Last week, The Action Elite unveiled their top 70 list of the Best Action Heroes of All Time. Main man Eoin Friel enlisted the help of fellow writers, bloggers, screenwriters, directors and #MovieBros to chime in with write ups of their favorite heroes. I picked up two Jean-Claude Van Damme performances, first as Chance Boudreaux in John Woo's 1993 shooting, explosion and face kicking fest Hard Target at # 46 (ahead of Tom Cruise as Mission Impossible's Ethan Hunt and behind Chuck Norris as Lone Wolf McQuade):
While Jean-Claude Van Damme was never known for machine gun mayhem a la Stallone in Rambo or Schwarzenegger in Commando; Hard Target’s Chance Boudreaux comes dangerously close to pure action movie territory.
As a decorated former member of Marine Force Recon turned down on his luck sailor, Boudreaux stumbles into a deadly game put on by rich hunters. Their prey? Military veterans. When beautiful and smart yet out of her neighborhood lawyer Natasha Binder (Yancy Butler) comes looking for her missing father, she uncovers the darker side of Dixie in the violent and seedy underworld of New Orleans.
Teaming with Chance, the pair take on the evil Fouchon (Lance Henriksen), his right hand man Pik van Cleef (Arnold Vosloo) and their small army of well-armed sportsmen (including Arnold’s buddy Sven-Ole Thorsen).
Recruiting Hong Kong action maestro John Woo for his first American film, Hard Target is full of violently slick, slow motion fight and shootout sequences that see Van Damme filling the bad guys with lead before finishing them off with a spinning hook kick to the face.
Like a greasy mullet’ed samurai in a denim shirt and tight jeans; J.C.V.D.’s Chance fights, chases and shoots it out with Fouchon’s crew using fists, pistols, shotguns, pigeons, gasoline, roundhouse kicks and one-liners. All of this while moto-surfing on a motorcycles standing up, outrunning a helicopter on horseback through Louisiana’s streets, back country and of course a warehouse to save the girl and take revenge for their dead comrades.
If that weren’t enough, Chance flexes his muscles, gets shot, doesn’t get burned by fire and drops a grenade down Fouchon’s pants during the explosion and bullet filled finale.
Followed by Frank Dux in the underground fighting epic Bloodsport at # 18 (ahead of Steven Seagal in Under Siege, suck it! And behind Robocop, respect.):
The appeal of Bloodsport and Frank Dux is twofold. The purported true story of a covert military operator who fights in secret no holds barred tournaments seemed tailor made for the big screen. Especially an 80’s, Cannon Films produced flick starring a then unknown Jean-Claude Van Damme.
While many of Dux’s military and martial arts claims have been debunked, the tale of an underground competition to find the world’s supreme warrior and fighting champion has entertained and influenced a generation. From video game Street Fighter to Mixed Martial Arts giant the UFC, Bloodsport’s world warrior, style vs style inspiration lives on nearly 30 years later.
In J.C.V.D.’s breakthrough and signature role, the Muscles From Brussels combined his background in karate, weight training and ballet to create a powerful yet graceful onscreen presence that more than made up for his lack of acting experience. As A.W.O.L. Air Force Captain Frank Dux, Van Damme puts his career and life on the line in order to fight in the Kumite, a full contact event held every five years.
With high kicks and the ability to do the splits at his disposal, Dux battles the best in karate, sumo and muy thai to try and be the best he can be while honoring his mentor and avenging fallen friends.
Whether enduring nearly inhuman physical training, doing the splits between two chairs, fighting blindly in the final match, running the streets of Hong Kong in a Mustard suit or telling another man “I love you my friend”; Jean-Claude Van Damme shows us how an action hero can be kick ass, yet sensitive.
It was a lot of fun and a pleasure to be included. The full list is fantastic and houses contributions from a spectrum of devoted action movie junkies. It skewed a little modern and of course male but John Wayne, Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hamilton and Uma Thurman made it in while we could have used some Lee Marvin or Kirk Douglas for The Dirty Dozen and Spartacus. And Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese aka the Father of the Future!