2 StarsThe fourth collaboration between action icon Jean Claude Van Damme and writer/director Sheldon Lettich is an adequate low-key action film that plays more like a drama. That’s not necessarily a knock on the movie, Van Damme gets to show off some acting ability as Phillip Sauvage an emotionally and mentally scared veteran. Sauvage is brought on as a bodyguard to the Former Heavyweight Champion, Wayne Barclay. For a story about a bodyguard and a boxer the film is light on action and heavy on dialogue, fortunately Lettich and co-writer George Saunders pepper the script with amusing bits and some (intentionally)? humorous moments.
Vivica A. Fox brings a touch of class to the proceedings with her portrayal of Tamra Barclay, sister to the champ and head of his budding entrepreneurial enterprises. The weak link in the film is Raz Adoti whose performance as Barclay is lightweight and often annoying. That role should have been cast with a different actor b-movie vets Wesley Snipes, Ving Rhames or Mykel Jenkins come to mind. Adoti screen presence isn’t big enough to play the Heavyweight Champion and physically he’s about as intimidating as a lawnmower.
A messy subplot concerning a Suge Knight-type rap producer trying to kill the Champ is messy and ultimately silly. Viv Leacock continually overplays his role as the thuggish music mogul. It’s obvious the filmmakers were striving for an ‘urban action drama’ in the vein of Four Brothers and Get Rich or Die Trying. However those films felt authentic and Hard Corps comes off as a cheap imitation. The film’s greatest success comes from the compelling scenes between Fox and Van Damme; they act off each other well and in turn give the audience a reason to care about these characters.
In his mid-forties at the time of shooting it’s obvious that Van Damme prefers talking over kicking and that’s ok, now he just needs to find a script and character to showcase his underrated acting ability. The Hard Corpsisn’t terrible in fact its better than most late era Van Damme films. Unfortunately it’s the least watchable of all the Van Damme/Lettich collaborations.
Director: Sheldon Lettich
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Razaaq Adoti, Vivica A. Fox