You know, Jean Claude Van Damme is a funny guy – he’ll never ever return to the glory days of his career (the late 80’s and early 90’s), but it hasn’t stopped him. He may be pretty much relegated to the straight to DVD marketplace, but that hasn’t stopped him. If you look up his IMDB page, you’ll see that the man still makes 2-3 films a year, along with other people who seem to be in the same boat. And that is where today’s film arrives to us from. Today’s film is 2001’s Replicant.
Much like another one of his films, in this Mr Van Damme plays two roles (one good, one bad) – one, a sadistic serial killer specialising in single mothers; the other ... you’ll see, but you can probably guess by the title of the film. Garrotte, a sadist who kills women, is the target of a police chase lead by Michael Rooker’s Jake Riley (name on loan from the Action Hero Collection) and manages to evade capture at every turn. After forcing Riley to retire, Garrotte takes to staking him and threatening his family, eventually being enlisted by a branch of the CIA who have used “SCIENCE!!!” to clone him (JCVD) and will use the clone to bring Garrotte to justice. The CIA Special Branch thus enlist Riley to teach the Replicant all about Garrotte’s methods, leading to a deadly game of cat and mouse between Riley, the Replicant and Garrotte. Along the way, Replicant and Riley (attorneys at law!) bond and vow to take their act on the road...well, maybe not – but they do bond, even though Riley is a total loon (hey, it’s Michael Rooker – were you expecting anything else?), we also find out the motivations behind Garrotte’s sinister urges, get numerous showdowns between Garrotte and Replicant and it all ends with a showdown between the three.
Now, apart from the martial arts (hey, it’s Van Damme, were you expecting anything else?), this is a role (well, roles) that I’ve not ever seen the man perform before. Sure, he’s played bad guys in films before, but there is something different about Garrotte and it allows JCVD to unleash his inner sadist – and I like it. In addition, seeing him play Replicant as basically a combination of a fast learning baby and some sort of domesticated animal allows the man to play two (new to me, at least) sides. Sure, the man will never win a serious acting award, but I’ve never failed to be entertained by him – no matter how shite the rest of the film may be. But, like I said, this is a couple of sides of Van Damme that I’ve not seen before, particularly his work as Replicant, which I’m sure is the reason the man took the role (and, working with Ringo Lam certainly would have sweetened the pot, no doubt).
All in all, this is a entertaining, if instantly forgettable little actioner – good to use to kill a couple of hours on a rainy day (which is exactly the reason why I found myself watching it).