Van Damme becomes a star in LIONHEART!!!!

Lionheart (aKa Wrong Bet, A.W.O.L.: Absent Without Leave, Leon & Full Contact) is a 1990 action film directed by Sheldon Lettich (Double Impact, The Order, The Hard Corps, & The Last Patrol). It was independently funded so it was sold to various distributors all over the world so that’s why it has so many different titles. Universal Pictures originally handled the distribution for the United States. The film was a success & it earned $24,078,196 worldwide! It was actually filmed after 1990’s Death Warrant but it got released before it. This is 2nd time Michel Qissi played a villain to Jean-Claude Van Damme. The previous collaboration was as Tong Po in 1989’s Kickboxer. A sequel was announced this year & it will go into production soon.
Lyon Gaultier (played by: Jean-Claude Van Damme from Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Cyborg, Double Impact, & Black Eagle)is a paratrooper in the French Foreign Legion stationed in Djibouti, North Africa. He gets bad news that his brother was involved in a deadly incident from a drug deal gone wrong. He is burned alive & suffers third-degree burns. He begs them to let him leave to see his dying sibling before he’s gone but they refuse. So he is forced to abandon his post & escapes on a boat going to America. He arrives in New York City & that’s where he meets Joshua (played by: Harrison Page from Bad Ass, Carnosaur, JAG, & Sledge Hammer!). He organizes fights for money & Lyon needs some quick cash! After bring impressed with his fighting ability Joshua see a chance to make big money with his new friend. He introduces Lyon to underground fight promoter Cynthia (played by: Deborah Rennard from Dallas, Gang Related, & Land of Doom) & her assistant Russell (played by: Brian Thompson from Cobra, Joe Dirt, Fright Night 2, Doctor Mordrid, & Mortal Kombat: Annihilation). She decides to sponsor him & after he defeats her champion she wants to work with him some more. He turns her down & he says he has personal business in Los Angeles. She offers to set up fights there if he ever changes his mind. Sgt. Hartog (played by: Voyo Goric from Rambo: First Blood Part II, Alligator II: The Mutation, Little Nikita, & The Evil Inside Me) & Moustafa (played by: Michel Qissi from Bloodsport, Kickboxer 1/2, Bloodmatch, & Terminator Woman) from the Foreign Legion go to the United States to track him down since the LAPD wouldn’t do anything about it. He find out that his brother died & he’s devastated that he couldn’t be there. He tries to see his sister in-law Helene (played by: Lisa Pelikan from Jennifer, Ghoulies, & Return to the Blue Lagoon) but she wants nothing to do with him. He decides to take Cynthia’s offer to make some more money for his struggling family. He competes against various fighters at all kinds of different locations. He introduces himself as a stranger to his niece Nicole (played by: Ashley Johnson from Growing Pains, The Killing, Blindspot, Jumanji TV series, & What Women Want) since he wasn’t welcome in their home. He gets Joshua to give them a fake insurance check so they can be taken care of. Lyon & Cynthia start to get a little too personal so she gets jealous when she finds out about Helene. Lyon finally comes clean about the money to Helene & finally gets to tell Nicole that he’s actually her uncle. The Legionnaires finally catch him but they agree to let him do his last fight before bringing him in. Cynthia is out for revenge & sets Lyon up the most dangerous fighter around the undefeated Attila the Hun (played by: Abdel Qissi from The Quest & The Order). She bets against him & knows what the monster does to all his opponents. Can Lyon survive both the Legionnaires, Cynthia, & the brutal Attila?
Lionheart isn’t your typical Jean-Claude Van Damme feature or action film. This was the first time that Van Damme actually had a solid supporting cast in his career which actually made him step up his game when it came to acting. He loved to compete so he didn’t want to get showed up by everyone. If anyone says this dude can’t act, they need to check this out. It was much more than just fighting in this film. It was about doing the right thing, redemption, friendship, & family. Lyon would do anything to save what he loved including risking his own life to do it. It definitely gives you feels during some scenes because it’s really emotional at spots. Lionheart took JCVD to a new level when it came to being a superstar. After this, he was making hit after hit but this feature really put him on the map. It got people to notice that he could actually perform well if given the right material & support. Now after saying all that, it’s still a bad ass flick with lots of great fights! I really enjoyed the various locations & different approaches on each battle here. This still ranks as one of Van Damme’s best after all these years. I am so glad that MVD Rewind has given Lionheart the proper treatment it deserves. I hope they get their hands on more of his work because they always give it the respect & quality it needs. This release blows away the Universal disc!!!!
Let’s talk about the high definition presentation on this MVD Rewind Collection blu ray. This 1080p (1.78:1) transfer is one of the highest quality looking releases from the label so far! It’s honestly the best this film has ever looked. This is the first time it’s been available separate in the United States. It was previously included on a multi film set from Universal & it looks just as good as that major studio release! It features the Imperial Entertainment logo at the beginning instead of the Universal Studios one which is the first time I’ve experience that with this feature. I think it kinda adds to the retro vibe of MVD Rewind. The theatrical cut has audio issues. It features a English: LPCM 2.0 track. The score & soundtrack is way better than what you would expect for this type of film. The Extended Cut looks a little different plus the quality changes on the additional scenes so it’s pretty easy to tell what wasn’t in the theatrical version. It features two different audio options English: Dolby Digital 5.1 & English: Dolby Digital 2.0 which actually are both different from the other cut so you have plenty of choices when it comes to the sound for this disc. it’s enhances the many action scenes in this production. This version sounds fine. It also has English, French, & Spanish subtitles included on here.
Let’s discuss the special features on this loaded release from MVD Rewind! So much more bonus material has been added besides getting two cuts of film already. For those wondering the extended cut is little over 5 minutes longer than the theatrical version. Speaking of that version, you get an archival Audio Commentary with director Sheldon Lettitch & actor Harrison Page. They talk about the many names this film has had in different countries. The director points out that version is the German cut known as Leon. They point out & chat about the additional scenes that weren’t in the United States release. Sheldon Lettitch brings up he wrote a similar project for Sylvester Stallone at one point. They talk about the cast & crew featured in the production. Jean-Claude Van Damme & Sheldon Lettitch used several of their friends in this. They joke about the popularity from the ladies for this feature for some reason. It’s one of their favorites & they seem to love it so much. They bring up a scene that was improvised. They talk about JCVD really using his acting chops for the first time in Lionheart. Harrison Page jokes about them randomly giving him chicken for a scene that originally wasn’t in the script. They mention some of the locations used in this. Sheldon Lettitch brings up a extended scene & explains why it was cut from the American version. One of the heads from Universal apparently hated it & thought it was too over the top. They chat about the various different fighting styles used in the movie. Sheldon Lettitch brings up that JCVD accidentally got hit & hurt during one of the fights. JCVD had lots of creative input on this project. They talk about the producers hiring a orchestra to do a big score for Lionheart. It has a few moments of silence but it’s a pretty good audio track with lots of information & stories about this feature. “The Story of Lionheart” is a little over 47 minutes. It features interviews with writer/director Sheldon Lettitch, producer Eric Karson, star Jean-Claude Van Damme, actors Harrison Page, Deborah Rennard, & Brian Thompson. First off, I think this is the first time that I’ve ever seen Jean-Claude Van Damme talk about one of his older films as an extra so that alone is super impressive! They chat about how the project started. They talk about the origin of the story. They mention how they met Van Damme. Van Damme talks about his first experience with Sheldon Lettitch, They bring up that it had various titles all over the world & how confusing it was. They chat about how popular Van Damme was becoming before this & that this feature actually made him a star. Van Damme signed a two picture deal with Imperial Entertainment & this was the final one from that contract after doing Black Eagle earlier. Deborah Rennard says she was glad to finally play a villain after only being known as the good girl before that. Brian Thompson.talks about his character & his background story. They talk about Harrison Page’s killer audition that got him the part.
Harrison Page says his father was the inspiration for his performance. He talks about how they made Los Angeles look like New York for the locations. They mention for being an action film it has some really emotional stuff in it. They talk about it getting released overseas before America. They said it came out the same day as Above the Law there & it was competing against that. They chat about the film having success all over the world. They mention how it stands out from the others & it’s not your typical action flick. “Inside Lionheart with the Filmakers and Cast” is almost 26 minutes. It features interviews with writer/director Sheldon Lettitch, producer Eric Karson, star Jean-Claude Van Damme, actors Harrison Page, Deborah Rennard, & Brian Thompson. They all chat about each other & their appreciation for their work. They mention how they got their roles in the film. They bring up how this feature had a better cast than what Van Damme was used to so it elevated his performance in this. They talking about working with the director & producer on this production. Van Damme didn’t want to do the splits in this like every other film he did. They talk about how this was something different for the action superstar. “Lionheart: Behind the Fights” is a little over 10 minutes. It features basically everyone from the previous exclusive extras on here. They talk about Van Damme doing all his own fights, setting them up & stunts. They mention the other people they brought in to make the battles as good as possible. They go over various action scenes in the feature. They bring up some of the fighters used in the film. Archival “Making of” featurette is almost 9 minutes. It covers all the same stuff as before & it has some of the same familiar faces as the other features on here but they are much younger in this. It does mention that Hard Times was a inspiration for this film. Archival “Interview with Sheldon Lettitch” is almost 26 minutes. He talks about how he got started on making films. He chats about his short that lead to all kinds of opportunities. He brings up that he introduced Van Damme to various people to help out his career. Later on Van Damme would return the favor & got him this directing gig. He talks about being a marine. He chats about projects that he wrote. He talks about Lionheart getting distribution in the states. He talks about believing in Van Damme’s acting ability when no one else did. He says Cannon was originally going to do Double Impact but they changed their mind on it. Archival “Interview with Harrison Page” is 13 minutes. He talks about his experience on the film. He mentions using his emotions in it. He chats about working with the director. He discusses the fight scenes. He says someone actually thought he was homeless on the set. He chats about how he got into acting. “Behind the Scenes of the Audio Commentary” is almost 6 minutes. It shows them recording the audio track that’s featured on this release. It’s a cool little inside look into making an extra for the blu ray. You also get promotional material like 5 TV clips, Almost 5 minute Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery, & the original Theatrical Trailer. Last but not least, you get trailers for other MVD Rewind releases which include Black Eagle, Return of Swamp Thing, & Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. You also get an awesome limited edition retro slipcover, a DVD copy, & a collectible mini poster. I can’t recommend this release enough, it’s one of most loaded JCVD films ever so it’s a must buy for any Van Damme or action fan! MVD Rewind Collection keeps on KILLING it when it comes to home video!!!!

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