Re-teaming with his Timecop and Sudden Death director, Peter Hyams, JCVD is an absolute hoot as the unhinged bad guy in the action packed and really rather enjoyable Enemies Closer. He plays Xander, the wild haired and unpredictable leader of a group of drug runners searching for a downed plane on the US-Canadian border which is chock full of heroin. Unfortunately for them the plane happens to be in park ranger Henry’s territory who, wouldn’t you know it, also happens to be a former Special Ops soldier and isn’t too happy about the drug runners being on his turf. In addition, and also unfortunately for Henry (Tom Everett Scott), he has to deal with the disgruntled and quite possibly unbalanced Clay (Orlando Jones) who has shown up brandishing a shotgun and taking Henry hostage for his own troubled reasons. The two then have to form a shaky alliance in order to survive Xander’s increasingly violent antics in his attempt to locate the heroin.
Director Peter Hyams has always been a solid and entertaining director and his previous two JCVD efforts, Timecop and Sudden Death, are two of the Muscles from Brussels best. The two again deliver a solid and straightforward actioner that is reminiscent of the type of action films that were churned out in the 1990s. Nicely shot on location with likeable leads and punctuated by some excellent hard hitting action, Enemies Closer is great fun. The narrative moves at a fair clip and while it doesn’t necessarily offer up any great surprises it works well for the chase thriller element and gives Van Damme plenty of opportunities to play nasty, go over-the-top and kick some ass. In fact, he is great and is obviously relishing the chance to be a bad guy again (after his villainous role in The Expendables 2). While his character is often wacky and deranged (complete with crazy hairdo, dressing up as a Mountie and bonkers speeches about protecting the environment, where the best coffee beans come from and his childhood pet goose!) he never goes too pantomime villain. His Xander is still a vicious villain not least in his fights scenes including a showstopper where he takes out a room full of drug enforcement agents singlehandedly.
Enemies Closer is packed with crisp and crunchy fight scenes featuring all kinds of cool grappling and takedown techniques; shootouts and a particularly inventive moment where two characters chase each other up a giant tree. Everett Scott and Jones are also solid support and get to give it their all in their own fight scenes. On the downside there are a couple of unnecessary bumbling/comedy drug agents on Xander’s trail (though they are dispatched relatively quickly and give JCVD another nifty fight scene!), Henry and Clay become buddies and begin trusting one another a tad too quickly and the whole thing ends rather abruptly: much like a 90s action film then – bang, boom, end fight, done!
However, Enemies Closer is still a whole heap of fun and solid action entertainment. Along with the likes of Six Bullets and the recent Universal Soldier sequels (which if you haven’t seen yet, get on the case!), JCVD is still turning out great action flicks and if you are a fan of the man, Enemies Closer is a must see.
Enemies Closer is released on DVD and Blu-Ray in the UK on July 21st, released by Anchor Bay. No special features were included in the screener.
Review by Andrew Skeates