Jean-Claude Van Damme made his name in the early ’80s and early ’90s by starring in a series of action hits that made him look like a real tough guy, but he really proved that strength in the years that followed, persisting through direct-to-DVD purgatory after the genre started to fade at the box office. It’s paid off with an unlikely second act for the Muscles from Brussels, who’s seen his profile rebound over the last decade while turning in some of his most critically well-received work. Limber up and oil those pecs, film fans — it’s time for Total Recall!

Use the arrows to rank the movies, or click here to see them ranked by Tomatometer!

(Photo by Bravo/Getty Images)

When we first spoke with Anna Kendrick ahead of the release of Pitch Perfect back in 2012, there was no way to know the film would become a massive hit, or that it would spawn a sequel that would eventually take the crown as the highest-grossing musical comedy of all time. Now, Kendrick stars in Pitch Perfect 3, which follows Beca (Kendrick), “Fat Amy” (Rebel Wilson), and the rest of the scattered post-grad Barden Bellas as they reunite on an overseas USO tour for a chance to open for DJ Khaled.

RT had a chance to speak with Kendrick over the phone, and we thought it would be fun to revisit her previous Five Favorite Films and see if any had changed, a proposition she answered by saying, “My two favorite movies are very obvious to me.” Sure enough, she started off by naming the same two films she began with last time, and when she was unable to guess the remaining films she chose before, she offered three alternatives. Read on for Anna Kendrick’s updated Five Favorite Films, as well as her experience on Pitch Perfect 3 and what the franchise means to her.

The Women (1939) 94%

The Women and Hot Fuzz are just my top two movies. There is The Women, number one, Hot Fuzz, two, and then there’s just a big group of ones that I love.

Hot Fuzz (2007) 91%

[See The Women. For more detail on the first two choices, see her previous Five Favorite Films interview.]

JCVD (2008) 84%

That was one of those movies I saw and it’s… I’m sure that there are movies that are more important, you know? But it was one of those movies that I saw, and it was just perfect, if that makes sense. It’s like all movies are like listening to a bunch of different instruments playing at the same time, and suddenly they all sync up for certain moments, and there’s other times where it’s not quite in rhythm. JCVD was just bang-on the entire time. It was just so lean and solid and this perfect blend of dark humor and some really genuinely touching moments. That moment when he goes up into the loft and it’s all very surreal, and he’s crying, I was like, “This is for real, man. This has really got me.”

It’s such a beautiful thing when you’re watching a movie and if somebody told you, “Oh, he’s about to start crying and you’re about to get really emotional in five minutes,” that you would go “No way. Come on, it’s not that kind of movie,” or it’s gonna feel really forced and it’s not gonna work, and they manage to take you there. That’s so impressive.

In Bruges (2008) 84%

In Bruges is another one like that. It’s just flawless, like, it’s so tight. The ending is perfect. Just when you’re like, “Oh, they’re gonna bring in this Ralph Fiennes character and he’s just not gonna be able to compete with the main cast,” and he just crushes it and is doing something completely different. Oh, he’s just heaven.

His Girl Friday (1940) 99%

His Girl Friday is funny because it’s… In that way that I think In Bruges and JCVD are just perfect, it is perfect. It is beyond perfect. It is transcendently flawless for like the first 45 minutes, and then it kind of goes off into crazy town. But you still stay with it, and the tone completely changes and it gets really weird and dark, but I guess that’s what happens in some of those movies.

But it’s the perfect distillation of that kind of fast-talking, thin-line-between-love-and-hate style relationship. It would definitely be the kind of movie that, if somebody was trying to get into movies from the ’30s and ’40s and wanted that kind of patter and that kind of style, I would definitely point them in that direction. The Women is my favorite film, but it’s kind of a lot to take in, and I would understand if it scared people off a little bit. Whereas if you watch the first 20 minutes of His Girl Friday, you’re in. It’s like a starter course for that kind of film.

Ryan Fujitani for Rotten Tomatoes: You and the cast, again, look like you had a lot of fun making Pitch Perfect 3. Was it just a little bit sad when you wrapped filming on this one?

Anna Kendrick: Yeah. We were really, really in our feelings and not trying to hide it because we filmed the finale in the final days of the shoot, which never happens. That’s very rare. So we were just really in the moment and in the vibe. There was a point when Trish [Sie], our director, told us, “Okay, that take fully looked like you all just found out you have cancer. You’ve gotta pull it together a little bit,” because we were really feeling it. We would have been feeling it no matter what we were shooting, but then it seems like, “Well, we’ve just got free reign to just bawl our eyes out,” and she was like, “We don’t want it to seem like you’re all dying.”

RT: It’s interesting because in reality you and most of your cast mates actually have been apart from each other since the last film, so when you guys all met up again on set for the first time or for the table read, was it like the scene at the reunion in this movie? Were you all just super excited to see each other again?

Kendrick: Yeah. I mean, we don’t get quite that high-pitched, but yeah. We’re always excited to see each other. But we hang out, you know?

RT: I was going to ask if you all kept in touch.

Kendrick: Yeah. Yeah, we hang out. We’ve all been on this group text for six years. We’re all working women, so it seems like whenever we get together, there’s almost never a time where it’s actually the whole group, but there’ll be like five of us in varied formations. Whenever they hang out and I can’t go, I definitely get major FOMO.

RT: In this movie, the Bellas don’t compete against other a cappella groups, but full bands and even a hip hop artist. Did that change the atmosphere or the tone on set compared to the previous two movies? Did it feel different at all?

Kendrick: I don’t think it felt different for us in real life, but there were definitely questions that I had about using instruments and the fact that at the end of the movie, I am using instruments. I was like, “Does that really make sense? Are we saying you do have to use instruments?” It was one of the many times that I was given the old, “Oh, hush, hush, hush. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” But I definitely overthink things. I’m totally the logic police.

Like on the first movie, Brittany Snow’s character says, “I have nodes, and I might not ever be able to sing again.” And then in like the next scene, I say, “Okay. Chloe, are you okay to sing the lead?” and she just starts singing. I was like, “Is that not a problem for anybody?” I gave so much pushback. I was like, “That doesn’t make any sense. We’re gonna get torn to shreds.” People are just like, “No, we like the parts where you’re all singing and it’s nice, so we like it in our ear holes. Thanks.”

RT: When we talked before the first Pitch Perfect, you mentioned that one of the things that initially drew you to the movie was the aspect of this little-known geeky subculture. Do you think that’s still the case with the a cappella culture, considering the success and the popularity of the Pitch Perfect movies?

Kendrick: Yeah. I think that between Pitch Perfect and Pentatonix, people know what it is. They understand that it’s not like a barbershop quartet. They get what vocal instrumentation is. But it’s still geeky enough that it feels like we get to make fun of ourselves a lot in the movie. You know, like I remember when Conan O’Brien started doing really well, and his whole shtick was like, “Nobody watches this show. I’m such a loser.” I was like, “Is that gonna keep working?” But he kind of makes it work, because I think one of the keys is definitely like taking the piss out of ourselves.

RT: I realize how corny this question is, but now that the series is presumably over, what was your favorite part about working on the Pitch Perfect movies.

Kendrick: Well, I’ll give you an equally corny answer.

RT: I expect nothing less.

Kendrick: It has honestly just been getting to get really close to this cast. We went out to dinner after the final day of filming, and I got super drunk and emotional and was talking about how this movie’s a part of my life every day. Like, I make other movies and I do other things, but almost every day, somebody says something to me about Pitch Perfect. I realize that the thing that I was gonna think about when people bring it up to me is how happy I am and lucky and proud to know such a diverse group of women.

Pitch Perfect 3 opens everywhere this Friday, December 22. Read reviews for it here.

It’s the first streaming column of the month, which means there are a ton of great new movies to watch online. This week, we’ve got a nice mix of classics and acclaimed new films, documentaries and dramas, and even some incredible animated movies. Check out the full list below.

New on Netflix


My Life as a Zucchini (2016) 99%

This stop-motion animated tale — nominated for Best Animated Feature — follows an orphan who moves into a foster home and slowly learns to trust his new family.

Available now on: Netflix

Before Midnight (2013) 98%

In the third installment of Richard Linklater’s enduring love story, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) are married and hoping to recapture the spark that first brought them together.

Available now on: Netflix

April and the Extraordinary World (2015) 97%

This animated sci-fi adventure from France follows a girl who finds herself wrapped up in a conspiracy after her scientist parents mysteriously disappear.

Available now on: Netflix

Boy and the World (2013) 93%

This Oscar-nominated animated feature from Brazil utilizes an unconventional art style to tell a fantastical story about a child who journeys to a large city in search of his father.

Available now on: Netflix

Miss Hokusai (2015) 93%

This animated biopic from Japan tells the story of 19th century artist Katsushika Ōi, whose masterfully painted portraits and erotic sketches were sold under the name of her famous father.

Available now on: Netflix

Boogie Nights (1997) 93%

Paul Thomas Anderson’s ensemble opus about life in the porn industry made a movie star out of Mark Wahlberg and benefited immeasurably from great performances by an all-star supporting cast.

Available now on: Netflix

Inside Man (2006) 86%

Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, and Clive Owen star in Spike Lee’s heist thriller about a New York cop who faces off with a clever bank robber who manages to stay a step ahead of the police.

Available now on: Netflix

Trading Places (1983) 88%

Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd star in John Landis’s classic comedy about a well-to-do businessman and a common street hustler whose lives become intertwined when the businessman’s bosses concoct an elaborate bet involving them.

Available now on: Netflix

I Love You, Man (2009) 83%

Paul Rudd and Jason Segel star in this comedy about a groom-to-be with few male friends who sets out to find a best man before his wedding.

Available now on: Netflix

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) 83%

Johnny Depp stars in Tim Burton’s adaptation of the famous Roald Dahl novel about an eccentric confectioner who invites five children to his mysterious chocolate factory for a tour.

Available now on: Netflix

It Might Get Loud (2008) 79%

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary pays tribute to guitars and rock and roll by focusing in the unique styles of three masters: Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White.

Available now on: Netflix

American Horror Story: Roanoke (2016) 74%

The sixth season of FX’s popular horror anthology series utilizes a mock true crime documentary format to tell the tale of a married couple who move into a rural North Carolina farmhouse and experience supernatural terror.

Available now on: Netflix

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) 76%

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman star in Stanley Kubrick’s psychological thriller about a married man who embarks on a dreamlike sexual odyssey one night after learning his wife once contemplated having an affair.

Available now on: Netflix

New on Amazon Prime


The Interrupters (2011) 99%

Steve James’ documentary about violence in Chicago follows the efforts of independent organization CeaseFire to address the city’s problems in a clinical fashion.

Available now on: Amazon Prime

The Right Stuff (1983) 96%

Philip Kaufman’s Oscar-winning look at the origins of the United States’ manned space flight program stars Ed Harris, Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Barbara Hershey, and Dennis Quaid.

Available now on: Amazon Prime

Some Like It Hot (1959) 94%

Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis star in Billy Wilder’s classic comedy about a pair of struggling musicians on the run from the mob who pose as women and take refuge with an all female band.

Available now on: Amazon Prime

Pan's Labyrinth (2006) 95%

Guillermo Del Toro’s richly imagined gothic fantasy, set during the Spanish Civil War, centers on a young girl who embarks on a journey through an elaborate labyrinth full of terror and wonder.

Available now on: Amazon Prime

Best Worst Movie (2009) 94%

This documentary traces the fascinating history and enduring legacy of the 1989 horror movie Troll 2, which is widely considered one of the worst movies ever made.

Available now on: Amazon Prime

Ballast (2008) 93%

Jim Myron Ross stars in Lance Hammer’s acclaimed drama exploring the lives of three people living in the Mississippi Delta who are all affected in different ways by a man’s suicide.

Available now on: Amazon Prime

JCVD (2008) 84%

Jean-Claude Van Damme stars in this revealing meta drama as himself, an aging action star struggling with obsolescence who stumbles into a bank robbery and complicates the heist.

Available now on: Amazon Prime

Clueless (1995) 81%

Amy Heckerling’s oft-quoted, much-beloved comedy stars Alicia Silverstone in a modern, high school-set adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, in which wealthy student Cher takes it upon herself to play matchmaker for her teachers and fellow students.

Available now on: Amazon Prime

New on FandangoNOW


Girls Trip (2017) 92%

Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish, and Queen Latifah star in this comedy about four longtime friends who experience a wild adventure during a trip to the Essence Festival in New Orleans.

Available now on: FandangoNOW

Lady Macbeth (2016) 88%

Florence Pugh stars in this drama about a free-spirited, unhappily married 19th century woman who finds empowerment when she indulges in an affair with one of her husband’s workers.

Available now on: FandangoNOW

13 Minutes (2014) 76%

This German drama tells the true story of Georg Elser, who almost succeeded in assassinating Adolf Hitler with a bomb in 1939.

Available now on: FandangoNOW

This week, home video enthusiasts have all kinds of new flicks — fresh and rotten — to peruse, starting with a surprising comeback by former action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme (JCVD). Mainstream viewers can choose between a kiddie-canine comedy (Hotel for Dogs), a superficial chick flick (Bride Wars), and a poky horror remake (The Uninvited), though we’d recommend giving a pair of lesser-known, but better-reviewed films a chance (What Doesn’t Kill You, Nothing But the Truth). For the daring crowd, we’ve got a pair of flicks that push the boundaries of taste (the Guillermo del Toro-produced While She Was Out, Criterion’s In The Realm of The Senses) and lastly, a few throwback TV on DVD titles for anyone feeling nostalgic (X-Men: The Animated Series Vol. 1 & 2, Star Trek: The Original Series on Blu-ray).

JCVD — 85%

Fans of meaty ’80s action flicks no doubt know the name Jean-Claude Van Damme from such glorious, sweaty butt-kicking films as Bloodsport (1988), Double Impact (1991), and Universal Soldier (1992) — not to mention the cheesy video game adaptation, Street Fighter (1994) — so it brings us great pleasure to report that the fallen idol’s latest film, aptly titled JCVD, is not only a (gasp!) drama, but a bona fide comeback to boot! JCVD stars the Muscles from Brussels as himself, a former action star struggling with obsolescence who stumbles into a bank robbery; what results is alternately existential and comic, a referential heist movie laden with black comedy and extraordinary revelations by Van Damme about his life and career. (Also note, JCVD is Van Damme’s first and only Fresh movie to date.) Bonus footage, trailers, and more will be included on the DVD release.

Next: This Hotel is for the Dogs

Hotel For Dogs — 44%

Man’s best friend gets some help from a couple of teens in this PG comedy, which earned lukewarm reviews from critics. While Emma Roberts (Nancy Drew) and Jake T. Austin put their best faces forward as a pair of orphans who turn a run-down hotel into a haven for stray pups, their adult co-stars fared worse; critics agreed that the canine performances were more entertaining (and less painful to watch) than those by the likes of Lisa Kudrow and the Oscar-nominated Don Cheadle. Stars Roberts, Austin, Ewan Leslie and director Thor Freudenthal contribute an audio commentary, and a handful of dog-centric behind-the-scenes features showcase the film’s canine stars.

Next: When it’s Anne Hathaway vs. Kate Hudson in Bride Wars, nobody wins

Bride Wars — 12%

Some called it “mildly amusing,” while others called it a “war on intelligence.” Bride Wars, starring Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson as two BFFs-turned-Bridezillas competing to throw the perfect wedding, drew no small amount of fire from critics, who lambasted everything from its materialistic obsession with bridal goods (indeed, one of the DVD’s bonus features pays homage to “The Perfect White Dress”) to its depiction of female friendships as inherently competitive and catty. But hey, if you don’t mind a brainless, insulting romantic comedy about two educated, beautiful women so covetous and shallow that they wind up literally fighting down the aisle, then be our guest! Deleted scenes and featurettes accompany the film.

Next: The Uninvited remakes horror yet again

The Uninvited — 33%

Another Asian horror remake, another dismal Tomatometer rating. Based on Kim Ji-woon’s 2003 Korean horror flick A Tale of Two Sisters, The Uninvited stars David Strathairn in a departure from his usual, sober fare as a widower whose two teenage daughters, Anna (Emily Browning) and Alex (Arielle Kebbel) take particular offense at his newfound romance with their mother’s former nurse, Rachel (Elizabeth Banks) — so much so that Anna begins seeing visions that suggest that Rachel is not what she seems, and must be stopped at any cost. Unfortunately, while its predecessor earned an 86 percent Tomatometer for its effective scares, The Uninvited scored much lower thanks to its plodding plot and irksome twists. Deleted scenes and an alternate ending highlight the DVD release.

Next: Kate Beckinsale in the Certified Fresh Nothing But The Truth

In Nothing But the Truth, director Rod Lurie (The Contender) focuses (and fictionalizes) his lens on the plight of Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter jailed for refusing to divulge her source. Kate Beckinsale plays Rachel Armstrong, a Washington, D.C. writer who outs a Valerie Plame-like agent (Vera Farmiga) and must face her wrath, and that of a government prosecutor (Matt Dillon), while protecting her story and her right to silence. In addition to a making-of featurette and deleted scenes, a commentary track featuring Lurie and producer Marc Frydman gives context to the complicated discussions that their film prompts.

Next: Mark Ruffalo earns kudos in What Doesn’t Kill You

If you haven’t heard much about this Boston-set drama, it’s probably because its distributor, Yari Film Group, folded pretty much right before it was set for release; a shame, too, because the crime drama features a powerful central performance by Mark Ruffalo, who all too rarely scores leading man roles. Ruffalo stars as Brian, a small-time crook who with his best friend (Ethan Hawke) struggles to leave behind a life of crime in order to save his own family. Director Brian Goodman reportedly based the story on his own experiences, having fallen into acting after serving time in prison, and brought co-writer Donnie Wahlberg on board after the two worked together on 1998’s Southie. Both Goodman and Wahlberg discuss the film in a commentary track.

Next: Kim Basinger + a screwdriver to the head = exploitation thrills!

The female vengeance genre has resurged of late (The Brave One, P2), so perhaps modern audiences are now primed to enjoy the sight of a woman turning the tables on her would-be attackers. In While She Was Out (produced by Guillermo del Toro), Kim Basinger is that woman, a put-upon and abused housewife who crosses a gang of thugs one Christmas Eve. Armed with only a toolbox, she dispatches her stalkers — led by Lukas Haas, who has somehow become Hollywood’s go-to Gen X miscreant — while you look on with glee and ponder, is killing an attacker with a screwdriver the ultimate expression of feminist empowerment, or just exploitation cinema reborn? Perhaps both. A making-of featurette and commentary by producer Don Murphy and writer-director Susan Montford (who produced Shoot ‘Em Up and makes her directorial debut here) also appear on the disc.

Next: Nagisa Oshima’s controversial In the Realm of the Senses hits Criterion

Japanese auteur Nagisa Oshima delivered the most controversial film of his career — and arguably, one of the most controversial films of all of Japanese cinema — with his fictionalized take on the case of Sada Abe, a former prostitute who infamously killed her lover in 1936. Notoriously banned and recut in multiple countries upon its release, In the Realm of the Senses employs extreme sexual and sadomasochistic content but is more an examination of gender dynamics, eroticism, and power than it is purely sensual. Criterion is releasing ITROTS on DVD and Blu-ray this week in a newly remastered transfer; additional materials include a new interview with actor Tatsuya Fuji, a commentary by scholar Tony Rayns, archival cast and crew interviews, deleted scenes, essays, and more.

Next: X-Men The Animated Series Vol. 1 and 2

X-Men: The Animated Series Vol. 1 and 2

Children of the ’90s, rejoice! X-Men: The Animated Series comes to DVD this week in two volumes which span two-and-a-half seasons of the long-running Saturday morning cartoon. (Volume 1 begins with the two-part “Night of the Sentinels” story, while Volume 2 picks up with “Red Dawn” and ends with the Phoenix Saga episodes.) Unfortunately, the set (both volumes sold separately) balances its wealth of episodes with a total lack of bonus features, so only Marvel and X-Men die-hards will likely find the duo worth their money. But if you still remember those Saturday mornings spent watching the X-Men saga unfold…

Next: Star Trek: The Original Series comes to Blu-ray

Star Trek The Original Series Season One Blu-ray

Speaking of reliving the glory of television series past, the folks at CBS and Paramount Home Entertainment have put a lot of work into presenting Season One of Star Trek: The Original Series for Blu-ray. Although Trekkies most likely already own TOS on DVD and/or HD-DVD, the Blu-ray-owning Trek faithful will be intrigued at the prospect of owning the first season set in its fully-remastered splendor. Experts have done considerable frame-by-frame image cleanup, resulting in a truly remarkable viewing experience; however, have they gone too far by inserting 21st century CG graphics into the 1960s-era show? Purists might quibble over the intrusion (we want our cheesy original effects, darn it!) but thankfully, you can choose between both versions. A huge amount of bonus materials, featurettes, expert interviews, and more also appear on the 7-disc set.

Until next week, happy renting!

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you — for this week’s Total Recall, we’re taking a look at the best-reviewed works of a career whose cumulative output has been the target of some of the most venomous critical derision in recent memory. That’s right, gang: in honor of his new film, JCVD, we’re dedicating this week to Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Like his fellow early 1990s action icon Steven Seagal, Van Damme has fallen on hard times, swapping out big box-office hits for low-budget direct-to-video affairs. But all that could turn around for Jean-Claude this week: His latest effort, the Mabrouk El Mechri-directed JCVD, places a slightly fictionalized version of its star in a meta-fueled blend of action, comedy, and drama — and it’s earning the best reviews of Van Damme’s career by far. (Yes, that’s right: it might even be Certified Fresh when it’s all said and done.) So sit back and go along with us on a journey to a younger, more innocent time, when all it took to earn a pile of money at the box office was a blank stare, a chiseled bod, and some righteous butt-kicking moves!


more info…

Street Fighter


Tomatometer: 15 percent

You would think that a wildly popular videogame about nothing but fighting would be the perfect inspiration for a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie — especially given that one of the game’s characters was inspired by the role Van Damme played in Bloodsport. Sadly, however, 1995’s Street Fighter missed whatever opportunity it may have had to capture the quarter-gobbling magic of the arcade hit, and instead went down as a project frequently discussed among the worst films of all time. It didn’t have to be this way — although a fighting game probably isn’t the best place to look for the building blocks of a successful screenplay, Street Fighter still could have been a passable 90-minute collection of fighting scenes, rather than the overstuffed mess that Variety‘s Emanuel Levy deemed “far less captivating than the videogame that inspired it.” To be completely fair to the film, there is a certain undeniable pleasure in watching Raul Julia (in what was, unfortunately, his final film performance) ham it up as the megalomaniacal M. Bison — and it was ultimately profitable. Perhaps more telling, though, is the fact that it was one of Van Damme’s last high-profile theatrical releases.




more info…

Universal Soldier


Tomatometer: 23 percent

In which our hero faces off against the erstwhile Ivan Drago in a story about cryogenically frozen Vietnam vets whose bodies are reanimated to take part in the top-secret Universal Soldier program. They aren’t supposed to remember that they hated each other in their former lives, but — uh-oh! — the program’s mad-scientist founder (played by an understandably melancholy Jerry Orbach) must not have carried a one somewhere, because the memories return, and stuff starts to go boom. As an early Roland Emmerich project, Universal Soldier is sort of fascinating — it proves that even with a budget in the $20 million range, Emmerich would find a way to make almost everything explode eventually — and in the context of the times, it offers an example of what the action-movie team-up craze that started in the 1980s ended up looking like as ideas started to run out. Despite largely negative-to-lukewarm reviews — typified by the Washington Post‘s Richard Harrington, who waved it off as “enjoyable in a mindless way” — Soldier raked in over $100 million worldwide; Van Damme reprised his role in 1999’s Dolph Lundgren-less (and far less successful) Universal Soldier: The Return.



more info…



Tomatometer: 27 percent

In this reunion with Maximum Risk director Ringo Lam, Van Damme plays dual roles for what seems like the umpteenth time, starring as both a serial killer nicknamed “The Torch” and his, um, government-engineered, telepathically linked secret clone. Even in the context of a career that includes a shared bill with Dennis Rodman, this is stuff that stretches the limits of credulity to their breaking point — but believe it or not, Replicant earned Van Damme some of the better reviews of his later career. Admittedly, this isn’t saying a great deal, but still, even Replicant‘s more negative reviews weren’t scathing: eFilmCritic‘s Scott Weinberg, for instance, begrudgingly admitted that it’s “slightly less awful than most of Van Damme’s efforts,” while the Laramie Movie Scope‘s Robert Roten came right out and said he “was surprised to find Replicant wasn’t too bad at all.”




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Nowhere to Run


Tomatometer: 28 percent

No matter how successful an actor is within the confines of his chosen genre, there often comes a time when he wants to stretch his wings a little, and prove that he’s more than his audience gives him credit for. Bill Murray had The Razor’s Edge, Bruce Willis had In Country, Tom Hanks had Nothing in Common…and Jean-Claude Van Damme had Nowhere to Run. Of course, this is still a Van Damme movie we’re talking about, and it isn’t a total departure from the chop-socky action that his fans count on — but 1993’s Nowhere to Run is notable in the JCVD filmography due to the presence of actual character development and exposition. Matter of fact, there’s more talking than action in the movie, an imbalance that some critics, ironically, noted with disappointment; as much as his earlier films were derided for relying solely on feet and fists, Nowhere suffered from its reliance on Van Damme’s acting skills. Still, if critics were unimpressed with Van Damme’s turn as an escaped convict who finds himself embroiled in the battle for a widow’s farmland, some of them — such as Time Out‘s Nick Funnell, who gave the action sequences credit for working “reasonably well” — were able to see past its flaws.




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Tomatometer: 29 percent

Once you’ve played a videogame character and a Nawlins drifter named Chance Boudreaux, you can pretty much cast caution to the wind when it comes to selecting your roles — which is why, even though it may have sounded ridiculous to many that Van Damme was starring as a 1920s boxer turned French Foreign Legion soldier in 1998’s Legionnaire, he was still able to deliver his reliable steely gaze, conscientiously trimmed stubble, and furious feet and fists. Legionnaire was made during a low point in Van Damme’s career, and was ultimately unable to secure an American theatrical release despite being made with a $35 million budget — which was sort of a shame, actually, because some of the (admittedly few) critics who screened it were somewhat impressed with the movie’s old-timey throwback feel: Fantastica Daily‘s Chuck O’Leary, for instance, called it “one of Van Damme’s best” and held it up as “a fun, great-looking, old-fashoned adventure film in the tradition of Beau Geste.” Beau Geste!




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Maximum Risk


Tomatometer: 30 percent

Here, Van Damme does for Ringo Lam what he did for John Woo with 1993’s Hard Target: Namely, kick off a Hong Kong director’s American career with a roundly panned action movie that lacks much of the character and style that made said director famous. Perhaps sensing that Van Damme’s years as a reliable box-office draw were drawing to a close, the filmmakers teamed him up with Species star Natasha Henstridge, and although the critical results were predictably scathing, the commercial returns were initially favorable: Maximum Risk debuted in the number one spot during its opening weekend. Its box office reign was brief, and its final American tally came in under $15 million, but for a handful of critics, Risk was not without its charms: Variety‘s Leonard Klady, for instance, referred to it as “a visceral delight that refuses to be deterred by niceties of plot or character consistency and prefers sweat to emotion” — a nice way of saying that the storyline isn’t worth addressing, which is why we won’t bother to do so here.



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Tomatometer: 35 percent

It’s really hard to know where to begin with this one. Do we talk about the (alleged) real-life exploits of early MMA star Frank W. Dux, whose accounts of his underground tournament achievements formed the partial basis for the film? Do we talk about the work of a young Forest Whitaker as a military policeman sent to track down our hero Van Damme? Or how about the soundtrack contributions from Michael J. Bishop and Stan “The Touch” Bush? There are so many reasons to love 1988’s Bloodsport, but if we’re forced to choose just one, we’ll have to go with the simple fact that this is where it all began for the Muscles from Brussels — and if you want to see the man in all of his young, helicopter-kicking glory, this is the place to go. It wasn’t a big box office success, but its overwhelming reliance on action, action, and more action won it a number of converts, both critical and otherwise; the New Times‘ Luke Y. Thompson referred to Bloodsport as “proudly plotless in a way that other low-budget actioners ought to emulate more often,” and it spawned three sequels — two of which starred Pat Morita. There are reasons why this movie is so beloved that copies of the soundtrack have fetched over $100 on the used market. Not good reasons, mind you, but reasons nonetheless.




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Hard Target


Tomatometer: 46 percent

If you’re the sort of filmgoer who believes in guilty pleasures, 1993’s Hard Target has a pedigree that’s difficult to resist. Not only does it star Lance Henriksen, Yancy Butler, and Wilford Brimley, but it represents John Woo‘s American directorial debut, was executive produced by Sam Raimi, and gives a pivotal role to its screenwriter, Chuck Pfarrer. Oh, and did we mention that Van Damme stars as Chance Boudreaux, a mulleted, gumbo-loving drifter who was raised in the bayou? Most of Van Damme’s movies are not without unintentional laughs, but it’s awfully hard to beat his silly New Orleans “accent” here — or, for that matter, Brimley’s appearance as Van Damme’s crusty uncle Douvee. Still, how can you seriously argue with a movie that ends with the hero stuffing a live grenade in the villain’s pants? Answer: You cannot. Most critics were unswayed by Hard Target, but Woo earned praise for his distinctive style, and Van Damme was at his peak: As Kevin N. Laforest of the Montreal Film Journal noted, the star’s “kicks and flips never looked so cool.”



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Tomatometer: 46 percent

In a career dotted with cult classics, 1994’s Timecop manages to stand out as one of the cultiest. And okay, so it’s hard to call a movie that raked in more than $100 million worldwide a “cult” picture — but if you’ve seen the way Timecop takes a cool premise (time travel, natch) and renders it both impenetrably complicated and irrelevant to the action, you know it’s essentially the very definition of the term. (Also, it stars Ron Silver.) The plot is full of holes, but as the filmmakers knew, once you accept the notion of Jean-Claude Van Damme as an officer of the Time Enforcement Commission, you can buy into pretty much anything, and by the time you get to Timecop‘s final act — in which past and future versions of Van Damme battle past and future versions of Silver — you’ve reached that wonderful place where the laws of logic no longer exist. The highest-grossing movie of Van Damme’s career, Timecop spun off a sequel, a short-lived television show, and even a series of books. Not bad for a movie that Roger Ebert described as “the kind of movie that is best not thought about at all, for that way madness lies.”




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Sudden Death


Tomatometer: 53 percent

Sure, it’s a Die Hard knockoff — but the same could be said of an arguable majority of all action movies released during the 1990s, and whatever its ills, Sudden Death is hardly the worst of the lot. As with most of Van Damme’s movies, Death casts him as an unlikely hero (in this case, a member of the Pittsburgh Fire Bureau) thrown into a hostile situation and forced to save the day. The mid-1990s represented the end of the stock action flick’s dominance at the box office, and an era in which the action had to be taken to preposterous heights in order to stand out — which is why Sudden Death features, among other things, Van Damme brawling with the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ mascot and engaging in hand-to-hand combat on the roof of Civic Arena as it opens. It’s all very silly, of course, but given that it was written by the wife of Penguins owner Howard Baldwin, it could be argued that the movie transcended expectations. Though most critics were somewhat reserved in their praise, Sudden Death boasts the best reviews of Van Damme’s career; in the words of Channel 4 Film‘s James Jennings, it offers “all the thrills, spills and stuff blowing up that action fans relish.”



Check out the rest of our Total Recall columns from the archives, and click here for Van Damme’s‘s full filmography. Now, we leave you with a sublime moment in our hero’s film career: busting a move — and some heads — in Kickboxer.

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