Jean-Claude Van Damme is Mikhail Suverov, or at least for one scene in the opening of Maximum Risk. He is being chased by an unspecified group of people and…
… sorry, but Roger Ebert’s Little Movie Book specifically states to call out the inevitable fruit stand being knocked over in any car chase sequence. Maximum Risk provides that cliché in the opening five minutes.
It is usually a rather awful idea to begin a film on an action sequence, unless the character is well established. The Incredible Hulk could get away with it because, well, he is the Incredible Hulk. However, in Maximum Risk, the extravagant chase scene that opens the movie has no build-up. It simply showcases Van Damme running. From who is not important to this script, and why is not either.
The film seems to be stuck somewhere in the ‘80s action mold despite being made in 1996. Russians are a key villain, although to be fair, they are mafia. They like to hang out in bath houses, so Van Damme can battle the biggest Russian guy they can find (who must have trained in the same facility at Ivan Drago) wearing only a towel.
As for why he’s fighting, Maximum Risk does let everyone in on its own little world. As it turns out, Van Damme’s character Alain Moreau had a twin brother named Mikhail Suverov. After Mikhail is killed and Alain (a French cop) learns of this, he sets out to find the culprit.
It is as bare bones as they come, a minimal set up for numerous car chases, an elevator brawl, Natasha Henstridge nudity, and that hilariously awful bath house scrum. Hong Kong director Ringo Lam directs the fights sluggishly, capturing limited speed but plenty of gore.
Maximum Risk is the perfect reason why Van Damme needed Dennis Rodman to join him in his next incorrectly thought out career move, Double Team. It’s a mess, an utterly forgettable, dull action romp with…
Wow. The movie actually used the gimmick twice. There is no turning back from that.
Sony delivers a rather bland AVC encode for Maximum Risk. A general softness dominates the transfer, blotting out the fine details. Faces are flat, with pores and individual hairs rarely evident. Grain is intact although lacking the crisp, clean nature it should carry.
Contrast is bright and the black levels are decent (along with shadow delineation). Color is fine, carrying a natural hue. Flesh tones are accurate. The encode seems fine, with no noticeable artifacting, and minor (at the worst) edge enhancement is a minimal distraction. The film looks older than it is however.
Maximum Risk also struggles with audio. There is a ton of activity in the surrounds. Streets are loaded with ambient dialogue, fight scenes capture crashing objects throughout the sound field, and the car chases are wonderfully active.
However, none of this sounds natural. The rear channels seem to be artificially cranked up. One of the early action scenes inside a burning building has debris clearly falling in front of the viewer, yet the audio pushes sound effects through each channel with no directionality.
The opening chase reveals another issue. Music, sound effects, and bass clump together with minimal separation. In fact, breaking glass as Van Damme smashes through a window is barely audible. It is completely lost. Fidelity is low, with a weak, flat high end.
This TrueHD mix does present some hefty bass, including some absurdly powerful punches that rumble with each shot. Even this is rather unclean, never reaching the crispness expected of the format.
Sony has little faith in this film’s hi-def debut, leaving only trailers and generic BD-Live connectivity on the disc.