'Lionheart: Special Edition Rewind Collection'
(Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lisa Pelikan, Harrison Page, Ashley Johnson, Deborah Rennard, Brian Thompson, Billy Blanks, Jeff Speakman, et al / Blu ray+DVD / R / (1990) 2018 / MVD Rewind)
Overview: Jean-Claude Van Damme ('Black Eagle,' 'Hard Target') stars as a soldier drawn into the world of modern-day gladiators fighting for the amusement of the rich in this fast moving action thriller; co-written by Van Damme himself!
Blu-ray Verdict: As we all know by now, the legend that is himself Jean Claude Van Damme stars in this action tale of a Legionnaire gone AWOL to sort out his families financial problems (by way of bare knuckle fighting, of course).
Lyon Gaultier (Van Damme) escapes his post in Djibouti with the French Foreign Legion when his brother is set on fire by drug dealers in LA. His brother's wife rebuffs him and and two agents are pursuing him to drag him back to the Foreign Legion.
Once in the USA he stumbles into the underground fight scene which he quickly becomes successful at and soon enlists a street hustler as a manager, Joshua (Harrison Page) who gives him the nickname Lionheart.
His success attracts the attention of a fight promoter Cynthia (Deborah Rennard) who gets Lyon for several no holds barred street fights. However it seems the real action is on the side bets and although he is her champion she is not averse to betting against him.
Lyon, in the meantime, and as aforementioned, is trying to get money together for his sister in law and his niece for which Joshua is used to inform them that its proceeds from an insurance policy.
In truth, and in my world anyway, this is probably Van Damme's best film in terms of overall pace and plot, although the dialogue and acting are still fairly clunky at times.
The action is also good, although I found the final fight scene rather disappointing - as the end opponent wasn't really that good and had some ludicrous side burns that just made me laugh. Trust me when I say that this WHOLE movie is worth seeing them on this guy alone!
If this film had had someone with the presence of, say, Bolo Yeung (who stared with Van Damme in 'Bloodsport') it would have improved the movie no end, as it's not just the end fighter that comes across a little bland in their routines.
But, to be honest, that's just nit picking in what is a pretty fun piece of action cinema. Support co-stars are well balanced here too, with Harrison Page as the manager with a heart and Lisa Pelikan as the hard up sister with issues, both do well with what little material they were given to flesh out.
Deborah Rennard is also okay as the hard nosed promoter super-bitch who just happens to look fantastic in the tiny skirts she is given to wear (does every fight promoter turn up to meetings in a bikini?!).
As with any Van Damme flick, the more time he spends cracking heads and the less time he spends speaking, normally indicate how well the movie will do. So yeah, it's not 'Citizen Kane', shit, it's not even Citizen Smith (one for the Brits there), but it's far better than a lot of the action dross currently out there.
Overall there's not a lot to say about this movie that has been said before over the years, but rewatching it today on Blu-ray, and watching some of these BRAD NEW special features where Van Damme talks about certain fight scenes and such, if you like action films then you'll LOVE this now-classic 'Lionheart' (which in other regions around the world was actually titled 'AWOL: Absent With Out Leave.' This is a brand new High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations of the main feature
Original 2.0 Stereo Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray) and 5.1 Surround
English, French and Spanish Subtitles (on main feature)
Archival Audio commentary by Sheldon Lettich & Harrison Page (on Extended Cut only)
NEW - 'Lionheart: The Inside Story' (HD, 47:29) (Featuring interviews with cast and crew including star / co-writer Jean-Claude Van Damme, Director / Co-Writer Sheldon Lettich, Producer Eric Karson and stars Harrison Page, Deborah Rennard and Brian Thompson)
NEW 'Inside Lionheart with the Filmmakers and Cast' (HD, 25:52) (All new documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew including Jean-Claude Van Damme)
NEW - 'Lionheart: Behind the Fights' (HD, 10:19) (Featuring interviews with cast and crew including Jean-Claude Van Damme)
Archival 'Making of' Featurette (8:53) (SD)
Archival Interview with Sheldon Lettich (25:51)
Archival Interview with Harrison Page (13:05)
5 Promotional TV Clips (SD)
Behind The Scenes Photo Gallery
Original Theatrical Trailer
Collectible Mini Poster