So last week I saw the latest Jean-Claude van Damme movie “Welcome to the Jungle” and this week I’ve seen the now latest Jean-Claude van Damme movie “Enemies Closer”. The guy is on a roll. 2014 is just in its second month and already there are two movies out starring “The muscles from Brussels”. Now I’ve elaborated plenty about Van Damme’s new approach to movies and acting; taking up all sorts of projects that differ from the type of movie he became famous with: the handsome good guy martial artist who has to save the day by beating a lot of bad guys. In Enemies Closer Van Damme plays a drug runner looking for a lost shipment of heroin on a small island along the US/Canadian border.
The “Enemies Closer” title refers to the relationship of Henry (Tom Everett Scott) and Clay (Orlando Jones). Henry is an ex-military with traumas that have made him retreat to this small island where he’s the lone park ranger. A firm one as he even confiscates beer from a young couple. Like parking officers he’s making a real contribution to keeping the world safe. One evening Clay knocks on his door and it quickly becomes apparent that Clay is not here for some friendly chit-chat. Clay’s brother served under Henry in the Special Forces and got killed on his watch. Filled with an appetite for vengeance Clay has headed off to the island to kill Henry, but a crew of drug cartel members led by vegan Xander (Van Damme) appears on the scene to retrieve a large amount of heroin from the lake where a plane crashed earlier forcing Henry and Clay to work together, setting aside their dispute for now.
The poster features Van Damme’s photoshopped face in a knife as if he’s the leading man. Though that’s just misleading I will admit that Van Damme’s performance is what actually makes this movie so much fun to watch. He really has fun with the part now that he doesn’t have to play it straight as the leading man. He is full of wild mannerisms, quirky ticks, has a weird hairdo and elaborates about veganism and the environment in every other scene. When he’s not doing that he’s kicking ass like taking out an entire crew of border police officers. This might also be the one and only time you will get to see Van Damme dressed up as a Canadian Mounty.
Veteran director Peter Hyams, who directed two of Van Damme’s biggest hits; Time Cop and Sudden Death, returns here to bring his skill to a more low budget action movie. This isn’t a concept movie like Time Cop nor will you see helicopters crashing down on an ice rink. The whole movie takes place on a remotely located island and the story is nothing more than a simple game of cat and mouse. Hyams has looked closely to his son’s way of shooting fight scenes and instead of the karate moves used in earlier movies all the fights consist of really close hand to hand combat which seems to be the latest trend. Jones and Scott have no background in martial arts but these are the days where every actor seems to be able to hold himself up in a fight scene due to heavy choreographing and the use of doubles. Something which kind of started with the first Matrix movie.
Plot-wise the movie is a mess. The enemies-thing between Clay and Henry feels forced and Van Damme’s plan to retrieve the drugs with the aid of Henry seems too stupid. Why not bring a diver of your own instead of incorporating a wild card in your plan? Luckily a lot of this can be ignored due to the mesmerizing performance of Van Damme. The guy is just a hoot to watch and every scene with him in it is gold.
Enemies Closer could have been your average DTV release, and in a sense it is, but the addition of a crazy villain played by Van Damme gives this movie something extra. If he continues on this path I so no reason why he couldn’t play a great Bond villain in the future.