WRONG BET: DVD
On receiving news that his brother in Los Angeles is seriously injured, Lyon Gaultier (Jean-Claude Van Damme) deserts the French Foreign Legion from a remote outpost in North Africa and gets a deckhand job on a boat - which unexpectedly lands him (pennyless) in New York. Fleeing from the Legion's security force officers who have orders to bring him back at any cost, Lyon reluctantly turns to the illegal bare-knuckle underground fighting circuit to raise the money he needs to help his brother's family - with the help of larrikin Joshua (Harrison Page). His final confrontation is with the giant champion, Attila (Abdel Qissi) - on which of them will the big punters bet?
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It starts with a juicy action sequence - but what's notable here is not the action but the writing. In a quick one-two, the filmmakers establish not only situation but character. We know what kinda guy Leon (Jean-Claude Van Damme ) is. This is a good sign. Tension is instantly set up with a real investment; naturally, we are on his side; he's putting family first.
Accompanied by an occasionally jazzy score, the film has a solid dramatic base on which to build the Jean-Claude Van Damme action. And the likeable rogue Joshua (Harrison Page) gives us plenty of entertainment along the fight strewn way.
Incongruously enough, the homeless and penniless Joshua and Leon turn up at West Hollywood's St James' Club on Sunset Boulevard in search of shelter; this art deco palace (in which I once enjoyed a party) is the antithesis of their normal milieu, but is woven into the plot with seamless ease. This leads into a Pretty Womanesque shopping spree, except the shopper is Leon and the payer is the wonderfully amoral businesswoman Cynthia (Debora Rennard - who is allowed top ham it up a bit).
The fight scenes are well choreographed and well shot, giving us the overview - unlike many recent films which prefer the in-close and fast edit approach, which shows a fight as just a blur of blows. The gambling crowd that follows these bare knuckle, no rules fights provide the cash for the fighters, and the variety of fight locations is fun. One is in a half empty swimming pool, another inside an empty warehouse, where the fighters are illuminated by a circle of the cars that bring the punters.
The fight story is glued together by Leon's motivation to help his brother's widow (Lisa Pelikan) and her little girl (a cute and talented Ashley Johnson), a device that ennobles Leon and also generates tension through their dysfunctional relationship. And all the while, the Foreign Legion heavies are on his tail, to take him back and punish him for escaping. Plenty of tension, there there, too. But in the end it all comes down to the big, climactic fight.
Published May 21, 2009
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WRONG BET: DVD (R)
CAST: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Harrison Page, Deborah Rennard, Lisa Pelikan, Ashley Johnson, Brian Thompson, Voyo Goric, Jason Adams, Abdel Qissi
PRODUCER: Erik Karson, Ash R. Shah
DIRECTOR: Sheldon Lettich
SCRIPT: Sheldon Lettich, Jean Claude Van Damme (based on screenplay by S.N.Warren)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert C. New
EDITOR: Mark Conte
MUSIC: John Scott
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Gregory Pickrell
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
PRESENTATION: 4:3; DD 2.0
SPECIAL FEATURES: Short film: Monaco Forever - 31 mins (Van Damme's first film); trailer
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Beyond
DVD RELEASE: December 3, 2008
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.