Rated R - Running time: 1:33 - Released 9/4/98

Jean-Claude Van Damme has done some pretty bad films in his day. I mean, let's face it, the man's not Olivier. But Hong Kong director Hark Tsui's Knock Off could not be much worse if it tried to be. It's one of those films that's so bad it's good: Its entertainment lies in the fertile ground for ridicule it provides. Written by Steven E. De Souza (Die Hard), Knock Off gives a few nods toward the pretense of a plot, but is mostly made up of many long chases and fight sequences, people yelling and shooting at each other, and stuff blowing up into ridiculously huge green flames.

Rob Schneider (Saturday Night Live, Men Behaving Badly) is supposed to add the comic element and Paul Sorvino is supposed to be a bad guy, but both fail. One can't really blame them, considering the script and direction they're getting, but the question is why get involved in the first place? Did their agents actually think this would be a good thing on their resumés?

The story involves the vast proliferation of counterfeit merchandise produced in Hong Kong for sale on the world market. Cheaply made goods are passed off as the real thing — fake brand-name toys, fake running shoes, fake designer label clothing, etc. The V-Six blue jeans company has recently discovered that its label is being pirated and used on inferior jeans made in HK. So CIA agent Tommy Hendricks (Schneider) is assigned to investigate, posing as a friend to retired knock-off artist Marcus Ray (Van Damme) in order to get information. The woman who pretends to be from the V-Six company is Karan Leigh (Lela Rochon), who at first thinks that Hendricks and Ray are the perpetrators. But she turns out to be another CIA agent, and they all soon learn that Harry Johannson (Sorvino) is behind it all--and with much more sinister motives than selling bogus jeans.

The badness of this movie belongs in some sort of Hall of Fame. The entire soundtrack seems to have been overdubbed, even for the American actors, so no one's lips move in synch with his words, like those old Godzilla movies. What's more, the Asians sound like Americans and the Americans sound like Asians. There are sections where an actor's mouth is intentionally obscured by the camera angle, so as to minimize the obvious sound discrepancy. The acting is so much like the old Speed Racer cartoons that I expected everyone in the room to blink at the same time. Apparently, the filming was done with the intention of overdubbing Chinese, and then overdubbed back into English as an afterthought. Or something.

The acting is cartoon, the action scenes are cartoon, the effects are cartoon. And cartoons are okay, if they're done by people who know how to do them. But that's not the case here. Even as a cartoon, Knock Off is a knock-off. *

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

See Current Reviews

See FilmQuips Archive