Taken as a typical, run-of-the-mill action film, Maximum Risk is just barely serviceable. It cannot be considered a classic Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle, though – the likes of Bloodsport and Kickboxer have that distinction, as they effectively showcase the star’s outstanding fighting skills. For Maximum Risk, Van Damme was given too much plot-related stuff to handle and too many guns to shoot, denying him sufficient opportunities to do the inhuman splits and kick-ass fight moves which made him famous in the first place. For what it is, Maximum Risk does deliver lots of action, yet it’s a very workmanlike effort with limited appeal. Outside of its moderately enjoyable action scenes, the picture is completely empty, emotionless and derivative, and the material in between the shootouts is exceedingly banal.

In France, police officer Alain Moreau (Van Damme) is rattled when the dead body of his identical twin brother Mikhail (also played by Van Damme) is found. Alain never knew his twin existed, as they’d been separated at an early age. Intrigued, Alain begins following the clues surrounding his brother’s death, leading to him travelling to New York City where he inherits Mikhail’s problems and meets his twin’s beautiful girlfriend Alex (Henstridge). As it turns out, Mikhail was an enforcer for the Russian mafia, and became a target after accumulating damning evidence about corrupt FBI agents. With several parties wanting Alain dead, he and Alex set out to bring justice to those who killed Mikhail.

Larry Ferguson’s script is littered with clichés (including the token love interest, corrupt FBI guys, etc), and the dialogue is both flat and lifeless. Ill-advisedly, the plot actually grows rather complex as it progresses, but Ferguson is not nearly creative enough to pull off promising plot twists or devise engaging complications. By the time the film reaches its final half an hour, it almost looks as if neither Ferguson nor Van Damme’s Alain can quite figure out how everything is going to be resolved. It probably goes without saying, but Maximum Risk utterly fails in terms of character and humanity as well. Alain is a dimensionless killer lacking in personality, Alex is a bland cardboard cut-out on hand to appeal to male libido, and everyone else is a simple plot pawn given the bare minimum of development. You’ll have no emotional investment in these boring people.

Maximum Risk contains all of the usual action staples including shootouts, foot chases, car chases and fisticuffs, but none of it is particularly inspiring or memorable, and nothing seems to have been assembled with much passion. Chinese action director Ringo Lam made his American debut with this film, but this is another classic case of a filmmaker relinquishing his integrity upon entering Hollywood. Pacing is not a strong suit, as Maximum Risk has a tough time maintaining interest whenever the gun barrels cool off (even the obligatory sex scene underwhelms). And there’s a reason why Van Damme has never been celebrated for his thespian skills; he’s often wooden and uninteresting. Unfortunately, Maximum Risk spotlights a typical Van Damme performance; he clearly phoned this one in for the paycheque. When the Mussels from Brussels attempts to shift into emotional territory, the results are more laughable than affecting. The villains here are also hopelessly forgettable and fail to intimidate, which is unforgiveable for an action movie.

In a nutshell, Maximum Risk is one of those motion pictures you forget not long after watching it. It’s serviceable in the moment to an extent, yet it’s entirely unremarkable, and nothing in the movie sticks out as memorable or outstanding. Action junkies and Van Damme fans may have some fun with this half-hearted effort, but others need not apply.

4.8/10