Long before he won the Internet last year by performing an “epic” split between two Volvo trucks, Jean-Claude Van Damme’s talent for deploying elegant physical punctuation marks to otherwise rote action sequences was already beyond reproach. Such gifts are never on display in Peter Hyams’s Enemies Closer, a predictable Z-grade actioner that emanates a distinctly straight-to-video banality of execution from its very first shot of a small plane taking a seemingly intentional nosedive into a body of water near the U.S.-Canadian border.
JCVD stars as Xander, a drug lord and possibly bogus Canadian mountie chasing after the “really naughty shit” that went down with the plane. After lowering the defenses of a group of U.S. border patrollers with a declaration of his veganism and stats about the links between cow farts and the world’s methane pollution, the goon quickly and spiritlessly dispatches them with all matter of office equipment, including a broken compact disc. From there, he sets his sights on a former Navy SEAL turned park ranger, Henry (Tom Everett Scott), to retrieve his waterlogged drugs.
The nature of Henry’s relationship to a stranger, Clay (Orlando Jones), who seeks revenge against him for the death of his brother, is telegraphed by the film’s title, possibly an abstraction of a famous line from the Godfather II. The title is also symptomatic of a screenplay that keeps moral ambiguity at bay while tritely regurgitating familiar genre tropes and having its characters speak tirelessly and inexplicably in quips. JCVD may not say it best, but he does say it aptly, when his manically cartoonish baddie caps one murder with the assertion that “shit happens.”