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«Maximum Risk» in Blu-ray

  12 August, 2008

Has there ever been an actor who has played action-oriented identical twins -- twice -- in his career? Jean-Claude Van Damme has, in both Double Impact and Maximum Risk, albeit his twin in the latter is the driving force behind the story, not a primary character as in the former. One cannot claim Maximum Risk to be classic Van Damme. That distinction goes to films like Bloodsport and Kickboxer, decent movies in their own right, and the pinnacle of Van Damme' success as a martial arts movie star. In Maximum Risk, his hand-to-hand fighting skills are not the focus of the movie. Instead, he plays a French cop who relies more on smarts and a handiness with a firearm to save the day, not the inhuman splits, leg kicks to the face, or rapid-fire punches that made him famous. Maximum Risk rises above stereotypical Van Damme, and does so as a slightly above average action movie that requires some involvement on behalf of the viewer. One cannot expect to doze through the movie and never lose focus on the plot. While the movie doesn't require multiple viewings to understand, it does assume its audience is slightly more intelligent and in tune with the story. In that regard, it rises above both the most mundane of action films and is certainly a breath of fresh air in the mostly monotonous career of the "Muscles From Brussels".

I want the names and addresses of every critic who ever bashed one of my movies, and I want them NOW!

French police officer Sebastien (Jean-Hugues Anglade) thinks his partner, Alain Moreau (Van Damme) is dead. Sebastian finds him in attendance at a funeral, however, and it is soon discovered that the corpse is actually that of Alain's twin brother Mikhail (also portrayed by Van Damme), a brother Alain never knew existed. Alain discovers that he and his brother were separated only three months after birth, that Mikhail has been living in the United States, and that he had traveled to France in search of his brother. Alain chooses to travel to New York City and unearth what his brother had traveled to France to tell him. In the Big Apple, he assumes the identity of his brother, becomes involved with Mikhail's girlfriend Alex (Natasha Henstridge, Species), and sets out to learn the secrets that got his brother killed. Pursued by both the Russian mafia and the FBI, Alain and Alex must fight for their lives and risk everything to uncover the truth behind Mikhail's involvement in the Russian mob and bring to justice those who killed his brother -- and now want Alain dead.

Maximum Risk is one of those movies that you watch and forget thirty minutes later. There is nothing inherently wrong with it, but there is absolutely nothing memorable about it either. It may very well be the definition of Saturday afternoon cinema. You make a movie like Maximum Risk knowing going in that it's nothing to write home about. With a marketable lead and an attractive female co-star, plenty of loud action, and a story that isn't an embarrassment, you can be sure that, if smartly made, it'll recoup its budget and enjoy a halfway decent shelf life at Blockbuster where it might get taken home three or four times per month by action-oriented patrons who have probably seen it but forgot that it existed. The film isn't all that marketable; a slick cover art and Van Damme's picture on the box is about the high point for this one.

Despite it's title, Maximum Risk takes no risks in its exposition, unfolding just as the audience expects of a very average action movie. If it falters anywhere, it's in the fact that it is probably a good 10-15 minutes too long and as a result, the film becomes cumbersome. It's good enough to finish, but you may find yourself checking your watch or glancing at the time remaining counter on your Blu-ray player several times to find out when it will end. While the plot itself is fine, involved, and fairly interesting, it often feels like the action is the centerpiece of the movie, meaning that the story is built around the action sequences, not vice versa. We often lose focus of what's going on because there seems to be a rush to get to the next action piece rather than letting the story develop and flow naturally from one action sequence to the next. Still, the action is entertaining, the soundtrack is loud, and there is plenty of gunplay, fires, explosions, and chainsaws to keep your interest. This is probably one of the better performances of Van Damme's career, and he doesn't even do what he's most famous for (splits, kicks, etc).


  3.5 of 5

Maximum Risk comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p, 2.40:1 transfer that is unremarkable in the context of the best Blu-ray releases to date, but still manages to look very nice. Detail is impressive from the opening moments of the film as evidenced by objects like streets, old and worn building facades, cars, and even the smaller background objects such as the fruit in a vendor's cart. We're somewhere "South of France" according to the movie (Nice, we later discover), and the movie offers a nice looking, colorful, and clean image. Colors are natural and vibrant, even though parts of the movie take on a duller appearance. There is no excessive grain or noise in the film, but then again coming off of reviews of Belly and Felon, moderate grain would look like a freshly scrubbed print. Flesh tones are accurate throughout, as are black levels. Obvious edge enhancement was visible in one scene as an unnatural outline encompassed a character. The image is never extremely sharp, but it isn't terribly soft, either. There is a nice, easy-on-the-eyes middle ground here that makes for a solid 1080p viewing experience. The result is an image that doesn't jump off the screen, but stays grounded in a nicely done transfer that won't wow viewers, but is one that lives up to expectations of a moderately successful Jean-Claude Van Damme action flick from the mid 1990s.


  4 of 5

Maximum Risk maximizes its audio with a surprisingly exciting Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless surround sound mix. From the film's opening foot chase scene, the sound impresses. The rear channels are alive with ambient crowd noise, and the music begins to swell all around the listening area. Sound effects, such as the crashing down of a door, deliver moderately impressive lows. The high end comes across as a bit harsh, such as when Alain hangs onto and falls from an exterior stairwell in a building. This track certainly doesn't lack volume, but it lacks the finer nuances and cleanliness of the better soundtracks, trading volume for clarity, crispness for harshness, and distinct sound for a jumbled smorgasbord of an action movie sonic extravaganza. Nevertheless, it's still a blast to listen to. After the first few minutes, the soundtrack continues to be an enjoyable listen. The train station scene in chapter two features great ambience, solid, deep rumblings when the trains move past, and better highs from the train whistles. Again, the fire in chapter three is reproduced extremely well here as the flames that engulf the office also engulf your living room from all directions. Crackles and crashes are ever-present, and the intensity of the scene is elevated thanks to the great sound. There are many gun shots throughout, and all are definitely loud and pack quite the punch. They are not as clear and precise as heard in films like 3:10 To Yuma, but they get the job done nicely. Dialogue is clean and well-prioritized with no volume issues. This track is very loud and aggressive, somewhat harsh, but an awful lot of fun to listen to. This is one you'll want to crank up, sit back, and enjoy.


  0.5 of 5

The only film-related supplement to be found on this Blu-ray edition of Maximum Risk is the film's original theatrical trailer (1080p, 1:26). Other 1080p trailers for Redbelt, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder, Resident Evil: Degeneration, Damages: The Complete First Season, and Sony's Blu-ray montage are also included. Finally, this disc is BD-Live (Blu- ray profile 2.0) compliant, but at the time of writing, the disc's page was not accessible.

Final words

  3 of 5

Maximum Risk is an entertaining yet slightly too long entry into the long line of Jean-Claude Van Damme action movies. Serviceable and competent yet completely forgettable, the movie does nothing to ingrain itself into our memory banks, but it is also good enough to keep us interested until the very end where we shrug our shoulders, mutter "OK," and move on to something else. It's hard to imagine that Blu-ray fans, even the most die-hard of action lovers, will get overly excited about this release. It features average picture quality and above average sound, but virtually no extra materials. Recommended for Jean-Claude Van Damme and Blu-ray completists, but it's difficult to suggest anyone else buy the movie until the price comes down.

Jean-Claude Van Damme

Source: www.blu-ray.com

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