Some movies have it, some movies don't. And some movies just suck horribly. That's the case in Knock Off, a movie that can't even live up to its own name by decently copying a good action movie.
Here's the plot: Marcus Ray (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and Tommy Hendricks (Rob Schneider) are pulled into a giant ploy to kill millions of people. There are miniature computer bombs in knock off versions of clothing, toys, and household appliances, and they are all going to go off at the same time. Yes, the heroes are trying to stop a bunch of toys.
But never mind about the plot. Jackie Chan movies have bad plots but they make up for it in action. However, with Knock Off, it doesn't have any good action. Sure, Van Damme tries once in a while, and I saw one five seconds clip where he actually takes a few people down, but that's about it. The direction is so cluttered that Van Damme never gets a chance to show his stuff. The camera zips around, trying to show off these great motions, but what results is a look as if Van Damme isn't fighting at all; he is just throwing punches and the director is filming him, and then they switch to a guy getting thrown against the wall. Furthermore, none of the action scenes are even remotely suspenseful, and not for a moment do I care whether any of the actors die.
Let's go more in depth with the direction. I was very confused. Knock Off has the look, feel, and budget of a B-grade Asian movie, but it stars people from Hollywood: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Rob Schneider, and Lela Rochon. And when you put "big name" stars in a low-budget movie, the result looks absolutely, phenomenally horrid. Hark Tsui is the director and I compliment him on his aggressiveness to do some original shots (he does some from the viewpoint of the flying bullets). Unfortunately, the movie is overloaded with strange shots so that three minutes don't go by where the camera isn't just sitting still. This affects, as already mentioned, the action scenes, since it cuts up the action to a point where it appears that the good guys and the bad guys were never filming at the same time; they just came in, threw a few punches in front of the cameras, and then left so the people receiving the punches could film themselves getting knocked back. This movie also looks horribly cheap, and that's another thing that affects Tsui's aggressive nature. If a big name director with a big budget does stuff like this, he or she can make the shots look good. Knock Off's look like Tsui is just trying to put some fancy camerawork in there to make us forget about the horrid movie.
The climax also suffers from low-budget syndrome and unexciting action. It is amazing I got to this point because I had the urge several times to turn the damn thing off, but I made it. The barge explodes as Van Damme and the others are escaping, and the result is hideous. Green flames tear into the sky, causing massive tidal waves for the escaping heroes to deal with. The movie is so cheap that when this happens, it looks so cluttered you can't tell where the boat is in the frenzy of bath water.
Onto the characters, acting, and script. The characters suck. Van Damme is some guy who tries to deal it straight but is also friends with a mob family. Schneider is Van Damme's nerdy friend. Rochon is... I don't know what she is. The acting sucks. I never expect much from Van Damme, but he is incredibly bad in this film. If he had just been given some good action scenes all would be forgotten. Schneider is the most likable one of the bunch and, knowing how far his acting extends, I was pretty impressed. I hated Rochon. She, at least in this movie, is a horrible actress. Her character is confusing (and why is there an American black woman working at a police station in Hong Kong?) and it doesn't appear as if she's ever held a gun before, on screen or off. I so wanted her to die. The main problem with the movie, though, is the script. The reason the acting is so bad is because the dialogue is so bad. Knock Off, I guess, is supposed to be an action comedy, but the comedy is too silly to laugh at. Van Damme and his friends exchange laughs, but at the audience's expense. The dialogue is overly simple, stupid, and forceful, and there is not one good line in the entire movie, except for one reference that Schenider makes to the Wizard of Oz. Coincidentally (yeah, right), this line also shows up in the preview trailers, if I recall.
Knock Off is a horrible action film that doesn't have one good thing going for it. It is amazing this piece of trash was ever released in theaters, let alone on video.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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