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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Maximum Risk (Blu-ray)
Maximum Risk (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures // R // August 12, 2008 // Region A
List Price: $28.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted August 12, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Maximum Risk starring Jean Claude Van Damme and directed by none other than Ringo Lam (one of Hong Kong cinema's best) is derivative and almost completely predictable but it delivers what action fans want and expect out of a B-grade Van Damme movie - action, and lots of it.

In this film Van Damme plays a dual role. Alain Moreau is a French cop who is surprised to find the dead body of Mikhail Suverov, the twin brother he never knew he had, show up in Paris. He decides to question his mother about all of this and when she reveals to him that he really did have a twin brother who she gave up for adoption, he decides to impersonate him to uncover the truth about his past. Moreau, as Suverov, hops on the next plane to New York City (at times, Toronto doubling for The Big Apple - the Zanzibar and Sam The Record Man buildings acting as dead giveaways for anyone remotely familiar with the best city in Canada) where he starts to snoop around.

A strange cabby who wants to write a novel starts to help Alain out but soon winds up dead and before you know it, the only person Alain can trust is Suverov's ex-girlfriend, Alex Minetti (Natasha Henstridge), a sexy blonde cocktail waitress who works in a club in Little Odessa called The Bohemia. Alex tells him that the Russian mobsters thought he was dead and that he'd best hide. Meanwhile, a couple of FBI agents are making trouble. It seems that Mikhail, who everyone knows thinks is alive thanks to Alain's appearance, had a list that could blow the lid right off of the Russian mafia's operation. The feds want it, the hoods want it, and only he has it. Lots of people fight and Alain and Alex have to deal with plenty of bad guys out to make trouble for them.

Made around the height of Van Damme's popularity as a box office superstar, Maximum Risk is completely satisfying even if you know exactly where it's all going about five minutes in. Jean Claude doesn't push himself much as an actor here (his last few straight to video films have been surprisingly dramatic... and good!) but he's got enough screen presence to carry the film and he certainly handles himself well during the action scenes of which there are plenty. His chemistry with the very attractive Natasha Henstridge doesn't exactly light the screen on fire but again, it's enough when you consider that the action set pieces and not the character development are really the real reasons to want to watch this picture in the first place.

Director Ringo Lam, best known for the Chow Yun Fat starring classic Full Contact, keeps the action moving quickly and looking slick. From the opening chase on the streets of Paris to the unintentionally homoerotic brawl in the Russian bathhouse and the shoot out at the end of the picture, there's no shortage of stylized and gratuitous violence in the picture. The movie might border on truly dumb at times, thanks to some completely unnecessary subplots and twists, but it's never boring and it always looks good. Looking at the film now, more than a decade since it was made, it's easy to see the plot holes and the film's flaws but as a film meant to be enjoyed purely on the surface level, it remains a lot of fun. Van Damme and Lam have both made better films before and since this picture but it's hard not to have a good time with Maximum Risk even if you might not want to admit it.

The Video:

Maximum Risk arrives on Blu-ray in a nice 1080p AVC encoded 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. A fine coat of grain is present overtop of the image throughout playback, but it's never distracting, instead it gives the picture a nice film like quality. Detail levels aren't quite as strong here as they can be in high definition transfers of more modern fare but they're not bad. Close ups in particular reveal more details in skin tones and fine features. Color reproduction looks nice and natural and black levels stay strong. In a couple of scenes the skin tones look a bit on the waxy side but this isn't a constant problem, rather a sporadic one. Some minor edge enhancement is noticeable but it isn't overpowering. Detail could have been stronger in some of the darker scenes but overall, this older action film looks decent.

The Audio:

Sony supplies Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes in English and French with optional Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound options in Spanish, Portuguese and Thai. While this isn't reference quality audio, it's certainly quite good for an older action film making its high definition debut. Dialogue stays clean and clear from start to finish and there aren't any problems at all with hiss or distortion to report on. A couple of scenes probably could have been more aggressive in their use of the rare channels and the subwoofer (bass response should have been a bit stronger) but the levels are generally well balanced and everything comes though nice and clearly. Optional subtitles are provided in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai and Japanese.

The Extras:

Aside from menus and chapter selection, the only supplements on this release are some Blu-ray promo spots and the original theatrical trailer for the feature presented in anamorphic widescreen in high definition. Some more extras would have been very welcome, alas, it was not to be.

Overall:

Maximum Risk isn't in the upper echelon of Van Damme films but it's a marginally entertaining if fairly brainless action film that delivers the goods at a decent pace. Sony's Blu-ray release is definitely short on extra features but the audio is decent and the transfer is good. Recommended for fans who want to upgrade, a solid rental for everyone else.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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