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Replicant (December 23/01)

There is one unintentionally hilarious moment in Replicant that pretty much makes the entire thing worth watching: Van Damme has cornered his double in a crowded restaurant kitchen, and is plowing his way through the various cooks and waiters that are in his way. Just before he arrives at the double, a rebel waiter decides to try and defend himself with…a spatula! Needless to say, Van Damme drop-kicks this idiot to oblivion.

Replicant casts Van Damme in two roles, a gimmick that's certainly nothing new for the actor (remember those commercials for Double Impact? "Double the Van Dammage!"). Van Damme #1 is a vicious serial killer that preys on single mothers (and their children). Van Damme #2 is a genetic clone of Van Damme #1 - the idea being that Van Damme #2 will tell the detectives working the case what Van Damme #1 will do next. Assigned to the clone is retired cop Michael Rooker, who's been on the case for several years (and just as you might expect, Van Damme #1 has been taunting Rooker with a series of phone calls).

Replicant is part action flick, part fish-out-of-water story - with the Van Damme clone unable to speak English or perform basic tasks (though he is still able to do the splits at the drop of a hat). The majority of the movie finds Rooker teaching the clone the ways of the world, with the occasional ass-kicking thrown in for good measure. And unlike the majority of Van Damme's flicks as of late, the action sequences are coherent and exciting. Lately, he's been hooking up with directors more interested in creating a stylish atmosphere rather than intelligible fight scenes (Tsui Hark's Knock Off being the most appalling example). But here, director Ringo Lam allows Van Damme to do his thing, and generally eschews fancy camerawork - choosing instead to afford Van Damme the opportunity to do what he does best.

Replicant doesn't even come close to some of Van Damme's better flicks (Timecop and Sudden Death), but it's certainly an improvement over what he's been up to lately.

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