Enemies Closer (LionsGate)

If you’ve seen JCVD or such underrated actions flicks as Sudden Death and , you know that Jean-Claude Van Damme doesn’t mind hamming it up. He gets to chew his share of scenery (and I mean that in a good way) in director Peter Hyams’ rousing action flick Enemies Closer.

Van Damme, who previous worked with Hyams on Sudden Death and Timecop, is the villain this time out, a passionate vegan named Xander who, although he’ll kill without a moment’s hesitation, doesn’t want to leave too big of a carbon footprint.

Tom Everett Scott, who most fans remember from That Thing You Do but also had a memorable run on TV’s Southland, is Henry, a former Navy SEAL who’s now a hermetic forest ranger. His quiet life takes a turn when a stranger (Orlando Jones, who worked with Hyams in Beyond A Reasonable Doubt) shows up on Henry’s door looking for a bit of vengeance.

Their showdown takes a momentary pause, as they must reluctantly band together to defeat Xander and his crew. Since Henry’s an expert diver, Xander needs the ranger alive to grab 50 pounds of heroin that’s resting at the bottom of a lake.

Hyams, whose versatile filmmaking career includes such high points as Outland, Capricorn One, and the taut thriller Narrow Margin, doesn’t have a ton of money to work with in Enemies Closer, but thanks to his natural proclivities as a photographer (he’s the cinematographer in most of his films), Hyams brings a solid, visual dynamism to this action flick. Although the feature is set amidst the wilderness, the filmmaker shoots much of his action in confined spaces, making ample use of Van Damme’s martial arts skills. A violent encounter between Henry and the stranger, which occurs in the confines of the ranger’s cabin, is also shot in an arresting, visceral fashion.

I really enjoyed Enemies Closer, and at 85 minutes the story checks in as an engaging, bare knuckled feature. Van Damme also gets his share of funny one-liners as he ups the body count, and if that’s your cup of tea, then you shouldn’t be disappointed with this guilty pleasure.

Enemies Closer is now playing nationwide and is available On Demand. To check out my interview with director Peter Hyams, check out Deepest Dream.

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posted by Greg Srisavasdi