From Hard Target to Street Fighter, Kickboxer to Kung Fu Panda, Legionnaire to Timecop and Bloodsport to The Expendables, Jean-Claude Van Damme’s movie career continues to baffle, bewilder and delight in equal measures. Well perhaps not equal measures but you get the point. That trend is set to continue with the release of Dominic Burns’ sci-fi thriller, U.F.O.
With the occasional high and plenty of lows to his name, the Muscles from Brussels seemed to have rediscovered himself with star turns in 2008’s JCVD, the Coors Light advertising campaign and Stallone’s 80’s action throwback. Proving himself quite the comeback kid, the world rejoiced as Van Damme returned to form with a dazzling spin kick. Just the one spin kick mind, let’s not get carried away here. Having said that, it’s worked for almost thirty years now so why change things? It’s not like Steven Seagal ever used his feet, I doubt very much he’s seen them in years.
When I heard that Revolver Entertainment was set to release Van Damme’s eagerly anticipated action thriller, it was met with a wave of giddy excitement. Especially when I learned it was to co-star the legendary Mr Brosnan in a leading role. Van Damme and Brosnan together at last in a British action thriller, available in selected cinemas from 14th December 2012, and on DVD, Blu-Ray, Download and On-Demand from December 24th. Christmas (for a time at least) seemed to be coming a day early.
Alas, you know that sinking feeling you get when you unwrap a Christmas present only to find a pair of socks again? That’s pretty much the same feeling you’ll get when you discover the leading man is in fact Sean Brosnan, son of Pierce and star of the HBO miniseries Generation Kill. Not quite the suave charmer we had hoped for but in Sean’s defence, he does sound a lot like his father if you close your eyes. Having said that, I don’t recall Ian Fleming’s globetrotting Intelligence Officer ever using the term ‘wank bank’ either, so it really is a case of ‘every cloud’.
It might also be worth pointing out at this juncture that Jean-Claude himself isn’t the star of the show either. That dubious honour goes to real-life daughter Bianca Bree, in her first – and potentially last – leading role. On a more positive note, the dark haired stunner is a little easier on the eye than her light beer-loving father, even if her acting talent leaves just as much to be desired. And of course, the juries still out on whether or not she can do the splits. Just when you think it can’t get any more disheartening, Sean Pertwee’s name pops up on the credits, and suddenly the socks don’t seem like such a bad idea after all.
This ‘explosive’ action-packed alien invasion thriller revolves around a group of friends awoken at night by what seems to be a violent earthquake. They soon realise that all power has been lost across the country, and as it transpires, all around the world too. No mobile phone reception, no radios, no form of communication – just lots and lots of static. As the clouds clear, a UFO appears beneath the city skyline, and human civilisation is forced to do battle with a vast alien invasion. If you’re looking for a moral dilemma it’s this, would it be easier for an alien race to attack us with all its power, or would they be better off waiting for us to tear ourselves apart? With Van Damme fighting for the fate of mankind, they’d better make their minds up quick.
Lacking thrills, spills, action spectacle and plausibility, U.F.O. is one of the dullest sci-fi thrillers you’ll see all year. The acting is of a low standard throughout and the fight sequences (if you can call them that) are edited together so poorly it’s impossible to work out what’s going on most of the time. The five friends bicker, fall out, have sex and kill each other as the world descends into chaos, but even with all this going on you’ll struggle to care about the outcome. Twists are thrown in for good measure but they barely make a splash, and the film falls apart in the final act, even if there is a single laugh to be had at the expense of our ageing hero. That’s one laugh for every spin kick he learnt in training, which just about sums up the whole movie really.
If you’re going to put Van Damme in a movie you’d better make it count, but Dominic Burns’ tiresome rip-off doesn’t know whether it's a horror movie, sci-fi thriller or action jaunt, and somewhat inevitably, fails on all three counts. With poor effects, an incoherent script, few laughs, cringe worthy acting and a complete lack of creativity, U.F.O. would be better off staying unseen. Van Damme fanatics will fare better with The Expendables 2 because he’s wasted here. Sean Pertwee fans would be better off seeking professional help. AW