Friday, 22 June 2018

June-Claude Van Damme: The Order (2001)

The Order is another Van Damme film directed by Sheldon Lettich (who worked on about seven of them altogether, mainly as director but a couple of times with a writing credit only) and it's one of his weaker efforts. There are times when it skirts close to the fun adventurous tone that is clearly being aimed for but many more times when it just falls flat, even while viewers chuckle at Van Damme trying to evade aggressive captors while he's dressed up as a Hasidic Jew.

A plodding prologue shows viewers what happened many years ago when one Christian Crusader (played by Van Damme) decided to break off from the main group and bring together members of each religious order for a better way forward, guided by sacred texts that he was inspired to write. That man was killed, the last chapter of the sacred texts lost, and the potential new religion almost snuffed out before it had a chance to flourish.
In the present day, Van Damme plays Rudy Cafmeyer, a thief who might just end up searching for the sacred texts and encountering the small remnants of the loyal religious order when his father (Vernon Dobtcheff) goes missing on a visit to Jerusalem.

The Order could have gone in two directions. Either a fun romp that puts Van Damme out of his depth while a very few recognise him as some kind of chosen one who will find the sacred texts, perhaps, or a darker thriller, showing an organisation that has grown in power and influence over the years. Instead, it picks a third option that misguidedly mixes a bit of both. You get the fun moments, and Van Damme gets a few fight scenes, but you also get scenes that show Brian Thompson taking charge of the order and looking to move things forward with a less passive attitude than his predecessors.

I have mentioned this a few times now, and take no pleasure in it, but this is another film that is hindered by the fact it was made at a time when Van Damme seemed unable to emanate the charisma that had helped him to sell many of his earlier films. That sometimes doesn't matter when the rest of the cast work well, but they aren't good enough here. Thompson does well with his scenes, I always like to see him onscreen, and Charlton Heston appears for a few minutes, but neither Dobtcheff or Sofia Milos (playing a female officer tasked with looking after Van Damme's character until he can be deported) are very good.

The script, co-written by Les Weldon and Van Damme, isn't very good either. It tells viewers everything they need to know but does it in a way that is both clumsy and dull. It's also surprisingly humourless in scenes when you suspect a different leading man could have been given some fun dialogue and interactions with other characters.

All in all, this is a pretty bad film. The blame can be shared equally between director, writers, and star. Which means more blame gets heaped on Van Damme because he wears both his star hat AND co-writer hat when he wasn't really up to the task of either role.


I couldn't find many decent versions of the movie on disc so here is one link.

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