Another disappointing actioner from once-reliable superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme, now reduced to making movies for the straight-to-video market that only his most die-hard fans will bother checking out. THE ORDER is an utterly predictable affair that astonishingly turns into an open rip-off of INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE towards the final proceedings, with Van Damme as Indy, complete with a bunch of religious bad guys, his injured father, an ancient underground temple and a series of traps that must be navigated. Before then, the film plays its action hand with endless chases, ill-judged comedy (laugh as you see Van Damme dress up as an Orthodox Jew!) and some slow-motion martial arts action that fails to impress on every level.
The film lacks both the level of violence and suspense from previous Van Damme actioners, even the dark and edgy REPLICANT was miles better than this one. The action is plentiful but rarely exciting, consisting of poorly-edited punch-ups, some cool-but-not-THAT-impressive car and motorbike chases; the villains here intend to deport Van Damme rather than to kill him like in previous movies, which makes things that bit less exciting. Most of Van Damme's opponents seem to be security guards or policemen rather than genuine evil guys (until the oh-so-predictable conclusion, that is) so its less easy to support his violent actions.
One astonishing thing about this movie is the budget. Filmed in Israel with plenty of extras and props, it looks impressive. Plus there's a score from noted composed Pino Donaggio. Another surprising thing is the supporting cast. I remember feeling sorry for Van Damme when he couldn't get Harvey Keitel or Ray Liotta to star in REPLICANT with him and he had to make do with Michael Rooker (not that there's anything to do with cult favourite Rooker). In a 180 degree turnaround, here he has screen legend Charlton Heston making a cameo appearance! Although Heston's role is a small, money-grabbing one - not that he can need much money - at least he gets to share screen time with Van Damme.
Also appearing is Ben Cross, another respectable actor caught up in dross, here playing a corrupt police lieutenant (now where have we have THAT one before?) who makes our hero's life a misery. The female lead is taken by newcomer Sofia Milos, making a good impression and mixing good looks with strong acting, whilst the chief villain is played by none other than Brian Thompson, an established bad guy for many years who is sadly underused and hidden behind a joke-shop beard this time around. THE ORDER isn't that bad a film, just that the story and script scream average all the way through. With the level of talent involved - including the return of Sheldon Lettich, himself responsible for some of Van Damme's most entertaining, if not best, movies - I expected a whole lot more from this failed attempt. Yes, there is a lot of action, but generally its lacking in style, content and originality.