Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Rob
Schneider, Lela Rochon, Paul
Sorvino, & Glen Chin
Audience: Teenagers & young adults
Runtime: 85 minutes
Director: Tsui Hark
Producer: Nansun Shi
Writer: Steven E. De Souza
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Van Damme plays Marcus Ray, a European who wants to make a fast buck in Hong Kong through clothing manufacturing. His partner is the thoroughly irritating and unfunny Saturday Night Live alum Rob Schneider as Tommy Hendricks. When Tommy isn't bossing beautiful models, he is cracking very stupid jokes.
The movie begins with Marcus pulling Tommy in a charity rickshaw race, while known gangster "Skinny" Want (Glen Chin) places bets. Soon, the local police arrests Marcus and Tommy for supposed counterfeiting. Indeed, some of the clothes they are hawking fall apart very quickly, hence the name KNOCK OFF.
The CIA watches while the police free Marcus, and the audience learns that Tommy is actually a CIA agent. Tommy and another agent, played by Lela Rochon, ask Marcus to join them in a fight to stop international terrorists who operate in clothing manufacturing rings. Marcus agrees. Marcus and the CIA discover that mini-bombs are being placed on clothing and in children's toys. The terrorists' plan to demand money in exchange for deactivating the bombs, which will be distributed all over America. A final battle ensues on a freighter ship in Honk Kong harbor while the city "celebrates" its takeover by Red China.
In spite of a fairly substantial cast, the acting in this movie is horrible. It is one of the worst Van Damme movies ever. Van Damme started to get into some fairly intelligent and moral roles as a fighting family man, but he regresses here to a mindless guy hanging with some losers. KNOCK OFF also demonstrates Hong Kong citizens at their most stereotypical and stupid. The nuances of this city as a retail and manufacturing giant are lost in this movie. Moreover, the Hong Kong transfer from British to Chinese rule is treated superficially.
While the directing and editing style may demonstrate creativity and familiarity among Chinese action movie fans, its jerky and unmotivated cuts distract and confuse the viewer. It is very easy to stop paying attention to the story and think about the editing instead. In the middle of an exposition, for instance, the action goes slow-motion, or fast-motion, or stop-motion. Perhaps some of the action sequences would have had promise if they were properly presented, but most were hard to follow and some were clearly implausible.
KNOCK OFF is clearly a knock-off of better action movies, a lot of style and no substance. This movie had no press screening, as its makers and distributors clearly would face bad press. Many audience members walked out of the screening MOVIEGUIDE attended. Only acceptable for the most ardent Van Damme fans, KNOCK OFF sadly portrays a subject matter too serious for its filmmakers, who make a mockery out of Hong Kong citizens, illegal manufacturing and a relevant moment in history.