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The Order (June 10/02)

Poor Jean-Claude Van Damme. Once an international action star, he's now relegated to cheesy straight-to-video fare like The Order. You've got to admire the way he keeps cranking out flicks, no matter what the market (or the material) may be. In The Order, Van Damme even goes so far as to co-write the script - though I suspect his contribution was limited to the many lame one-liners peppered throughout the film.

Van Damme stars as some kind of illegitimate businessman who specializes in stealing and selling rare artifacts. One day, he gets a call from his archeologist father, and learns that an ancient religious scroll has been found. But when his father flies to Israel with the intention of returning the scroll, he disappears. Obviously, Van Damme picks up the case and heads to the holy city to discover what happened to his father. But he soon learns that this scroll has a much deeper meaning for a crazed cult, who use the contents of the ancient text as validation for a planned act of terror. Now, along with the help of a plucky cop (and ex-member of said cult), Van Damme must save his father and prevent the detonation of a bomb that's been planted somewhere in Israel.

The Order is pretty much on par with the majority of Van Damme's latest flicks, including Replicant and Desert Heat (ie while it's not exactly good, it's not terrible either). There's a certain workmanlike attitude prevailing in his movies nowadays; he knows what his audience expects and he delivers. If he would just fashion a semi-interesting story around his various high-kicks and trademark splits, he just might have something.

But Van Damme is always a pleasure to watch (well, except in Knock-Off, but nothing was pleasurable about that), and he certainly seems to be enjoying himself here. Charlton Heston even shows up at one point, delivers about three-minutes worth of expository dialogue, and is promptly killed. So, if you've watched and enjoyed all of Van Damme's previous flicks, you'll probably dig this. But if you hated even his best films (still Timecop and Sudden Death), you'd do best to avoid this like moldy tangerines.

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