Jean-Claude Van Damme stars in an explosive thriller set in Hong Kong's shady manufacturing scene during the 1997 handover to China! When a shipment of jeans to the U.S. proves counterfeit, Marcus Ray, the "King of The Knock-Offs" (Van Damme) finds himself at the center of a Russian Mafia plot to hold the United States security for ransom. Thousands of tiny micro-bombs, disguised within other manufactured goods, are scheduled for departure from Hong Kong to America. When Ray's company's jeans are found to be the housing for the explosives, he's the one man the CIA can count on to prevent certain disaster! In a territory where loyalty can change hands overnight, Marcus Ray's survival will depend on him knowing the fakes from the real thing.
Having based so much of his career on the films from the region, Jean Claude Van Damme heads to Hong Kong itself for Knock Off
. Set in the 72 hours running up to the British handover to China (and released a mere year after the actual event), the film's action centers around the colony's thriving bootleg business, tied in with a rather convoluted plot concerning the CIA, Russian Mafia, and an attempt to hold the United States ransom through covert attacks. The opening section unwisely tries Van Damme's hand at knockabout humor with partner Rob Schneider but merely proves that the star is severely lacking the sort of humorous touch that Arnold Schwarzenegger has so successfully utilized. Once Knock Off
descends into more familiar Van Damme territory, the film--and its leading man--are on surer ground. There are a good deal of spectacular fight sequences, some amazing stunts, and a feisty female sparring partner in the form of Lela Rochen. Even the always-reliable Paul Sorvino pops up. Director Tsui Hark hits upon some interesting and initially invigorating visual effects but soon overdoes them, actually highlighting the lack of decent story rather than enhancing it. There is an incredible film to be made about this period in history but this isn't it. Knock Off
is merely another undemanding, high-kicking, high-octane vehicle for Van Damme. --Phil Udell