Thursday, October 10, 2019

"Replicant" - You Will Believe Van Damme Is Both a Serial Killer and an Adult Toddler.

*This article contains SPOILERS.

Last October, I wrote solely about horror films. Jean-Claude Van Damme has not really done a horror film in his career, but he’s done horror-adjacent movies. Death Warrant comes to mind, but I’ve already written about that one. Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning has some horror elements, in my opinion, but I don’t own that one (yet), so I’ll have to cover that one next year. So that leaves me Replicant, which is admittedly more of a sci-fi film than a horror movie. But it does feature Van Damme as a serial killer, and some of the stuff he does in this movie (burning a woman’s corpse as her toddler child watches, for instance) is the closest thing to horror he’s ever done. In a broader sense, though, Replicant is one of my favorite Van Damme movies. It was one of his first direct to video movies, and it gave me hope that they could all be this entertaining. Replicant is compelling, funny, and, most importantly, it showcases two very different, effective performances from Van Damme. Replicant shows his range as an actor.

Technically, This Is Not a Twin Movie.

The big joke when first approaching this movie is, “Van Damme is playing twins again?!” Well, technically, he has only played twins twice: Double Impact and Maximum Risk. And in Maximum Risk he does not share the screen with himself. He does share the screen with himself in Timecop, so that one sometimes get lumped in as a twin movie. And then there’s Replicant, which is a little closer to a twin movie in that it’s a clone movie. 

I get why people would latch onto these four films and joke about how often there are multiple Van Dammes in Van Damme movies. Four times is a lot of times in a movie career to portray multiple versions of yourself. But each film is actually very different in its approach to the extra Van Damme. 

Double Impact was the first time this happened, and it is a fairly standard take on twins in films: they look alike, but they’re actually very different. Then came Timecop, which really shouldn’t count at all. It’s just Van Damme coming across a different version of himself in a different time. Maximum Risk is kind of pointless with the twin thing because one of them dies at the beginning, and that brings the other Van Damme into the story. 

Replicant is unique in that Van Damme is playing a serial killer and his clone. Some might suggest that I’m splitting hairs and that all these movies are using the gimmick of having more than one Van Damme. I agree that with Double Impact that is indeed the case, and the movie is a lot of fun because of it. But with Replicant, the serial killer and clone aspect add an important story element.

With most of Van Damme’s double movies, the two Van Dammes are usually very similar, even when they are presented as different. Even in Double Impact, they come together in the end and seem to be very similar character-wise. You would think that with Replicant, the clone would be identical to the serial killer, but that’s not the case. The clone is essentially a full grown toddler who seems to only have a psychic connection to the killer.

The clone being like an innocent child makes the film more compelling for multiple reasons. The first of which is whether or not he will become like the serial killer. While the film doesn’t directly address this, it must be on any viewer’s mind because Michael Rooker’s character treats the clone as if he is the serial killer, constantly beating him and yelling at him. By the end of the film, it’s clear that the evilness of the serial killer is a product of his childhood, and while the clone has the memories of the serial killer, he lacks the experience and can therefore live a good life...possibly. Who truly knows how long his relationship with the prostitute will last before she tires of his childishness? And how will he react to rejection? I sincerely think that would make a good sequel to this film.

Another reason why the clone being like a toddler is compelling is that it allows Van Damme to create the most sympathetic character he’s ever played. I truly felt bad for him during those early scenes with Rooker, and it’s not just because Rooker can be such a legitimately scary guy. Van Damme’s frightened performance works. You can see true child-like fear and wonder in his eyes, and when he yells out for “Jake!” like a hurt two-year-old, you want to go through the screen and help the poor guy. 

Van Damme’s clone performance comes across as even more impressive when compared to his scenes as the serial killer. While it’s not the deepest or most thought-out serial killer in film history, he’s certainly a horrible person. And Van Damme conveys the serial killer’s disdain for the “bad mothers” he kills effectively. He’s not as good at the taunting aspect of the character, but you can see the hate in his eyes during his more intense scenes. Van Damme has always made a better villain than a hero, and it’s a shame he hasn’t embraced that more often in his career.

It’s a shame that Replicant gets lumped in as one of the “twin movies” when Van Damme’s dual performance makes it one of his best films. If only this had been the first time he played a double...

I Could Watch Van Damme Act Like a Toddler for an Entire Movie.

The most surprising aspect of Replicant is how funny it is. Nearly all of the humor comes from the clone being basically a Van Damme toddler. Watching Van Damme play with toilet paper, eat mashed potatoes with his hands, eat dog food, jizz in his sweat pants while dry-humping a prostitute, and practice gymnastics at an expert level is pretty funny. Okay, those last two are a little weird, but for the most part the toddler stuff is comedy gold.

My favorite moment is when Van Damme greets the realtor by saying, “Calm the fuck down.” The simplicity of his delivery gets me every time. There’s a great deleted scene (yes, I watched the deleted scenes for Replicant...I’m fine, you’re the one with too much time on your hands) in which Van Damme takes a banana from a fruit stand and starts eating it, peel and all. The angry vendor approaches him and Van Damme hits him with the “Calm the fuck down” line and knocks his stand over as he runs away. I’m sure they deleted it because of the second use of the line, but I think they should have kept it in. It’s okay to go back to the well a second time with a line delivery that funny.

I'm Not One to Trash the Entire Premise of a Movie, But…

The premise of the movie is that the government has developed cloning technology, which they plan on using to fight terrorism. They want to clone Van Damme first as kind of a domestic test run before they use it abroad. But how exactly would this technology help fight terrorism? If they can find the DNA of a terrorist, then wouldn't they also find the terrorist?

You could argue that they could capture and clone some terrorists and train them to infiltrate some terrorist cells and expose the locations of terrorist leaders. But that doesn’t seem to be the plan. And who knows if you can truly trust the clone? They use Van Damme in the hopes that he will have the shared memories of the serial killer and his psychic connection will lead them to the real killer. But why do they assume that psychic connections are possible when they know for sure that they can at least use a clone for appearances?

If used properly, a clone program could help fight terrorism, I suppose, but it seems like an overly complex and expensive way to fight them. Not to mention all the ethical implications of cloning humans. 

By the way, why is everyone so calm and accepting of the cloning technology? Sure, there was Dolly the sheep a few years before, but everyone should still be losing their fucking minds when they find out we can clone Van Dammes

It's a Damme Good Month...for USA.

Before this movie came out, the USA Network used to show a lot of Van Damme movies, and they even had a Van Damme month which featured promos starring Van Damme telling the viewer, “It’s a Damme good month...for USA.” My friends and I thought it was pretty funny, and we still quote the promos to this day (yeah, we’re fuckin’ weird, okay?). The strange thing I noticed was that Van Damme did the promos with uncharacteristic longer hair and weird sunglasses. 

When Replicant came out, the mystery was solved. Van Damme filmed the promos while making Replicant, and they filmed on the serial killer days. It kind of ruined the promos for me, though, because until Replicant came out I had no idea what the story was behind the outfit. It was possible that this was the look Van Damme was going with at this point in his life. I just want to live in a world where it’s possible that the real Van Damme would choose to look like the serial killer character from Replicant.

Why Do I Own This?

It’s a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.

Random Thoughts 

Why light the fire at the beginning with a dollar (especially a magic dollar that starts off as a twenty and then becomes a dollar)?

Why is the crib in the same room as a pool table? She really was a "bad mother."

Rooker totally considered shooting at Van Damme while holding a baby.

"Just a routine check"? Of a city bus?

The CG of Rooker getting hit by the car, and his shoe getting knocked by the car, is pretty terrible. Plus, he should be dead after that first hit.

I like Van Damme's little wave he gives as he drives off.

Rooker is clearly drinking from an empty cup when he's talking to the feds.

Rooker is very calm about the fact that cloning humans is possible.

Of course a Van Damme clone would be doing the splits almost immediately (although how much time has elapsed at that point is unclear).

Speaking of which, why do they think he should know gymnastics? It's like how Stallone knows how to knit when he wakes up in the future in Demolition Man

The IMDb trivia is pretty much nothing but jokes about the movie, but there is one good point: why does the helicopter land in the bushes when they leave the facility?

Seriously, why did they teach him gymnastics?

"Calm the fuck down." This should be an acceptable greeting.

Rooker's mom is way too accepting of having a half naked man chained up in her basement. Or is this Rooker’s house? Does he live with his mom?

Van Damme's rampage that starts when he stops the bad mom at her car is one minute of pure awesomeness:
A guy pulls up next to them to see if the woman needs help and gets kicked in the face through his open car window;
An entire kitchen gets their asses beat, including a dude who went after Van Damme with a spoon and another guy who told him to "Take it easy." Yeah, now that you've kicked everyone's ass, take it easy.

According to the killer's bio, he's a "computer game analyst." I like that small element to explain why he's proficient enough with a computer to set up that self-destruct trap at his apartment.

I can't think of another movie in which a shop vac is used as a weapon.

A lot of innocent bystanders get fucked up in this movie.

The bar janitor is like a little kid: "There's two guys. And they were fighting. And they shot my boss. And then they just took off."

"What the fuck's going on here, Jake?" This could be the title of the movie.

Of course the prostitute wants Van Damme to "look her up" later. Even when he's an obvious man-child, the ladies love JCVD. Even if he dry humps them and stares at them with rape in his eyes.

I don't know why, but I like how evil Van Damme says, "Ya bitch."

So the killer's real identity is a guy who enlisted in the Marines and was presumed dead in 1991, but the body was never found? How did he manage that and end up back in the states?

Did Jake really need to throw his gun into a tub of medical waste? And then the gun gets used later? How does it still work? How awful does it smell?

Evil Van Damme is basically a real life Grand Theft Auto character. He does everything with reckless abandon and is nearly impossible to stop.

I need the sequel with Van Damme learning about the world with the prostitute he dry humped.

In a deleted scene, the kid of Rooker's girlfriend(?) shows him a picture he drew: it's a drawing of Rooker kicking the shit out of Van Damme.

There's another great deleted scene of Van Damme eating a banana without peeling it, and then he tells the angry vendor to "calm the fuck down."

The commentary with Rooker and Van Damme is one of those weird separate ones. Rooker is okay, but Van Damme keeps popping in like he's dropping by to hang out for a minute. He says, "Hi" when he comes back, and says, "Talk to you soon" when his segment is done. It's a fascinating way to watch the movie.