Whether you know it as “Léon,” or “Lionheart,” or “Wrong Bet,” or “Full Contact,” or “AWOL,” or “Lion,” it’s tough to argue that this is one of Van Damme’s sillier roles. And this is a man who once played twins in an action movie vehicle (“Double Impact” is the best Van Damme movie ever made, I’ll argue that until I’m blue in the face). “Lionheart” is such an odd movie that I fondly remember loving back in 1990, but now in both versions, it’s kind of a weird movie that skips through various sub-genres of action cinema that feel awkward. At one point it even feels kind of like a “Rocky” wannabe.
In the long line of Van Damme action films, “Double Impact” has always been my favorite. Maybe it’s because of the fun premise, or the way the movie balances the green screen to almost be a convincing action movie about twins. I think it’s perhaps because Van Damme proves he can play vastly different characters.
Hey, if Sylvester Stallone can get “Creed” why can’t Jean Claude Van Damme get his own go around? “Kickboxer: Vengeance” is a remake/reboot of the “Kickboxer” series where we’re given essentially the same narrative as the original Van Damme action film, except with a few roles switched here and there. As a bid of respect, Van Damme returns to the series playing the enigmatic Master Durand, a martial arts trainer who manages to train hero Kurt for his fight to avenge his fallen brother. Van Damme’s performance is top notch in “Vengeance” and he manages to get some prime action scenes in the film, including one involving an ambush in his temple by a lone fighter.