You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Enemies Closer’

JCVD is back in a better-than-average action time-filler. Only '90s nostalgists need apply.


Jean-Claude Van Damme, Tom Everett Scott, Orlando Jones, Linzey Cocker, Christopher Robbie, Zahari Baharov, Dimo Alexiev, Kris Van Damme. 

Jean-Claude Van Damme hams it up cheerfully in a rare villainous turn in “Enemies Closer,” an unremarkable but entirely serviceable action quickie that reunites the Muscles from Brussels with analog action specialist Peter Hyams, who directed Van Damme in two of his better big-studio starring vehicles: “Timecop” (1994) and “Sudden Death” (1995). Save for a considerably lower budget, “Enemies” might well have rolled off the same assembly line, making for a silly yet sturdily crafted time-filler, lacking the shrewd, self-aware qualities of Van Damme’s recent “JCVD” and “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning” (directed by Hyams’ son, John), but still well above most of the star’s latter-day direct-to-video efforts. Sure to generate less buzz than Van Damme’s recent Volvo commercial, the pic goes out via Lionsgate in limited theatrical and VOD release this Friday.

Sporting a Beethoven-esque mane of poofy, reddish-brown hair, speaking many of his lines in his native French, and prancing about with a fey spring in his step, Van Damme appears to be having a grand old time as Xander, a ruthless French-Canadian drug dealer who, when not dispensing mercilessly with his foes, preaches the virtues of vegan living and stopping to smell the roses (or, as the case may be, the wild strawberries). In the pic’s opening moments, a small, single-engine plane is seen crashing into a lake along the U.S.-Canada border (actually Bulgaria), and it’s the cargo on this plane — 50 pounds of uncut heroin — that Xander seeks to retrieve by any means necessary.

Popular on Variety

But wait, there’s more! Though it already has enough plot for most action movies, the script by Eric and James Bromberg introduces an entire parallel storyline concerning Henry (Tom Everett Scott), an ex-Navy diver traumatized by the carnage he witnessed in Afghanistan, now working as a U.S. park ranger — in, of course, the very same park where Xander’s heroin lies at the bottom of the lake. But long before Henry becomes a pawn in Xander’s scheme, he gets held at gunpoint by Clay (Orlando Jones), the brother of a soldier who died on Henry’s watch, who’s now come to seek his revenge. What, do you think, are the chances these two will eventually join forces against a common threat?

Of course, Van Damme’s movies have never been big on inner logic: As long as the limbs keep flying with (literal) breakneck speed, it doesn’t much matter how we get there. And while “Enemies Closer” may not offer a single setpiece as memorable as “Sudden Death’s” mano-a-mano kitchen duel between Van Damme and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ costumed mascot, its 53-year-old star still proves surprisingly agile and quick on — and with — his feet. Despite having helmed lots of subpar material over the years, Hyams (“Outland,” “The Star Chamber”) was always adept at crafting a solid action sequence, and proves he can still do so here, with a relieved minimum of swooshing pans and rapid-fire cutting. Van Damme, who began his bigscreen career playing a baddie (in 1984’s cult karate drama “No Retreat No Surrender”), but has done so only a couple of times since (including recently, in “The Expendables 2”), should consider flirting with his dark side more often; it clearly becomes him.

Cast against comic type, Jones (also credited as a producer) acquits himself reasonably well, while English actress Linzey Cocker seems rather adrift as the requisite damsel-in-distress-cum-femme-fatale. Hyams, who as usual also served as his own cinematographer, gives the production a crisp, sleek, professional sheen, especially in the night exterior scenes.

Film Review: 'Enemies Closer'

Reviewed online, Los Angeles, Jan. 15, 2014. MPAA Rating: R. Running time. 84 MIN.


A Lionsgate release of an After Dark Films presentation of an After Dark Films and Signature Entertainment production. Produced by Moshe Diamant, Courtney Solomon, Orlando Jones. Co-producers, Lauren Ito, Lucy Mukerjee, Christopher Milburn. Executive producers, Bobby Ranghelov, Stepahnie Caleb.


Directed by Peter Hyams. Screenplay, Eric Bromberg, James Bromberg. Camera (color), Peter Hyams; editor, Jon Hyams; music, Tony Morales; production designer, Phillip Harrison; art director, Valentina Mladenova; set decorator, Krasimir Pashkulev; costume designer, Irina Kotcheva; sound, Emil Evtimov; supervising sound editor, Michael Baird; re-recording mixer, Jason Dotts; visual effects supervisors, Viktor Trichkov, DJ Shea; visual effects producer, Tarn Fox; stunt coordinator, Borislav Iliev; associate producers, Arnaud Lannic, Emmanuel Girod, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones, Stacy Frankel; assistant director, Franklin Vallette; casting, Mariana Stanisheva.


Jean-Claude Van Damme, Tom Everett Scott, Orlando Jones, Linzey Cocker, Christopher Robbie, Zahari Baharov, Dimo Alexiev, Kris Van Damme. 

More Film

  • Golden Globes Placeholder

    2020 Golden Globe Nominations: The Complete List (Updating Live)

    Nominations for the 77th Golden Globe Awards were announced early Monday morning by Tim Allen, Dakota Fanning and Susan Kelechi. The best of the year in both TV and film will be recognized at the Globes, with categories in drama and musical or comedy for each medium. Popular on Variety Top contenders for best drama [...]

  • Victoria Lacoste

    Brand Heiress Victoria Lacoste Sets New Projects With Her Banner Edelweiss Film Productions

    Edelweiss Film Productions, the one-year old company launched by Victoria Lacoste, the actress-turned-producer and heiress of the well-known Lacoste brand, is producing “La Methode,” a Paris-set short film starring Lizzie Brocheré (American Horror Story) and Roby Schinasi (Gossip Girl). Directed by Kelsey Bollig, “La Methode” shot last month at the Palais des Glaces in Paris. [...]

  • 'For Sama,' 'Blue Story' Nominated for

    BAFTA: 'For Sama,' 'Blue Story' on Short List for Outstanding Debut by British Talent

    Ahead of its full slate of nominations next month, BAFTA has unveiled the 10 short-listed films that will compete in the category of outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer. The nominated works include “For Sama,” a portrait of a Syrian mother’s experience of her country’s civil war, and “Blue Story,” the story [...]

  • Golden Globe statues appear on stage

    How to Watch the 2020 Golden Globe Nominations

    The Golden Globes annually award the year’s best TV shows and films and this year promises lots of possible surprises. TV shows like “The Crown,” “Fleabag,” and “Pose” are sure to make a splash this year, but will they steal the show with their nominations? This year’s nominations will be announced from the Beverly Hilton [...]

  • Jumanji The Next Level

    China Box Office: 'Jumanji: The Next Level' Leads, Lou Ye's 'Saturday Fiction' Disappears

    Hollywood films and local arthouse led the Chinese box office this weekend, with “Jumanji: The Next Level” taking the lead with a $24.7 million debut, while Lou Ye’s Venice title “Saturday Fiction” was abruptly yanked from the lineup of releases.  Remarkably, Diao Yinan’s stylish and bloody neo-noir “Wild Goose Lake” did almost as well as [...]

  • Li Shaohong

    Li Shaohong Revisits Macao and Chinese War Films

    Fifth generation director Li Shaohong’s career has spanned the entire length of the Chinese film market’s rise, from its days as a state-run industry churning out nothing but social realist films to its current stage of supporting ever more sophisticated and lucrative blockbusters and genre films. The current head of the China Film Directors’ Guild, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content