The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at] I'd love to check out what you got.



Hi everyone, it's been a while since I checked the page, and I wanted to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, it appears a dubious site has claimed the old url, meaning any link in any review that goes to the old mattmovieguy url is corrupt. I'm in the process of trying to remove them all, but it's a lot! It's best not to click on any link without hovering over it first to make sure it doesn't have mattmovieguy in the url.

Second, it appears since my last trip to the blog, Photobucket has decided to charge for third party hosting, meaning none of my images are appearing anymore. That's simply an aesthetic issue, but still annoying.

Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Knock Off (1998)


Now that we're somewhat back to the regular schedule, it's time for our box office bomb of the week. That's right, the Jean Claude Van Damme classic Knock Off. This was Van Damme's ill-fated dip into the Hong Kong action scene, co-starring the ever hard to watch but he was funny on SNL Rob Schneider. It would also be his second to last gasp in a mainstream theatrical role, with the last gasp being his Universal Soldier sequel.

Knock Off is about two guys, Van Damme and Schneider, who work for a jeans company. The Russians have developed green exploding nano bombs, and they've put them in knock off jeans, ripping off the jeans for the company Van Damme and Schneider work for. After that it's a series of a lot of people being revealed CIA agents, a lot of green tinted explosions, and some pretty solid Van Damme martial arts.


On the last Notorious BIG album released while he was alive, Life After Death, he does a song called "Notorious Thugs", where he raps with the Bone Thugs N' Harmony. If you don't know, the Bone Thugs rap very quickly, so quickly that even if you know the words, you'd probably have trouble keeping up. Anyway, BIG did a decent job emulating their style. It was the same for Van Damme here. He comes from the 1990s school of slower, more dramatic fight scenes, and probably no one dramatized them more than he did. Here he was forced to be fast like a Jet Li or Jackie Chan, and like BIG, he did a decent job. I know Van Damme gets nailed all the time for his martial arts, but he really was a professional kickboxer before he was an actor-- he's no Matt Damon.

The rest of the film was ridiculous. Green flame? Was the Green Lantern attacking? Maybe Sean Connery as the Green Knight. And exploding jeans, that was just amazing. The movie was just all over the place, like the director was making it up as he went along. Don't get me wrong, there were some great scenes, especially with Van Damme fighting, but there were also scenes like the one where Lela Rochon is tied to a chair, then an explosion knocks her over and we see her hands freed, and then she's on the ground, her hands magically tied again. I understand the director saying "we can't reshoot that explosion, we just have to go with it with her hands coming free to brace herself."; but then he's got to cut out the following scenes where she has her hands tied. It was a metaphor for the movie.


We are two films away from having the whole Van Damme DTV oeuvre on the DTVC. I have seen Black Eagle, so we'll do that one soon, and after that it's No Retreat, No Surrender. My friend at Movies in the Attic has been on me to do this one for some time, though, and it's really a much more fun movie than Black Eagle, so I decided to go with it first. I'm curious to see what The Eagle Path is like, because unlike Seagal and Lundgren, Van Damme's post theater DTV career has been one of denial. He's fought his decline in relevance tooth and nail, and it's been evident in everything he's done. JCVD felt like his way of coming to terms with his new reality, but hearing that he turned down a role in Stallone's The Expendables makes me think he's still the old him. Knock Off, if anything, was probably a major blow to his ego that he wasn't the marquee that puts butts in the seats like it did in the 90s, but instead of moving on, he spent the ten years after trying to reclaim a past glory that was never there.

Rob Schneider. I don't know what else to say. You know the movies, you know the pain. Deuce Bigelow, The Animal, The Hot Chick. A guy who was so funny on SNL was so not after. His leading roles read like a list of Billy Madison movies, and in fact, he's appeared in quite a few of his friend Adam Sandler's films. I remember him on Conan O'Brian teaching a class on self-defence, where he sang "Kung-Fu Fighting". That was hilarious. How can that be? Is it the material? It definitely was the material here. Schneider as a CIA agent? Sounds like another Billy Madison movie.


There was one bright spot: Micheal Wong. He played the detective after the explosives, and also served as the one voice of sanity, which meant, unfortunately, that he had a limited role in the film. His imdb bio is almost all Hong Kong movies, so I may never see him again, but I'll try. Whatever happens, Michael Wong, I'll never forget you, you were one of the good ones. By the way, he's an Aries. Just saying.

You can get this right now on Netflix's Watch Instantly feature, but I don't know if you should. The martial arts are pretty solid, but it's a very bad movie. Like very, very bad. Like Rob Schneider bad.

For more info:


  1. When I saw that green flame, the snakers coming apart shot where we get to go inside of a sweaty knock off sneaker as it falls apart...and quite a few other things made me think: "wow, Van Damme's cinematic career is really in trouble here" and I was right, he never quite recuperated from this one.

    Wow, No Retreat No Surrender! I remember that one, cant wait to see that review man! It was one of those movies I watched as a kid! Its the one I saw Van Damme on for the first time.

  2. I was thinking about it, and if Van Damme could check his ego at the door, I wonder if he could get a role as say a baddie in a Statham or Vin Diesel film.

    I never thought to do what you did and put this film in its 1998 context, but it's very telling. The film was meant to be off-beat and silly, but we as an audience had begun to see Van Damme and his splits and buttcheeks as a joke, so by doing a joke of a movie, he reinforced it for us, as opposed to showed us any kind of range he might have had as an action star. It was a bad career move at a time when he could ill afford it, and like you said, he never recuperated.

  3. I think Van Dammes theatrical career died by a double whammy of back to back bad films:

    First really awful one was Double Impact, with whats his name as a sidekick, Dennis Rodman.

    Then, follow that with Knock Off and its certafied that your theatrical career will end and that your straight to video one will begin.

    I had not realized this, but Van Dammes film career began as a background dancer in the break dancing movie called Breakin way back in 1984! Holy shit!

  4. I meant Double Team, not Double Impact! Sorry about that.

    I remember I went to theaters to watch Knock Off, and I actually made my friends watch it. The hated me for it! And they were all laughing through out the whole film, kind of reminded me of that one time when I went to see Eck vs. Sever in theaters as well, people were snickering all over the place.

    One particular scene in Knock Off really disconnected me from the movie, its the one where he is fighting while on top of some bamboo scaffold, the editing in that scene is so bad that you can hardly understand what the hell is happening on screen!

    Also, I agree, Van Damme could play a villain, I just dont get why modern action directors dont give these "old" action stars a break in more theatrical films?

  5. I really think Van Damme would never take a role in a Hollywood film where he wasn't the star. It's an ego thing. He turned down a role in the new Stallone film The Expendables, which Dolph, Gary Daniels, and Jason Statham all signed on for.

  6. He should have jumped on that one! I mean, it would have given him a gigantic boost into peoples consciousness again.

    Too bad his ego gets in the way like that.