Monday, January 8, 2007

Wham Bam Thank You Van Damme

In 1992, the fledgling producer-director team of Roland Emmerich & Dean Devlin (Stargate, ID4, Godzilla) combined the Muscles From Brussels with asskicking former MIT-graduate Dolph Lundgren for Universal Soldier. In this outstanding action flick, Jean Claude and Dolph play Luc and Scott respectively, two Vietnam Vets who off themselves and are later reanimated by the army as part of an elite unit of undead soldiers who battle terrorism worldwide.

The relatively low-budget Universal Soldier grossed over $33 million in the US alone. It spawned two made-for-cable sequels (neither starring Jean Claude nor Dolph Lundgren), and a third sequel Universal Soldier: The Return, reuniting Luc and Scott, now playing in theatres. The key to its success: the pairing of Van Damme and Lundgren? Perhaps. The impressive action and terrific stunts? Maybe. Honestly, I believe it’s because, like all great Van Damme movies, Jean Claude does the splits. And, staying consistent with his body of work, he does them for an extremely flimsy reason.

Plot: Frank Dux prepares for the Kumite, gets it on with a reporter and defeats Chong Li in seven minutes to become champion.
Jean Claude Plays: Frank Dux, an American
Reason To Do The Splits: Meditation
Funny Line About Doing The Splits: “That hurts me just lookin’ at it,” uttered by Ray Jackson, Frank’s fellow competitor and friend

No Retreat, No Surrender
Plot: Karate student Tim Stillwell invokes the spirit of Bruce Lee to make him a champion.
Jean Claude Plays: Ivan the Russian, a Russian
Reason To Do The Splits: To convince opponents he’s the baddest of the badasses in a death match.
Funny Line About Doing The Splits: “Arrgh!”

Plot: In a post-apocalyptic nightmare world where water is more precious than diamonds, mercenary Gibson Rickenbacker is hired to protect a cyborg encoded with data on a cure for the death plague.
Jean Claude Plays: Gibson Rickenbacker, a futureworldian
Reason To Do The Splits: To hide above the bad guy thugs in a narrow hallway by supporting himself between the walls.
Funny Line About Doing The Splits: No funny lines, just steely silence.

Plot: American kickboxing champion, Eric Sloane defeats Thai kickboxing champion, Tong Po, who congratulates him by breaking his spine. Eric’s brother Kurt vows to avenge his crippling by learning kickboxing from an old man.
Jean Claude Plays: Kurt, an American
Reason To Do The Splits: As part of his training, Kurt is attached to a torturous pulley system that teaches his legs to do the splits by yanking them apart.
Funny Line About Doing The Splits: “Ouch.”

Double Impact
Plot: Chad, a dancing karate instructor, searches for his long lost identical twin Alex, a small arms dealer, to avenge their parents murder by the Chinese Triad.
Jean Claude Plays: Chad, an American and Alex, a Hong Kongese
Reason To Do The Splits: To impress a chick
Funny Line About Doing The Splits: “That's right. Stretching is very important. For example, because of my big legs and my karate, I can do the splits… no problem.”

Plot: Timecop Mike Walker travels to the past to stop corrupt Senator McComb from altering history to get rich and buy his way into office.
Jean Claude Plays: Mike Walker, a Timecop
Reason To Do The Splits: Because he is in the kitchen
Funny Line About Doing The Splits: “Time to split.”

The Quest
Plot: Chris Dubois, a guy who helps homeless kids, jumps on a boat that gets hijacked by pirates and taken to Muay Thai Island where he trains to be a Muay Thai kickboxer.
Jean Claude Plays: Chris Dubois, kickboxer
Reason To Do The Splits: To kick the snot out of a 350 pound giant
Funny Line About Doing The Splits: “What do you mean, now I have to pay Frank Dux royalties?”

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