Can the premise even be articulated?
Easily, but it can never be played out in too many films. JCVD is a shady club owner and his wife is an INS social worker who takes in a Chinese refugee girl. The girl turns out to be the daughter of a Triad. The Triad comes for the girl, butchers the wife and her parents and later abducts ‘son. JCVD and his seedy pals carve up every member of the gang like hams.
As far as I can tell, none of the people in this film are there for a little added celebrity, though many have long resumes. One of these is Anthony Fridjohn, who plays Max: JCVD’s boss or uncle or something along those lines. The important thing is that he becomes a sadistic maniac once the rat in the INS who set up JCVDs wife, who Max somehow regards as his niece, is discovered. The range of malevolent faces that this guy comes up with surpasses the full range of any other actor in the film. He and his buddy from France, who doesn’t speak English, have the guy chained down and take turns unleashing torrents of ridicule, disdain and profanity on him while they use an industrial drill on his knee caps and other parts. So the dialog looks something like
Gigantic Drill: BZZZZZZZZZ
INS Guy: Ohhh God… Jesusssss Ahhhhafuuhh!!
Max: Good boy! You enjoying that? It’s TERRIFIC!
Raymond: Ou es fruits de mer!! Je ne sais pas!!
Evidence That The Script Was Written by A Guy Who Works On “Days of Our Lives:”
The dialog is certainly coherent and at times even good. Unfortunately the influence of HK action seeps into what could have been an ice cold story of revenge. That means pointless directoral flourishes, violence carried out over opera because it’s such a contrast… but wait, no it’s not because there’s some real tragedy going on here! and plenty of schmaltz. The primary vehicle for the schmaltz is the overlapping images of JCVD and his memories of his family. There’s also a deeply embarrassing scene in which we hear a voice over of JCVD’s son begging him not to leave and JCVD telling the little fruit to be brave as we see their silhouettes intermittently appear on fluttering curtains, with still more opera.
Redeemed from what? The Hong Kong shit aside, I’d recommend this film. It’s one of the better revenge flicks I’ve seen and a well shot one too. You can also see JCVD coming into his own as an actor. Critics, being a heard of gazelle, would never have acknowledged a JCVD performance on a direct to video release. But now we are to believe he’s become a good actor overnight because he’s good in JCVD. Kill everyone now.
Vestiges of Glory
(Elements of 80’s Action)
23 homicides, nearly every one an act of loving brutality. The reason the movie hovers around plausibility is that JCVD and his crew combat the Triad by being even more brutal and indiscriminate than they are. Yes the Triad have remarkably bad aim and seem prepared only for hand to hand combat whenever guns would have meant easy victory. Still, a lot of the time JCVD and friends simply have the drop on them, like when they raid a Triad whorehouse and JCVD ducks behind a hooker, fires between her legs to disable a guy, then throws him off a balcony. That wasn’t the novelty death, though.
Not an easy choice, but I think you have to go with JCVD’s pal, Tony. Tony gets jumped by this Triad knife expert who systematically cuts him to ribbons, passing up a half dozen opportunities to close the deal, just to toy with and torture Tony further. The Triad decides to finish it with a flourish and rears back for the kill, giving Tony the opportunity to pull a blade from his own leg and drive it up and into the Triad’s junk. This is another great performance, because the sounds the Triad makes are absolutely priceless.
What you learned:
John Woo is history’s greatest monster.