'Lionheart' is silly, but it's also entertaining


January 16, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

You can say this much about Jean-Claude Van Damme's ''Lionheart.'' It's considerably better than his last film, ''Death Warrant,'' which only recently vacated the local screens.

''Death Warrant'' was plain silly. ''Lionheart'' is silly, too, but the producers know that and go for the laughs. Their aim is comic book, and they hit the mark. ''Lionheart'' is ridiculous, but it is also entertaining, in a ridiculous sort of way.

Van Damme plays a young man who goes A.W.O.L. from the French Foreign Legion when he learns that his brother, set afire by drug merchants in Los Angeles, wants to see Lyon (Van Damme) before he dies.

The Legion superiors won't allow Lyon to leave, so he bolts, after flattening any number of men who would prevent his departure.

Van Damme is the new Chuck Norris. He's very good with his hands and feet. If you can distinguish his technique from that of Norris, and before him, Bruce Lee, it is that Van Damme's specialty is kickboxing.

When Lyon gets to the United States, he makes his way to Los Angeles by allowing himself to be used as a street fighter.

His buddy-manager is Harrison Page, who is supposed to be making his movie debut in the film. Maybe, but he looks very much like the Harrison Page who did a few skin movies a few years back for Russ Meyer. Page doesn't take the film from the star, but he does give him great comic support.

''Lionheart'' includes exciting, extensive fight footage. At the moment, Van Damme is willing to use this talent. A few years from now, he will probably minimize it and go more deeply into action and comedy. Enjoy this part of him before he does. Enjoy Van Damme's new movie for what it is, a trivial but entertaining film.

It is also a bit irresponsible. The opening scene in which Lyon's brother is doused with gasoline is unwitting. It shouldn't be long before someone, inspired by this scene, tries to imitate it.

''Lionheart'' is showing at local theaters. Lisa Pelikan is the brother's wife, struggling to make it with her small daughter.


** Jean-Claude Van Damme is a kickboxer who bolts the French Foreign Legion to visit the brother who is dying in Los Angeles.

CAST: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Harrison Page, Deborah Rennard, Lisa Pelikan, Ashley Johnson

DIRECTOR: Sheldon Lettich

RATING: R (language, violence)

) RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes

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