Released in 2001 and directed by Hong Kong legend, Ringo Lam, Replicant is both the best outing from within Van Damme’s direct-to-video career and Lam’s career in the US.
Replicant presents a present-day-story with futuristic elements – essentially, this direct-to-video masterpiece was an action/sci-fi hybrid. Furthermore, and most importantly, Replicant presents Van Damme is his best villainous role, The Torch – the basis for the fourth Obscure Movie Villains article.
As a Van Damme film, Replicant doesn’t stand tall within The Muscles from Brussels’ film career, as essentially, Replicant was released roughly seven-to-eight years after his peak, however, this 2001 direct-to-video hit does share a common feature with previous Van Damme films: Dos Van Damme! Yes, Replicant is the fourth film to present Van Damme in a dual-role (the others being: Double Impact, 1991; Maximum Risk, 1996, and The Order, 2001). Van Damme’s roles in Replicant came in the form of sadistic, perverted serial killer, The Torch, and…A REPLICANT of The Torch, known as The Replicant, created to help capture the villain.
The Torch is first presented on-screen in, perhaps, the most despicable way – he murders a mother, burns her, and then tries to kill said mother’s baby. Sadistically, The Torch says, “Let me end your nightmare, kid.”
On the hunt for The Torch is one of Replicant‘s heroes, Detective Jake Riley (Michael Rooker), though he soon quits the police force after failing to capture The Torch, Riley is soon persuaded back on the hunt when The Torch delivers, perhaps, the best phone call ever (below) and a secret firm more or less forces Riley to act as a guardian to the produced replicant.
YouTube: Jean-Claude Van Damme Trying To Act Tough In Replicant
As always with the Obscure Movie Villains articles, the villains in question have a comedic edge to them or they occur in a comedic situation – Van Damme’s The Torch – murdering aside – is one of the funniest serious villains ever. Starting with appearance, The Torch’s status as a Style Icon is debatable – he wears a black leather overcoat, yellow-lens sunglasses, and has unwashed long jet black hair. Do direct-to-video serial killers and arsonists ever look normal? Then onto The Torch’s non-killing/fire-starting actions, he, for reasons unknown, seems to think that Rooker’s Jake Riley won’t be able to find him on a bus, despite not actually hiding – he’s just sat on a seat – AND looking straight at Riley…wow.
Twitter: #JCVD casually “hiding” from Michael Rooker in ‘Replicant’… https://t.co/2VxcDMPK8J (@ThisIsTheDom)
The Torch’s inspiration for murder stems from his childhood: he had a rough time with his mother, therefore he murders the mothers of young children. Later in Replicant, audiences are treated to a number of weird sequences involving both The Torch and his elderly mother. Very, very strange indeed.
Furthermore, like almost every Van Damme character, The Torch is a skilled fighter and terrific at causing trouble as seen below:
YouTube: Replicant Best Fight Scene
Replicant‘s balancing of action thriller and sci-fi is far from perfect – so imperfect to the point where the sci-fi elements and scenes feel somewhat out of place and slightly awkward. Maybe the average sci-fi setup early on in the film is a sign of its direct-to-video status, perhaps, as said elements felt a tad cheap in comparison to other sci-fi action films from around that period. Ringo Lam, the director of Replicant, is not a sci-fi director, instead, he’s an action director from Hong Kong’s Heroic Bloodshed era, thus possibly answering why Replicant‘s sci-fi elements and scenes are the way in which I have mentioned. Criticism aside, Replicant‘s sci-fi scenes are hilarious at times, as seen below:
YouTube: Replicant: The Torch gets angry/The Replicant is born/The Replicant meets Jake
Conclusively, as Van Damme is rarely cast as a villain – in either theatrical or direct-to-video films – his role as The Torch in Replicant is arguably the most notable villainous role in his career, or at least, the role is on par with his more recent villainous role as Jean Vilain in 2012’s The Expendables 2.