A few months ago, I decided to do the entire universe a favor. For several days and nights, I immersed myself into the chaotically limber world of Jean-Claude Van Damme in search of a simple answer: How would JCVD’s leading men — all of them charismatic, objective-driven and well-versed in violence — fare in a sanctioned, modern, MMA environment?
It was a difficult task. But, with the help of some state-of-the-art data-analyzing equipment (my eyes) and extremely sophisticated science tools (my fingers), I was able to produce the world’s most important document (a very silly thing), which was published in two parts last November.
The series was met with widespread acclaim and permanently transformed the very perception of existence as we know it, but saving humankind with my words was still not enough for me. My mission, while beautiful and perfect, still felt incomplete. So today, as part of my undying commitment to making everything better for everyone, I offer the third — and likely final — part of the “Van Damme’s leading men as MMA fighters” series.
Double Team (Jack Quinn)
“Double Team” is a movie about so many things that you need to watch it a minimum of eight times to be able to retain even 70 percent of it. It is also a transcendental work of art, once described by a critic as “wretched, ridiculous, incoherent.” Since I don’t even know where to start with this one, I’ll let Wikipedia’s short summary set the tone:
“Van Damme plays counter-terrorist agent Jack Quinn, who is assigned to bring an elusive terrorist known as Stavros to justice. Things become personal when Stavros kidnaps Quinn’s pregnant wife after his own lover and child were killed in an assassination attempt that went awry. Aiding Quinn in his rescue is his flamboyant weapons dealer Yaz.”
Somehow, though, the description still doesn’t account for all the absurdity packed into these glorious 93 minutes. It doesn’t cover the fact that the flamboyant weapons dealer (Dennis Rodman!) keeps his equipment in a BDSM-themed room inside a fetish club that has actual human divers in aquariums lining the walls, for instance. Or the fact that Stavros (Mickey Rourke!!!) once puts a grenade in a crib with an actual baby during a fight at a fully occupied maternity ward (?!). It also doesn’t even get into “The Colony,” described by Wikipedia as “an inescapable, invisible penal institution island for secret agents,” where Quinn lands after he fails at his mission to kill Stavros.
“The Colony” is where we get our first Van Damme split, and also where he cuts a piece of his own thumb and uses it, along with an eraser and a can of coke, to concoct a gadget that can cheat the fingerprinting machine that checks on him. Quinn manages to escape the island, despite the fact the ocean around it is riddled with lasers, by hanging off the cargo attached to the outside of an actual airplane as it flies off. During this time, by the way, Quinn’s family thinks he’s dead, and Stavros is already plotting terrible things involving his grieving wife and their unborn baby.
A lot of things happen after that, including horny cybermonks, many basketball puns, and finally a big showdown in what I believe is supposed to be the Colosseum involving an inexplicably (but welcome) shirtless Mickey Rourke, a tiger and some landmines.
It’s a tight battle, but Quinn, with the help of Yaz, manages to get shirtless Mickey Rourke to step on one of the landmines and he blows up, taking the tiger and a large portion of the building with him. The good guys all make it out alive — including Quinn’s newborn baby, who was hanging out there for all of this because apparently the film hadn’t yet put enough innocent babies in peril. Everyone is OK except for Stavros’ posse and a historically priceless structure that also happens to be one of the wonders of the world.
Pros: Quick reflexes, ability to dodge bullets, basic morals (refuses to shoot child, tries not to kill babies), obstinate & crafty (will not let limitations of inescapable, invisible penal institution island stop him from staying swole and limber), improvisational skills, core strength, grip strength, so good at being a spy no one would let him retire, can stay underwater for a long time, not afraid of heights, kind (asks plane dude if he’s got his parachutes before throwing him off plane), charming, physically incapable of exhaustion, tested against several opponents including ninja dude with a knife on his foot, focused (undistracted by shirtless Mickey Rourke’s abs), family-driven, adamant about not dying.
Cons: Allows himself to be dragged out of retirement despite wife’s pregnancy, fails at killing Stavros the first time, way too into basketball puns, is mean to tiger.
Verdict: It’s always a little hard to fully assess Van Damme’s non-tournament-fighter characters, seeing as we don’t know how they would fare in organized environments. But, in light of the whole “escaped from inescapable, invisible penal institution island by holding on to a bunch of cargo attached to a plane as it went through the clouds” thing, I am willing to take my chances on Quinn.
Honestly, there is no reason why he wouldn’t succeed in an MMA environment. Quinn is clearly very fit, is apparently physically unable to produce lactic acid, is in outstanding cardiovascular shape and can dodge literal bullets. The fighting skills are obvious, too, as shown by the fact that he suffers several murder attempts by an endless parade of men and only shirtless Mickey Rourke and barefoot ninja dude with the foot knife gave him anything close to a fight.
And that’s not to mention the creativity, ingenuity, and ability to stay cool despite spending literally every second of his life running from some kind of existential threat to himself and/or everything he holds dear. Given his skillset, backstory and highlight-reel potential, Quinn would be a big get for any major promotion.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, however, we know that an initially successful UFC run would probably end in a depressing three-round effort spent under some 23-year-old wrestler with bad tattoos. Bellator, in turn, might be a little more generous in its match-making and afford Quinn a chance to shine against fellow strikers who don’t mind getting spinning-kicked in the face a lot. He will enjoy a good four years of popularity before the world finds out about his participation in both the fiery demise of an endangered feline and the destruction of a beloved historical monument.
Timecop (Max Walker)
As you may have guessed from the title, Timecop is about a cop who travels in time; more specifically, it’s about a cop who guards time.
As we learn early in the movie, right after some dude in a horse steals from the confederate army, time-traveling is now a thing. That’s cool, but also dangerous, considering both its financial allure and the fact that any changes to the past might cause unpredictable “ripples” in the future. The U.S. also wouldn’t want Russia getting their hands on this kind of stuff, so they need a force to make sure no one is doing time-related shenanigans. Thus, the Time Enforcement Commission (TEC) is born.
Van Damme is agent Max Walker — who, like 45% of Van Damme’s characters, is enjoying a state of nauseating marital bliss with his hot wife until evil men with terrible haircuts bring it all to a screeching halt. On the same day he gets offered a job in the TEC — which is also the day when his wife was planning to tell him she was pregnant — but most importantly, the day when he stops a mall robber with a standing split (?), a series of armed men ambush the couple, shoot Walker several times (don’t worry, he was wearing a vest) and explode his house with his wife in it.
Ten years later, Walker is a TEC officer, and we see him going back in time to bust a former partner who’s trying to take financial advantage of the 1929 market crash. Walker fights several men at the ex-partner’s fancy skyscraper officer, including one distinguished gentleman who “went 10 rounds with John L. Sullivan himself,” and barely breaks a sweat before jumping off the window after his ex-partner and capturing him mid-fall to take him to this time tribunal thing.
His ex-partner refuses to testify against the man who’s behind this time-traveling tomfoolery — senator McComb — and gets sentenced to death, which in this case means continuing to plummet to his death. Walker now knows McComb — who, by the way, we’re told is gaining popularity with the anti-abortion, pro-death-penalty, anti-immigration crowd — is guilty of messing with time, but there’s nothing he can do without hard evidence. Walker is then paired with a new partner, Sarah Fielding, and his dislike for her looks kind of sexist until we find out she’s actually in McComb’s pocket as well. My bad.
Anyway, they go back in time and catch 2004 McComb giving a major tip to his 1994 self. There’s a snafu, Fielding turns on Walker, gets injured, and Walker escapes back to 2004 — only to find a future in which McComb is a leading presidential candidate who is trying to shut down the TEC so that he can do more time crimes.
Long story short, Walker goes back in time again and ends up meeting his still-alive wife, who he now knows was pregnant, to change the events that took place in his house. There’s a lot of fighting and rain and dramatic slips off of roofs, but Walker eventually manages to get past and present McComb to touch, which is a big no-no because, obviously, “the same matter cannot occupy the same space.” McComb then becomes a giant gelatinous red blob and presumably disappears forever, while Walker returns to the future to find that his wife is still alive, the TEC is working fine, and he has a whole-ass kid now.
Pros: Strong sense of justice (stops mall robber on his tracks, works hard to dismantle profitable time-traveling schemes, confronts evil senator dude even when no one believed him), ethical & moral, drops dude who went 10 rounds with John L. Sullivan himself, flexible & elusive, agile legs, knockout power, faster than fire weapons and electricity itself, good reflexes, skilled with knives, can full-split his way out of basically anything, nerves of steel, apparently cannot be stopped by any human person or any human weapon, good instincts (was right about Fielding and pretty much all the other things), can time-travel, can jump off very tall buildings, can hoist himself off of various objects and surfaces, remarkable grip strength (holds himself & pregnant wife off of wet roof with one hand that bad guy is stepping on), there are two of him at one point.
Cons: A little too subservient to authority at points, not the best team player, kind of sentimental, impulsive, quite a lot of people die on his watch, eventually messes with the time-space continuum.
Verdict: The question here is pretty simple: Take away the time-traveling element and the weapons and can Walker still thrive?
The answer to that is a clear yes. There are several instances of hand-to-hand combat throughout the movie and Walker is the immensely superior fighter in all of them.
Predictably, the striking is where he really shines, but he does show other abilities — like when he easily throws a bad guy over his shoulder. His kicking game is not only agile, but powerful, and while he does seem to spend a little too much energy on flying and spinning attacks that aren’t necessarily more effective than the basic stuff, that doesn’t seem to be a problem considering he literally never gets tired.
Not only is Walker in peak physical condition, but he’s also got a stellar sense of distance, remarkable reflexes and some solid fight IQ. When the distinguished gentleman dude who went 10 rounds with John L. Sullivan himself challenges him to a fist-fight, for instance, Walker chooses to stick with his strengths and kick him into oblivion instead. All things considered, both past and future iterations of Walker have all the tools to succeed.
But then the other question arises: Will he be driven enough to fight without the motivation of stopping bad guys from doing bad guy things?
And that, to me, is less clear. While Walker is obviously able to turn it on, and can be ruthless if the occasion calls, he does seem like a bit of a gentle soul. He spends nights on end re-watching old videos of his wife while reciting all the lines, even ten years later. He’s shaken by the news of his unborn child. He pushes his ex-partner to turn McComb in so he doesn’t have to die. He forgives Fielding for her betrayal.
He doesn’t seem to particularly enjoy fighting fellow humans, as much as he enjoys being an enforcer of the law. Would he be even interested in pursuing a career that involves violence against men whose only crimes are generic nicknames and publicly asking to be in Joe Rogan’s podcast? Would he have the patience for the empty threats and the weigh-in shoves and the Twitter call-outs? Would a man who saved time itself be interested in listening to the Colby Covingtons of the world mocking his accent and making silly puns with his name?
I have my doubts.
Hard Target (Chance Boudreaux)
One of the 145,781 different reinterpretations of Richard Connell’s 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” Hard Target is essentially a tale of rich assholes using their wealth to kill poor people, but in a less subtle way than how they normally do it in everyday life.
The movie starts with a man being shot — well, technically crossbow’d — to death after a frantic hunt through the streets of New Orleans. He’s a war vet, as we find from the shot of his name tag, and we know shit is very shady because the man who’s behind it all has an upturned collar and is shot from a lower angle making a satisfied face. The cartoonishly evil man is Emil Fouchon, and he performs his evilness with the help of an equally evil associate named Van Cleef who is also The Mummy. Their operation consists of finding unhoused men — specifically former soldiers — and helping wealthy psychopaths hunt and kill them. Totally normal stuff.
We later find out the dead man (Douglas Binder) had a daughter, Natasha, who has really great eyebrows but is a little careless about flashing her money and ends up being attacked by a gang of disproportionally violent muggers. Her distress doesn’t last long, however, as a knight in shining mullet appears.
Chance Boudreaux is his name, and we immediately know three things about him: He’s broke, he can fight several men at once, and he’s got a very particular sense of style. A former marine, Boudreaux makes his money by working on boats, but his inability to pay union fees might keep him from landing his next gig, so he takes Natasha’s offer to serve as her guide and protector as she searches for her father.
They eventually find out he is dead, but the evil men placed his body in a burning house and, with the help of a corrupt medical examiner, the death is deemed accidental. Boudreaux, however, cleverly sees evidence of foul play in Binder’s pierced name tags. We also discover that Binder was distributing flyers for some sleazy guy who helped supply Fouchon with men to hunt. Going for Binder was a mistake, though, as they did not know he actually had family. The evildoers could have just left right then and there, but decide to do one more hunt — this time for the nice man who helped Natasha and Boudreaux — and things escalate from there.
A lot of death, explosions, gunfights and chaos ensue, and Boudreaux and Natasha go on a desperate escape from the evil men, who are now joined by several of the other rich assholes who like hunting down poor people for sport.
As they run to Bourdreaux’s uncle’s house deep in the bayou, Bourdreaux rides motorcycles on his feet, makes risky jumps into moving vehicles and famously punches a rattlesnake in the head before using his teeth to remove its tail and set it up as a trap. It’s glorious. There’s a big fight in this Mardi Gras storage place thing and Fouchon is the only one of his hunting party left alive. He dies while trying to dismantle a grenade that Bourdreaux left in his pants.
Pros: Strong sense of justice, tries to avoid violence if possible, glorious mullet, usual leg dexterity, combines great striking game with solid trips, is able to fight several violent muggers at the same time, remarkable defense (none of the several violent muggers hit him even once), submission skills (snaps a violent mugger’s arm in half), ability to shoot weapons, street-savvy, good deduction skills, great cardio, endurance (goes several rounds with fresh opponents, gets chased for several kilometers of open country while under all kinds of existential threats and can still easily throw spinning, flying shit), possibly fireproof, good at riding motorcycles, good at riding motorcycles while standing and shooting and heading directly into an incoming car, can outrun bullets, can halt possessed snake’s attack by punching snake in the face, can create snake trap by removing its shaky tail thing with his bare teeth, can ride horses, can ride horses while dodging bullets and shooting weapons, can fight on several terrain types and in jeans, resourceful, acrobatic, variety of powerful spinning attacks, outstanding hip mobility, not afraid to play a little dirty
Cons: Too much denim, no driver’s license, a little rude to Natasha sometimes, a bit of a show-off, takes too many risks with his stunts, gimmicky.
Verdict: Assuming that all the running from bad guys and fighting them to the death under all sorts of adverse conditions has not permanently damaged his joints, the case for Boudreaux’s fighting success is obvious. This is a man who not only has all the skills and the conditioning, but also the right mentality for the job. He doesn’t like to use unnecessary violence, but he’s not afraid of it.
He obviously has no qualms about pulling the trigger when needed. He doesn’t just win; he does it with flair. His butt is great. Boudreaux’s previous experience with the marines should endear him quickly to the fans, and his hustler mentality should resonate with a wide audience. Also, If the MMA community is still this hung up on Lyoto Machida’s pee drinking more than a decade later, imagine when they hear about a guy who captured a rattlesnake, punched it in the head, and then bit off its tail. Truly, it writes itself.
Universal Soldier (Luc Deveraux)
Universal Soldier starts with Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren simultaneously killing each other in Vietnam after Lundgren went insane and killed a bunch of people and made a necklace out of ears. The movie could have pretty much ended there and moviegoers would still have gotten their money’s worth, but director Roland Emmerich is generous enough to allow us to continue into a future where we still get to see Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren but this time as undead super soldiers.
After dying, Van Damme (Luc Deveraux) and Dolph Lundgren (Andrew Scott) are frozen and reanimated by scientists in a program formally known as UniSol (Universal Soldier) but that I like to call BZC (Beefy Zombies in Camouflage).
We first become acquainted with the power of these undead hotties when a small group of them are sent to diffuse a hostage situation at the Hoover Dam. They climb very tall things and seem very chill about it and also have great aim. The operation is successful, but then Deveraux gets a flashback to that fateful night in Vietnam and starts realizing he still has human memories. While the hostage situation is unfolding, a TV reporter who may not always play by the rules but always get the story is fired for being late to her live hit, and decides to redeem herself by following the UniSol people and getting the story of what’s really behind the whole operation.
The reporter and her cameraman are able to sneak into the base alarmingly easy. I mean, if you’re going to run a top-secret zombie soldier operation you might want to consider some electrified fences or whatever, but I digress.
What matters is that she finds the bullet-riddled body of one of the zombie soldiers from the Hoover Dam operation and is understandably freaked out when the body gets up. After an alarmingly long time of allowing a total stranger poke around their ridiculously unprotected base, the UniSol people finally realize they have intruders. Deveraux and Scott are sent to deal with the cameraman and the reporter, who also has pictures of the zombie soldier, but Scott turns out to still be a raging bloodthirsty asshole and shoots the cameraman right in the head. Deveraux, however, is still kind of nice and tries to save the reporter. They then get into a car and escape, and a chase ensues.
We soon find out that Deveraux, like the other zombie soldiers, has one critical flaw: He overheats. At least we get to see his ass, which is cool. We also find that the reporter has been framed with the cameraman’s murder. Meanwhile, people are finding out at the UniSol base how much of a loose cannon Scott really is. He is also hitting the “muscle enhancers” hard. Things happen, including (a once again naked) Deveraux removing his own chip and later discovering the joy of food in a diner scene that frankly changed my life for the better. There’s also Jerry Orbach playing a doctor who explains the whole UniSol thing to Deveraux and the reporter.
The pair eventually gets arrested, but escape during a high-stakes ambush that involves buses and trucks falling over the Grand Canyon and exploding, and it seems like it’s all going to be OK when Deveraux and Roberts go meet Deveraux’s parents and let them know he’s still (kind of) alive.
The movie could have ended there but thankfully doesn’t, because that means we get more sexy Deveraux vs. Scott action. And by that I mean they fight, not have intercourse. Though I’m sure there’s some fanfic out there somewhere who goes there. In any case, Deveraux gets his ass whooped for a long time, until he gets ahold of some of Scott’s sweet muscle juice and turns things around. Scott survives being impaled, but not ground to death by a hay harvester, and Deveraux and the reporter (who we sort of thought was dead but wasn’t) embrace at the end.
Pros: Not a genocidal maniac, still has a moral compass, can climb up and down enormous dams with minimal effort, can close up own wounds with cigarette lighters, can later regenerate said wounds, literally feels no pain, is literally a super person, intelligent despite being brain-washed into obedience, can single-handedly push occupied cars at a running pace, can break walls by jumping through them, can still perform athletically and fight several diner patrons after a heavy meal, basically indestructible, kills Dolph Lundgren three times, still loves his mom and dad.
Cons: A little too haunted by his humanity, is dead, overheats, a little too sentimental for a robot soldier person, gets his ass whooped by other robot soldier person, resorts to performance-enhancing substances.
Verdict: Deveraux’s case is interesting because, by all accounts, he would be a great get for any major promotion. I mean, an exciting striker who is not only tremendously skilled and pleasing to the human eye, but who was also literally murdered in Vietnam and defected from a top-secret program of genetically enhanced undead soldiers after reconnecting with his latent humanity?
Talk about a back story. Also, his butt.
Unfortunately, there’s one minor issue: Deveraux happens to not be entirely human or technically alive. He doesn’t really feel pain, or exhaustion, and he can kind of regenerate. Technically, you can temporarily halt him with several bullets or metal spikes, but there really is no evidence that a regular human body can cause him any kind of damage. Of course, the fact that he could literally kill another human with minimal effort wouldn’t necessarily be an impediment for some promotions, but he would be sure to run into regulatory issues with local commissions. I mean, how does one even go about medicals performed on a hyper-accelerated body that self-heals and does not age?
At the same time, Deveraux has that whole situation with his inability to control his own temperature, putting him in the unfortunate position of being pretty much a perfect fighter with one massive, dumb flaw. Could that flaw be exploited by a regular human, one who’s active and well-conditioned enough to basically outmove Deveraux and push him into overdrive? That, as far as we know, isn’t necessarily impossible.
However, is that the kind of fight we really want to watch? And say we forget flimsy flesh-and-blood humans and pair him only against fellow zombie soldiers — is the sight of traumatized war veterans getting decapitated, dismembered and impaled mid-fight something with mainstream appeal? Sure, we could try to revive Scott for the 14th time and make that grudge match happen, but are we as a society ready to watch half a stadium root for a bloodthirsty war criminal who killed innocent civilians and wore their ears in a necklace? All things considered, I say Deveraux should just stick to offering his services as the world’s sturdiest sparring partner.
We’re on to Universal Solider, which I hadn’t seen in quite a few years, and dare I say it holds the fuck up. Also, reporter lady who might not always play by the rules but always gets the story is a lot cooler than I remembered.
— Fernanda Prates (@NandaPrates_) April 29, 2021