Review: Legionnaire (1998)

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Legionnaire (1998)

Directed by: Peter MacDonald | 99 minutes | action, adventure | Actors: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Steven Berkoff, Nicholas Farrell, Jim Carter, Ana Sofrenovic, Daniel Caltagirone, Joseph Long, Mario Kalli, Joe Montana, Kim Rømer, Anders Peter Bro

In the early 90s, Jean-Claude Van Damme was a cult hero. The Muscles from Brussels attracted attention with cheaply made fight films such as ‘Bloodsport’ and ‘Kickboxer’. When Hollywood later discovered him, the Belgian was allowed to perform in ‘Universal Soldier’ ​​and ‘Time Cop’. These movies had a bigger budget and were meant to be great popcorn entertainment. Van Damme enjoyed his rising fame, but clearly couldn’t handle the publicity. He was soon linked to drug use and that resulted in reputational damage. According to colleagues, Van Damme was a nuisance. The Belgian quickly fell into oblivion and was doomed to a life in the video market. ‘Legionnaire’ is one such production.

While competitors such as Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger continued to cash in on their popularity, Van Damme – like Steven Seagal – settled for less. The stove should continue to burn. In ‘Legionnaire’ the Belgian plays Alain Lefevre. This French playboy is on the run from the mafia when he hooks up with a mobster’s sweetheart. Lefevre joins the Foreign Legion. His goal is to come out of his military service hardened and take on the mafioso.

The budget for this fight film by director Peter MacDonald was not very generous. For financial reasons, it was therefore decided to put more emphasis on the dramatic aspect of the story. A very daring choice that doesn’t work out well. Van Damme is a good athlete, but not a strong actor. The Belgian struggles with his dialogues and makes a stiff impression. When it comes to fighting, Van Damme shows up better. Unfortunately, these scenes are far too few and that is a shame.

It is to MacDonald’s credit that he wanted to take his star actor out of his comfort zone and present him as a (character) actor. Unfortunately, he does not succeed in his aim. ‘Legionnaire’ is a somewhat boring fight film that could have been quite enjoyable with more action.

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