Van Damme stars this time as Marcus Ray, of all things, a designer jeans rep. Yes, you read that right. He, and partner Tommy Hendricks (Rob Schneider), rule the Hong Kong offices of V6 designer jeans...jeans so strong that an elephant can't tear them apart. That is, unless they're cheap knock-offs.
And knock-offs also happen to be a specialty of Marcus'. His adopted brother has his fingers into nearly all the counterfeiting operations in Hong Kong. When the latest shipment of V6 jeans is discovered to be mostly phonies, that attracts corporate attention, in the person of Karan Leigh (Lela Rochon).
But the knock-offs are attracting other attention as well. It seems that the omni-powerful Russian mafia are using them as part of an elaborate global terrorism scheme. This has attracted the attention of not only the Hong Kong police, represented by Lt. Han (Michael Wong), but also the C.I.A., with a team led by Harry Johannson (Paul Sorvino).
The best thing Knock Off has going for it is its sense of style. With grainy, blurry footage, camera sweeps that pass through objects, unlikely angles, and various film speeds, director Tsui Hark at least attempts to give the film a different visual style. Unfortunately, most of the time it is merely annoying. Perhaps a subtler approach that didn't scream, "Look at me! I'm being innovative!" might have worked better.
But anything would have worked better than this script. At first I wasn't sure if it was horrendous dialogue, or just the expectedly bad acting from Van Damme and Schneider. But once other actors started spouting the same pained delivery, I was getting suspicions. But by the time the ludicrous plot started pouring forth, I was sure. This is one stinker of a script.
For all it's double-crosses, deceptions and counterdeceptions, Knock Off can't shake the slightly silly feeling at its core. You haven't seen ridiculous until you see the CIA's computer simulation of global terrorism (involving a very tiny globe, and a sinister, cackling agent that looks like he stepped off the pages of Spy vs. Spy).
The action scenes, are bearable, though, since they were filmed in blurr-o-vision, prolonged viewing will likely cause headaches. Again, the film does try to be original. It packs in such elements as an illegal charity rickshaw race, a giant exploding Buddha, and a cargo ship with ever-changing terrain.
Still, for all its novelty, Knock Off falls apart as easily as a counterfeit sneaker. Keep looking for the real thing, you won't find it here.
[R - continuous violence and brief language] (TriStar)