*I write these articles under the assumption that you’ve seen the movie, so...SPOILERS.
This month I wanted to write about Lionheart, especially since I just bought MVD Rewind edition blu-ray, but a couple things kept me from it. First, I just didn’t find the time to be able to sit through both the regular and extended cut included on that release, much less the hours of bonus footage. Second, I have to start writing about some of the direct-to-video (forever hereafter DTV) Van Damme movies otherwise I’ll burn through all the better known and beloved movies and end up writing about DTV Van Damme movies for a full year. I’m not going to pretend that these movies are very good, but I will look for the good in them as I revisit them. Mostly, I expect I’ll end up writing about how most of the DTV movies are a missed opportunity. That’s certainly the case with The Hard Corps.
A Seagal Movie Starring Van Damme.
I am clearly a Van Damme man, and I generally find Steven Seagal’s movies to be less entertaining than Van Damme’s work. I especially dislike Seagal’s half-assed career resurgence in the early 2000s with Half Past Dead and Exit Wounds co-starring Ja Rule and DMX, respectively. I only bring those films up because The Hard Corps was clearly trying to cash in on this trend, though it was a few years too late...and they couldn’t get a real rapper. DMX was apparently set to be in it, but had to back out because he was sent to jail, and he reportedly claimed that jail was the better option of the two (according to IMDb trivia). You know it’s a bad sign if the script is beneath a jail-bound DMX.
The Hard Corps is about a retired boxer feuding with a just-released-from-prison rapper. Van Damme plays a war veteran suffering from PTSD who becomes head of security for the boxer. He builds a security team, the titular Hard Corps.
The biggest problem with this movie is that Van Damme doesn’t seem like the main star. It’s definitely more about the boxer than anything else. That’s fine, but when I see Van Damme on the cover of a DVD, I want him to be in nearly every scene. And if Van Damme isn’t in every scene, that means there will be less action, as well.
The other main issue I had with the movie was the undelivered premise. It’s called The Hard Corps because Van Damme is supposed to build a team of new recruits and old war buddies to protect the boxer. He mentions a couple of times during the movie that all of his team is not there yet, and they simply never show up. He never gets the chance to build the Hard Corps. As for the group he does have, we end up seeing three training segments with them: they run laps around a gym, they do a trial run of what to do if an attack happens, and Van Damme teaches them to not hold their guns sideways. That’s it. Van Damme does mention that they’re not ready, but he still ends up using them, so it doesn’t matter.
The Hard Corps should have been The Expendables, or at least something like it. Sure, the budget was not there to get any other big names, but the film could have been more about Van Damme building a team of new recruits. I wanted to see multiple 80s-style montages showing the “not ready yet” recruits become better body guards. The movie we got was just way too bogged down in explaining the feud between the boxer and the rapper, not to mention the unnecessary romantic angle between Van Damme and Vivica A. Fox. If they had just kept it simple and made it a movie about a team of security professionals training and protecting, then it could have been much more entertaining.
A Typical DTV Van Damme Movie.
The downfall of the later Van Damme movies, aside from low budgets, is the bland action.
There is way too much boring gunplay, and not nearly enough hand to hand combat. I know JCVD is older, but he's still in good enough shape in these movies to do more than just stand there holding a gun. The fight scenes in The Hard Corps are the best part of it, but they are too short. And when the fight we’ve been waiting for, Van Damme vs. the boxer, happens it gets cut short. That fight should have been a They Live-esque minutes long marathon fight. I just don’t understand why these low budget movies try to cram in all this gun violence when they could just do cheaper hand-to-hand fight scenes.
Possibly my biggest issue with this particular movie, however, is the music. The score drifts between hokey old-fashioned Hollywood (during Van Damme scenes) to awful “we couldn’t afford the rights to any real songs” rap music. I can’t describe it other than it is the most generic crap rap I’ve ever heard; think rap music in an after-school special in the late ‘90s bad. The music was completely distracting and was a constant reminder that this movie was never meant to be in a theater.
A DTV movie also means the usual tools of a big budget film are not available, such as a good editor. There is no flow to the scenes at all, and in this one they even re-used footage. The opening credits footage is just a later segment of the film shown in slow-motion. It’s baffling. Why not just go with credits on a black screen before you do something like that?
For all I know there were more scenes about building the team that got lost in editing. Perhaps there’s a much more focused, entertaining movie in some unused footage. But I doubt it. It just sucks to see Van Damme so wasted in a movie that would have much better served a sleepwalking Steven Seagal.
Why Do I Own This?
Normally, I would say because it’s a Van Damme movie, and that’s still true, but mainly I own these DTV movies because they are part of a cheap collection of Van Damme movies that included a better movie. Note that the case pictured above claims these movies are “Hollywood Hits” despite the fact that Universal Soldier: The Return and Knock Off grossed less than $21 million combined, and the other two movies weren’t even released in theaters.
I know I've become a bit obsessed with movie music, but that generic rap background music during any scenes with the rapper is horribly distracting.
"This little motherfucker right here went and got Michael Jackson off and custody of his two damn kids!"
"When's the last time you had your ham glazed?" Ew.
Why does Vivica A. Fox hate Van Damme at first sight?
The club scene music is even worse. I really wish they had the budget to clear more actual music.
"You're pouring water on shit and calling it gravy."
Damn, I forgot about the dude getting filleted and fed to a fucking dog.
If this score was the best they could come up with, they should have just gone with silence. I can't stress enough how awful and all over the place it is. Sentimental fluff one second, mid '90s fake rap the next.
I've never seen someone pour someone a glass of water like it was whiskey.
Vivica A. Fox went from zero to horny crazy fast for Van Damme, but he does have that effect on people.
Van Damme's comments about rap being hard to understand would work if they were using an actual song instead of that bullshit that's actually playing in the scene.
The Van Damme/Barclay fight was okay, but it was shot too close. You need to use wide shots for a proper Van Damme fight.
First proper roundhouse doesn't happen until the last ten minutes. Unacceptable.