The Order [Blu-ray]
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Action superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme (Nowhere to Run, Universal Soldier) is back in THE ORDER, a fast-paced, high-octane thriller set in the Middle East. From the director of Double Impact and featuring screen legend Charlton Heston (Planet of the Apes, Any Given Sunday), Ben Cross (First Knight,Chariots of Fire), and sexy newcomer Sofia Milos, THE ORDER is an exciting adventure packed with extreme fight choreography, exotic locations, and non-stop action.
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The story: Rudy Cafmeyer (Van Damme) is a professional thief whose father (Vernon Dobtcheff, Undisputed III: Redemption) goes missing while studying an ancient Templar sect in Jerusalem. In pursuit, Rudy will need to engage a religious fanatic determined to initiate an act of international terrorism (Brian Thompson, Cobra).
Director Sheldon Lettich had done good work with Van Damme throughout his mainstream career, and their chemistry carries over to this feature. Generally, "The Order" looks way more professional than a lot of other DTV flicks from the same period. It also packs more action than the norm: six hand-to-hand fights, three car chases, and one surprisingly good on-foot chase. It's clearly a stunt double riding the motorcycle and performing some of the gymnastics, but otherwise, Van Damme seems to be supplying his own moves. His fistfights are all pretty good, but I wish his showdown with fellow action guy Brian Thompson was a bit more satisfying: though it's one of the rare instances wherein Van Damme wields a sword, the fight's not quite as long or climatic as the film warranted.
Speaking of swords, the movie's notable for featuring a few things you can't see in any of Jean-Claude's other features. Religious-themed pictures in general were a first for Van Damme - lagging behind Schwarzenegger and Lundgren - but it's disappointing that he goes all the way to Jerusalem without really addressing the real-life events of the area. The movie opens with a dramatic narrative and a historical flashback (here's your chance to see Van Damme playing a Crusader) and closes with a Jackie Chan-esque blooper reel, neither of which are quite as entertaining as they ought to be but still pretty novel. At one point, Van Damme's character goes incognito as a Haredi Jew, complete with beard. Most significantly, however, is the casting of Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur). With the possible exception of Forest Whittaker in Bloodsport, Heston is the single most acclaimed actor to appear in a Van Damme film, with the added gravity of this being his last live-action feature to see wide release before his death. (SPOILER) His scenes are isolated to the first half of the film and his character's death is disappointing, but it's still oddly satisfying to see him and Van Damme interact with ease. There's a bit of Heston's characteristic fire in his delivery, but the only action he gets in on is smacking a thug with his cane.
Brian Thompson's character could have definitely used more screentime, but at least he made room for Sofia Milos (CSI: Miami) to pursue Jean-Claude for the majority of the movie, which ended up persevering beyond its faults and being pretty darn fun. Cinema snobs needn't bother, but Van Damme fans should welcome this to the man's filmography. Get it, action fans.
Never have I been so impressed with Van Damme's acting! He's always depended on his martial artistry skills from the very beginning of his career - and this? Surprise!
The man can act. No kidding, he can actually act!
Yeah, yeah yeah, it's a stretch for the storyline and all, plus the bad guy is that particularly craggy-featured cat who everyone recognizes but no one knows what the heck is his name. But he is, after all, that proverbial bad guy who is enormous and nuts just by the way he appears! In real life, he's probably a teddy bear who makes his wife breakfast in bed every morning, but I'm talking about the cast briefly here...more later. What IS his name anyway?
Too bad there wasn't an ounce of media exposure to this flick over a decade ago when it was released - gee, I would've gone to the theater to see it...even though I don't do movie theaters anymore!
Now to the cast! And what a cast! Sofia Milos, Ben Cross, and hey now folks...Charleton Heston? I mean, Charleton Heston!! Sure, he was in a short part of the film, but hey, he was even intrigued enough to appear in this surprisingly good movie! Charleton Heston!! I mentioned he appeared in this movie already. I digress.
So, once again, I disagree with the masses. I say this movie is well worth renting at the very, very least. However, I love to have evidence when I deem things worthwhile...and Van Damme gave a heckuva performance, folks. Minor and extraordinarily well-executed action sequences by JCVD, appropriately placed no less, along with some bits of humor that allows additional insight into JCVD the man! Wow! Color me shocked! Maybe he isn't actually so full of himself he'll pop someday?? One can only hope; the comic sequences were absolutely at his cost. I like him better now. I only appreciated his skills before...now? I like him. A little.
So, for the sake of posterity and the wonderful surprise when opening this particular gift box of a video a la Jean-Claude's heretofore unknown (at least to me) acting ability? I say 10 bucks is worth owning it. Well worth it. I do!
Be well, all.
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