Friday, 22 August 2014

Enemies Closer

There's an art to making an authentic b-movie. The problem with many films in recent times, which allegedly fall into the b-movie category, is that they're trying to hard to be considered b-movies. I'm thinking of stuff like Sharknado, films that try so damn hard to be b-movies that they explain away bad visual effects, script, characters and acting because, well, “it's meant to be like this!” That never sits right with me, because the best b-movies out there never set out to be b-movies. So there's a lot of shit out there that falls into the much-loved unofficial category, but really shouldn't. Enemies Closer is a proper b-movie, and that shouldn't be (and isn't) an insult.

I've always been a fan of Jean-Claude Van Damme. My first Van Damme flick was Timecop, and upon watching it my then 9-year-old self absolutely loved it. From the twist at the start where a bunch of Wild West dudes are gunned down by a guy with a futuristic weapon, to the visual effects that back then blew my mind, it made a lost lasting impression on me. So with my love for Jean-Claude Van Damme firmly in place, and after hearing that Timecop director Peter Hyams directed Enemies Closer, my anticipation for the film suddenly shot up. Enemies Closer isn't perfect, but what it does do it does almost flawlessly.

The premise is refreshing in its simplicity. Former military frogman Henry has decided to retreat from the world with his new job as a park ranger. Though he doesn't get to see many people, Henry does cross paths with Kayla and Clay. Though Kayla comes across as a possible love interest at first, her true intentions may be a little dastardlier. Clay on the other hand right off the bat pulls a gun on Henry, keen to exact justice for his little brother who died in Afghanistan, a death for which he blames on Henry. But before Clay can carry out that justice, Jean-Claude Van Damme's Xander character turns up. You see, Xander is a drug lord and is keen on finding a pure heroin shipment that crash-landed in a plane into a nearby lake. But after killing most of the cops in the surrounding area in a bid to keep his plan all hush-hush, he comes across Clay and Henry. Being all that stands between Xander and the heroin shipment, Clay and Henry must overlook their differences and fight together. Simple and basic premise, but perfect.

The best part about Enemies Closer is undoubtedly Jean-Clause Van Damme. Though that would have been a given during his heyday is the 90's, as of late he hasn't exactly been living up to his past greatness. But as Xander he just goes incredibly over-the-top. From schooling his cronies on Veganism and their carbon footprint, to suddenly taking out an entire room of cops single-handedly, Xander is to Van Damme as The Joker was to Heath Ledger. He literally chews through scenery during every scene, while the last line uttered by him in the film is bloody hilarious. I won't spoil it! Beyond Van Damme everyone else is passable, if largely forgettable. The dynamic between Clay and Henry is interesting, but the film doesn't exactly take a breather to examine their inner machinations or perception of one another, thankfully. Things blown up, Van Damme has Christopher Walken hair and the body count is high. I'm happy.

Though the action is somewhat hampered by choppy quick cuts it's surprisingly hard hitting and pleasing. With the simple enough premise and good choice of location, Enemies Closer is filled with a whole slew of action set pieces, and breezes along nicely in its short running time. It's a film that revels in its simplicity to wonderful effect, but it's a double-edged sword as, due to its small scope, it feels as if director Peter Hyams is holding back too much. Considering his best films have been over-the-top spectacles, Enemies Closer feels somewhat restricted and a little stifled. But like all the best b-movies, it just gets on with it and makes the most of what he has to play around with.

Overall Enemies Closer isn't up there with the best, but as a Saturday night action flick you could really do much, much worse. Hugely enjoyable, especially for Van Damme's crazy performance, Enemies Closer is a gem that will sadly be overlooked by many. 

Enemies Closer gets up close and personal and gets a 4/5.


Denis Murphy

Enemies Closer at CeX

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