Friday, November 29, 2013

Oh . . . So . . . Pretty Bad: Enemies Closer Keeps The Credibility At A Distance!

The Good: Decent production values, Generally good acting
The Bad: Ridiculous characterizations, Preposterous plot, Exceptionally lame exposition thinly disguised as erratically-delivered dialogue.
The Basics: Enemies Closer is a beautifully b-rate (or c-rate) contrived action movie that has more value for mockery than legitimate cinematic enjoyment.

As a reviewer, I have an interest in a wide array of films and I can honestly say in that regard that I try to watch a little bit of everything. Even so, I don’t believe that before today I had ever seen a Jean-Claude Van Damme film. So, with Van Damme’s latest film Enemies Closer, I broke that trend in my life . . . and I don’t think I was missing anything before. Enemies Closer is a Van Damme film featuring Van Damme after his prime. No longer just relying on his brawn, physique and martial arts skills, Van Damme plays Xander, a character who initially seems foreign and quirky, but is soon revealed to be an outright sociopath.

Enemies Closer is essentially Art House Theatre For Guys. Low budget (and feeling like it), Enemies Closer makes quite a bit of an attempt to create character conflicts and make the movie into a legitimate story that focuses on characters who have quite a bit of backstory and ideals backing them up. As a result, between intense fight scenes and multiple murders, Enemies Closer has dialogue from the four main characters that tries to flesh out each of the character’s beliefs and backstories. Unfortunately, writers Eric and James Bromberg present the bits of characterization with such clunky directness that it is astonishing Enemies Closer was ever made. Director Peter Hyams is not able to do much with the movie because the writing is so stilted.

After a small plane crashes in a lake on the U.S./Canadian border, park ranger Henry goes about his day – helping tourists, checking in on Mr. Sanderson, and stopping a young couple from bringing alcohol into the park – unwittingly under surveillance by a mysterious man. The U.S. Border Patrol near the lake starts a search for the downed plane, which they believe was carrying drugs, when the Canadian Mounties visit and offer their assistance. Arrogantly, the U.S. refuses their help until Xander shows up and beats the crap out of and kills all of the agents before heading to Kings Island to find the plane. On Kings Island, Henry rescues Kayla from a having her foot stuck (and sprained) and brings her back to the Visitor’s Center. Kayla shamelessly hits on Henry and invites him to dinner before canoeing off and insisting her join her that night.

At Seal Bay, the “Mounties” kill a drunk boater and go out in search of the plane with the drugs. Back at the Visitor’s Center, Henry opens the door for a stranger, Clay. Clay blames Henry for his brother being left behind on a mission that Henry was in command of, back when Henry was part of a military diving team. Captured by Clay, Henry is led out at gunpoint to be killed. He is unwittingly rescued when they encounter Xander’s team and Xander and his men try to kill Henry and Clay. Teaming up long enough to evade Xander and his assassins, Henry and Clay try to get to a working phone and survive the drug smuggler’s desperate attempt to recover the drugs.

Enemies Closer is a somewhat ridiculous film, largely because its adversaries are preposterous. Clay is motivated solely by revenge, revenge born of loss of his beloved brother. That motivation goes out the window when Enemies Closer transforms into an awkward buddy action flick as opposed to the revenge story that should result in Henry’s early death in the film. The transition is inorganic and weakly defined: Clay is willing to let Henry live because he needs Henry’s help to get off the island. That motivation is silly given that Clay could easily kill Henry and wait the drug smugglers out anywhere else on the island than by at Henry’s side.

But it is Xander who is the paragon of absurdity for Enemies Closer. Xander is a sociopath Vegan; a radical environmentalist who refuses to use guns because of their carbon footprints and spouts lines about environmental issues much the way Mr. Freeze delivers puns about the temperature in Batman And Robin (reviewed here!). Given that this is my first experience with a work featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme, I cannot write with any authority as to whether his playing a villain is a departure for the actor, but I have the sense that many of his films have an absurd suspension of disbelief required to buy the premise. There is no amount of suspension of disbelief that makes his character of Xander – who is so concerned about polluting the environment, but not about the drugs people would put into their body – make rational sense.

That said, Van Damme plays Xander with an over-the-top absurd quality that works for the character. The overnight killing spree that depletes Xander’s men only makes the character more deranged and desperate and Van Damme is able to play that startlingly well – usually by just bugging out his eyes and throwing his head back as he speaks.

While Orlando Jones is saddled with the unfortunate task of playing Clay, a character who fundamentally makes no sense (after he puts the blame for his brother’s death on Henry, all that made sense for the character was Clay immediately killing Henry), he does an adequate job with the role. It is Tom Everett Scott who bears the brunt of selling Enemies Closer. As Henry, Scott embodies that character the audience is rooting for and while Scott was painfully unmemorable in last year’s Parental Guidance (reviewed here!), in Enemies Closer, he proves he has both acting ability and credibility playing a former military specialist. Sadly, director Peter Hyams includes – early in Enemies Closer - some bad takes that feature stiff line deliveries from Tom Everett Scott that make his character seem less than he rapidly becomes. To his credit, Scott holds his own with the film’s physical work, credibly delivering powerful fighting moves that seem within the range of his character.

Unlike most low-budget films I’ve watched lately, Enemies Closer does not look low budget. While the movie is not going to win any cinematography awards, it does not look like a delusional fan-film. Sadly, that’s about the best that can be said for Enemies Closer.

For other action movie reviews, please check out my reviews of:
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
16 Blocks
You Only Live Twice


For other movie reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment