What do you get when you bring together sometimes-memorable action star Jean-Claude Van Damme, former "Saturday Night Live" comic genius Rob Schneider, and the lovely Lela Rochon?

Hell if I know either, but it floated around theatres, kinda like something floating in the toilet, in 1998, under the name "Knock-Off."

There is something vaguely resembling a plot, but it's so convoluted that any attempt to summarize it would only lead to even more confusion. Schneider and Rochon are CIA agents investigating a flood of such fine products as "Pumma" sneakers and other cheap copies, or knock-offs.

Van Damme's character figures in there somehow, and so do the Russians in a cliched attempt to take over the world. (The IMDB claims Van Damme's character is a fashion designer; I'm too afraid to watch this movie again, so I'll take their word for it.) As this film is nominally set in 1997, during the return of Hong Kong to China, this is just one of many things that utterly defy logic.

Why would the CIA have people in Hong Kong, investigating a small ring of petty thieves?

Isn't the KGB dead?

And why should we care?

The list of unanswered questions just continues to grow.

The actors certainly don't do much to make the audience care. Van Damme seems only to be there to crack heads in, showing remarkably little personality (but what else is new). Rochon is treated a bit better in her action-intense role, but is also stifled in the acting department. Schneider manages to show off a bit of his comic talent, whipping out the occasional witty one-liner, but that's just not enough to save this movie.

So we're left with gratuitous violence, and at least a noble effort is made. Famous Hong Kong director Tsui Hark does the best with what he has to work with, using all the tricks that made him famous - slow-motion, stop-motion, dizzying camera angles, and the occasional blur. "Knock-Off" ends up looking like a good Hong Kong film, just waiting for Jackie Chan or Chow Yun-Fat to show up.

They never show up, of course, and ultimately "Knock-Off" is itself just a knock-off of all the good films you could be watching instead. Save the five bucks and go rent "Hard Boiled" or most any Jackie Chan flick. That way, you'll be sure of getting the real thing.

Knock"-off`, n.

Act or place of knocking off; that which knocks off; specif. (Mach.),

A cam or the like for disconnecting something, as a device in a knitting machine to remove loops from the needles.

 

© Webster 1913.

Knock"-off`, a.

That knocks off; of or pertaining to knocking off.

 

© Webster 1913.

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