Plot: What’s it about?
Rudy (Jean-Claude Van Damme) knows more than a little about artifacts and such, since his father works as a museum curator. So he is aware of the value of certain items, as well as who might be have them, want them, or just know where to find the pieces. But he has access to these sources because he used to be a smuggler, which means he would take the priceless artifacts to the highest bidder. The field is not one in which you work for pride or honor to be sure, you just do the work and collect the cash, then that’s the end. But Rudy no longer serves as a thief or smuggler, as he frequents quite the opposite field to be honest. He is called on to regain a sacred scroll however, when his father is kidnapped while on a mission for his museum. So Rudy travels to Jerusalem to get the scroll and rescue his father, but once he arrives, he sees this will be no easy task, as a group of religious fanatics are involved. The scroll is believed to hold the secrets of an underground sect, which could set off a holy war like none ever seen. Can Rudy evade the police, romance a mysterious beauty, find the scroll, and save the world, or will the religious nuts wind up with all the power in the world?
I have to admit, I am instantly sold on a flick in which Jean-Claude Van Damme battles religious fanatics from the Middle East. Add in some mystical jibber jabber, solid production values, and screen legend Charlton “Chuck” Heston, and we’re talking serious potential, at least to fans of low rent action epics like The Order. I don’t mean to say this is a poorly made film, but it is a direct to video picture, so it can’t be held up to the usual action movie standards. I think it stands well among the other direct to video action releases however, perhaps even surpassing a number of Van Damme’s lesser theatrical efforts. In truth, The Order models itself after Van Damme’s more popular films, with more emphasis on martial arts kicks, tumbles, and fights, as opposed to contrived storylines, forced dialogue, or other more traditional elements. If this is the direction his future projects will head in, I think fans have a lot to look forward to. But The Order will not win him any new fans, as this is more of a return to form, as opposed to a new branch of direction. So if you’re a fan of Van Damme’s more action oriented movies, then The Order is well worth a look.
Over his career, Jean-Claude Van Damme has gone from marble mouthed action star to wanna-be Oscar level performer, but his latter efforts have never panned out that well. Van Damme has a lot of talent as a performer, but his skills land in the martial arts realm, as well as a strong screen presence that helps him out. In The Order, Van Damme goes back to his old ways, with more focus on his trademark kicking tactics, as well as more action based scenes on the whole. I guess he realized we want to see him engaged in fisticuffs and not trying to act his way toward some award. The Order still has some bright spots for him to showcase his thespian talents, but for the most part, this is a return to the salad days for Van Damme. Other films with Van Damme include Replicant, Maximum Risk, Sudden Death, Death Warrant, and Bloodsport. The cast also includes Charlton Heston (Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man), Ben Cross (First Knight, Turbulence), and Sofia Miles (Double Bang, The Ladies Man).
Video: How does it look?
The Order is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a full frame edition included on the disc’s flip side. This is a very good visual effort in all respects, although it doesn’t have the extra refinements to make it a top shelf treatment. The print looks clean as expected, but I saw some cases of shimmer, as well as jagged edges at times. These flaws won’t distract by any means, but I did want to mention them here. The colors look bright and never off balance, while flesh tones are natural throughout. No issues with the contrast either, as black levels are well balanced and provide accurate depth & detail at all times. This won’t be your new demo disc, but the transfer here is terrific and should please viewers.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is an action movie after all, so the Dolby Digital 5.1 track used here has some chances to show off and it does, with splendid results. The surrounds come to life in the action based and chase sequences, with a lot of power and range, even the bass kicks deep here. The audio is not as subtle and well crafted as I would have liked, but it does have some punch in those scenes, which is good news. The music and more laid back audio elements are well presented also, but like I said, there’s not much in terms of atmospheric presence or small touches. I found the dialogue to be clean and always at the proper volume balance, so it all works well enough here. This disc also includes subtitles in English & French, should you need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s trailer, which is one of the single worst trailers I’ve ever seen, even for a straight to video release.