Legionnaire (1998) Peter MacDonald

Production Budget: $35 million
Worldwide Gross: about $4 million

I reviewed this movie in my first thread, but I mentioned I did not watch it.  As I mentioned earlier, this movie was done after JCVD started becoming box office poison with Street Fighter, Double Team, and Knock Off.  Legionnaire is directed by Peter MacDonald, whose career highlight is possibly Rambo III.  The film was shot in Morocco and released theatrically worldwide but thought unreleasable in the US.  Because of that, Legionnaire was only a Direct to Video for American audiences.  Well, now I have seen Legionnaire.  As a few people said in my original thread, it is alright for a JCVD movie.  I tend to agree with that opinion: Legionnaire is just an okay movie.   That’s kind of the problem though.

The story concept is something I have not seen before.  I have not seen a movie about the French Foreign Legion.  As the opening crawl of the movie suggests, it is an army of people escaping their past to an organization that does not ask any questions.  They are an army of thugs that somehow works as a cohesive and strong fighting force.  That’s why it is a shame that a rather unique concept is crushed with a cliche storyline.  We follow Alain (JCVD) who is a French boxer who gets in trouble with the Mafia when he doesn’t agree to take a dive.  He joins the Legion when he accidentally kills a man trying to save his lover.  There he makes friends with a disgraced British officer and an African American looking for freedom in the Legion.  Alain is sent to Africa to stop an Arab rebellion.

As I said, its a shame that with an original concept we get such stock characters and storylines.  In the boot camp section we get the cliche comic relief Italian lover and the stiff upper lip British gentleman.  The movie then shifts to the desert where it turns into a remake of the Alamo.  I mean, where is the premise which was promised to us in the intro.  Why don’t we learn about the Legion itself with its soldiers who are most of the time running from the law or debtors.  Instead its just a bland retread of the Alamo.  Van Damme still can’t act and I feel MacDonald knows this fact.  Its strange that a movie where Van Damme headlines it, he is not the major focus of it.  True, he is in many of the scenes, but he is not always the main focus.  I found the British soldier with the gambling debts to be the more compelling character (played very well by Nicholas Farrell).  Its a bit part with not much depth, but his acting raises it higher than it should be.

In a way I almost wanted it to be a fantastic failure.  It is disappointing that it was so bland and, well, safe.  I would prefer someone take a risk and get shot down in a blaze of glory than make an expensive mediocre film.  I don’t recommend this movie.  Even though it is not the worst JCVD movie ever made, it still does not stand out at all for anyone’s attention.

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