Bore

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
September 13, 1996

There is, alas, no "Double Impact" special-effects hilarity to "Maximum Risk," Jean-Claude Van Damme's second stab at a plot involving twins. This time around, Alain Moreau (Van Damme) learns about his long-lost twin brother, Mikhail, only after the police find a familiar body in the streets of a city somewhere in the "South of France" (this film's validation for the actor's unbudgeable Belgian-French accent).

Hoping to unravel the mystery of his murdered brother's life, Moreau becomes him and quickly discovers that Mikhail was a gangster connected to the Russian mafia that rules Little Odessa, New York's Russian emigre enclave. When Alain/Mikhail returns, there's great consternation that he's still alive, and pretty soon several groups are trying to remedy that situation. Alain finds that Mikhail's tough-guy reputation is ready-made, as is girlfriend Alex (Natasha Henstridge of "Species"). The two find a world full of corruption and preposterous chase scenes.

The film opens with a decent "Bullitt"-style car chase (with a European twist) through narrow streets and crowded sidewalks (lots of cars to crash into, merchant stalls to crash through and pedestrians to scatter). Unfortunately, veteran Hong Kong action director Ringo Lam cuts to the chase whenever the plot weakens, to increasingly weaker effect. In fact, there are so many car crashes in "Maximum Risk" that Van Damme ends up playing second fiddle to an ever-expanding salvage operation.

Van Damme's martial arts fans will find several of his patented crunchy limb-breakings. However, there's no bare-butt scene despite some unusual love scenes with Henstridge (who looks like "Goldeneye's" fabulous Famke Janssen but lacks her sizzling charisma).

As for combat scenes, the best are two vicious Greco-Roman karate bouts between Van Damme and the imposing Stefanos Miltsakakis, who plays a burly, overmuscled beast named Red Face. But car chases and shootouts dominate "Maximum Risk," which really takes far too few risks.

Maximum Risk is rated R for violence, profanity and nudity.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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