So once again we have survived.

Black Eagle

Jean-Claude Van Damme is the most important new Expendables cast member. Even not having seen it yet we know this because he’s the main villain, because he gets an “also” credit and because he’s Jean-Claude Van Damme. So to honor his new role I was excited to go back and watch one of his early movies that I haven’t seen. I was surprised to realize BLACK EAGLE was the only 20th century Van Damme movie I hadn’t seen. I’d have to go up to some of the DTVs starting in 2002 to get to anything else new to me. I was better versed than I realized, but I didn’t know anything about this one.

An American jet goes down outside of Malta and some Russians are gonna steal some kind of laser tracking device that’s onboard. They gotta be stopped because of communism or whatever, and the CIA or somebody knows there’s only one man for the job: code name Black Eagle. He’s out fighting with the Mujahadeen it looks like, and it oughta be easy to convince him to go do a mission somewhere where there’s water, but the problem is he’s about to go on his 2 weeks of vacation he gets each year to see his two sons.

It’s okay though, he’ll do it, ’cause he doesn’t have a choice. Two other agents are assigned to pick up his boys at the airport and bring them to Malta. He never taught them about stranger danger, I guess. They’re already there bored out of their minds touring museums, so Black Eagle’s gotta go meet them there.

One thing you should know about Black Eagle: he’s not played by Jean-Claude Van Damme. He’s played by Sho Kosugi, who’s the star of the movie. Don’t listen to that DVD cover, that guy’s full of shit. Also he never has that eagle tattoo or the ENTER THE DRAGON facial cuts, I don’t think.

Jean-Claude Van Damme is… ANDREI: ONE OF THE GUYS WHO OPPOSES BLACK EAGLE.

Ah, shit, that’s why I hadn’t heard of this one. But it’s fitting, as Van Damme plays a villain this late in his superstardom, to go back to when he had to play villains to get into movies. At this point he’d done NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER and BLOODSPORT, so he had more villain roles than leads.

But Sho Kosugi played alot of villains too. I know him mainly from playing scary, mysterious ninjas, so it’s cool to see him as the leading man hero. He’s definitely got ninja training but he’s supposed to be an American secret agent, so he has a mild mannered disguise and everything. He wears nerdy glasses to pose as a scientist. Kosugi’s real life sons Shane and Kane play his boys, and when they’re together they look like a dorky tourist family. (One of the kids does get to do a back flip and a little bit of fighting, but mostly they’re treated just as normal kids.)

Van Damme’s character is pretty minimalistic, but also pretty cool. He wears a suit and sunglasses and stands very upright and doesn’t have much dialogue. It’s a pretty typical type of action movie bad guy, where they hire a scary looking martial artist or bodybuilder just for his menacing look and purposely don’t give him much dialogue to stumble over (think for example Chuck Norris in WAY OF THE DRAGON). But then, unexpectedly, this Andrei character is not totally evil.

He only starts to talk when he makes chit chat with a lady on the boat. He’s falling for her. They start being together in all their scenes. After they get shot at she freaks out. Normally this type of character would slap her or tell her to shut up, but he gently embraces her and says, “Relax. Don’t panic.”

In the end, it’s the girl calling his name that distracts him so that Black Eagle kicks him in the head to win the fight. He’s both a lover and a fighter but ultimately less of a fighter because he’s such a lover.

He does the splits twice: once between two oil barrels on a boat while demonstrating his knife-throwing skills for the fellas, once to dodge a punch from Black Eagle. He has three fights with Sho Kosugi, all of them kinda fun but none of them great. Van Damme is in great shape but is not yet a veteran of screen fighting, so alot of the time it’s pretty obvious he’s not hitting people hard.

At the end of the second fight, Black Eagle points at Andrei and then dives off a cliff. I don’t know if the pointing means “You… you rascal!” or “Hold that thought… to be continued” or what. But I love it.

I like that everybody’s kind of there against their will. Black Eagle just wants to be with his boys, he didn’t want this mission. The boys hate it there and want their dad to have time for them. There’s a former agent turned priest who gets pressured to come on the mission as a marine biologist even though he wants to stay out of the business. Andrei probly wants to run off with this girl but he keeps getting chewed out by his boss. Both sides are trying to do the right thing for their country.

This seems like it’s trying to be more of a spy thriller than an ’80s action movie, even though it was made in ’88. Black Eagle is the kinda character who goes up onto a cliff and puts together a hang glider and flies it and the music plays as there’s hang gliding footage. Not the kind of guy who shoots somebody and then makes a joke about it. And the score by first timer Terry Plumeri (DEATH WISH V: THE FACE OF DEATH) is kinda classy, sounds like a legit ’70s suspense thriller.

But the movie’s not that exciting until toward the end when he decides “Fuck this. I’m a ninja.” He disappears from sight as a truck is passing. Next thing you know he’s posing in silhouette on top of a pile of rocks, rubbing himself with black paint and putting on a headband, as men do.

Director Eric Karson also did THE OCTAGON and ANGEL TOWN, and he was a producer on one of my favorite Van Damme movies, LIONHEART.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Friday, August 17th, 2012 at 2:47 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

44 Responses to “Black Eagle”

  1. I remember seeing this when me and my brother where on a Sho Kosugi bender in the late 80’s. And after the ninja trilogy, PRAY FOR DEATH and RAGE OF HONOR I must say that we were really disappointed. Good to see him back in NINJA ASSASSIN though.

  2. LIONHART is called WRONG BET in Australia/New Zealand. Why?

  3. Van Damme gets a pretty shitty death scene in this one, if I remember correctly. Not at all what his character deserved. But its a shitty movie,so it feels somehow fitting.

  4. Weird. LIONHEART is called A.W.O.L. here in South Africa. For years I thought that’s what everyone knew it as. All my overseas buddies would usually go “What? I’ve never heard of that one.”

    I’d have to say my favourite 80’s -90’s Van Damme movie is Kickboxer. I just love it. The amount of times I’ve watched that film is kinda shocking.

    That drunk bar fight and that final showdown are both classics, in my book.

  5. I love BLOODSPORT the most, simply beacuse its a tournament-movie. You get to see all different kind of fights in between the van Damme ones, which is neat. Also,Bolo Yeong is a fucking monster.

    I never really got into KICKBOXER.It´s fun but I couldn´t sympathize with him getting revenge of what Tong Po did to his obnoxious,douchebag brother. He deserved what he got for getting in the ring with Tong Po. Also not enough fights in KICKBOXER.

  6. LIONHEART is also known as LEON in some territories. I don’t know what is considered the original title, though I think the Norwegian VHS was called WRONG BET. I think there are some different cuts of the movie as well.

    BLACK EAGLE is goofy fun, but pretty terrible. Sho Kosugi’s command of the English language leaves a lot to be desired, IIRC, and his kids have even less charisma than him. I’m enjoying this “Countdown 2 Disappointment” series, as – fittingly – every movie seems to disappoint Vern.

  7. Also, it’ll be called WRONG BET because that’s what he says in the cimactic fight scene when he learns his pal bet against him, and it motivates him to win the fight…even though he’s only doing all this because he wants to provide for his sister in law and neice, so you’d think he’d just throw the fight.

    JCVD does make a great villain in Ex2 btw, though with the 90 minute run time he doesn’t get to do as much as I’d hope, but he makes his mark with what he says and does(particularly his rather ostentatious execution method in one scene).

  8. “Van Damme is in great shape but is not yet a veteran of screen fighting, so alot of the time it’s pretty obvious he’s not hitting people hard.”

    I had a chance to see BLOODSPORT in the theater recently, and while I like it a lot this was probably the movie’s biggest weakness. There were very few kicks or punches in the movie that had the slightest appearance of connecting with a target.

  9. All in all, this movie is kinda lame, but Ive seen it so often, having been a van damme devotee from early on, that I have a weak spot for this film, it makes me wanna visit Malta , if Im ever going to be able to. This film wasted a lot of great opportunities-fight-wise and so on..its a slow burn…van damme looks hella-cool here, sporting ridiculous 80s glasses. As I said, I have a weak spot for this one. There are shittier movies out there.

  10. Just saw Expandables 2. Gotta agree with what the others have been saying. It’s a lot of fun and way better than the first one, even though it could have been so much better if they’d bothered with the script a bit (some cringe-worthy direlogue in this one).

    Van Damme gets man-of-the-match, in my opinion. Maybe I’m a little biased, but I think most people will agree he gives the best performance of the film.

    Most of all, Expendables 2 feels more like a team movie, which is nice.

    P.S. Ingo, go to Malta, dude. I’m in love with that beautiful place and its sister islands. Pretty much made up my mind that I’m gonna retire there one day. Plus, they make some decent wine (with Italian grapes, though) and they have the Popeye Film Studios.

  11. I got to see BLOODSPORT & LIONHEART (two of my all time favorite JCVD films) screen in 35mm at the Van Dammage event the other night here in Austin. I was ecstatic because I have only seen those films on VHS and DVD, and never in a theater. Not only was it great to see the films on the big screen the way they were meant to be seen but, the audience was great as well, they all clapped along to the dramatic slow build clap that breaks out in the climatic fight in the finale of LIONHEART, and that only made the experience that much more awesome.

  12. I’ve always liked that my earliest Van Damme memories were him playing Russian villains who had no problem fighting in nice suits. It ages the movies but also brings it back to the cold war days and how people here in America at the time thought the commies just didn’t give a fuck. NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER and BLACK EAGLE are like time capsules.

  13. KICKBOXER is like BLOODSPORT’s retarded little brother. In many ways, it’s the exact same movie (ring-based combat, scary, bordering-on-grotesque non-verbal Asian villain, revenge for injured compadre, etc.) but where BLOODSPORT manages to kind of fool you for a bit into thinking it’s a real movie, KICKBOXER is just completely ridiculous from the word go. From the played-for-laughs training sequences to the all-time-classic dance scene (the last time I saw it I laughed until my chest hurt) to the final fight in the “traditional” Thai way, which means dipping your hands in broken Heineken bottles, just like the ancient Siamese did, it’s a nonstop cavalcade of hilariousness. I always used to prefer BLOODSPORT but KICKBOXER might win out nowadays for pure entertainment value.

  14. Yeah last I checked I actually preferred KICKBOXER. Speaking of these siblings, I’m watching THE QUEST as I type this, for the first time in ages. The DVD is a shitty, non-anamorphic disc, and the oh-so-serious-I’m-making-an-epic tone of the film is either charming or off-putting, I haven’t decided yet. Strange to see the B movie plot of BLOODSPORT done with such high production values and Roger Moore as a pirate.

  15. I love that “Mylee, cut these ropes” moment. And then she’s like “What?”, and he’s like “Just cut them!”. And she says “He’s coming”, and Jean-Claude goes “Don’t worry”, and then WHAM! Cue the slo-mo multiple-angle asskicking and inspirational music. And the crowd goes “Nok Su Kow! Nok Su Kow!”

    I’ve clearly got a thing for that movie.

    Oh, and when the credits roll, we get that badass 80’s power ballad. “Never Surrenderrrrrrrrrr….”

  16. KICKBOXER was actually the first movie I ever saw at the cinema. For that reason it will always have a special place in my heart. Will never forget the theater energy during that final fight it was like it was happening in the theater itself everybody was so damn hype. Plus his brother has to be the single best and worst supporting character ever. His jherri curl matched with his cockiness and display of retarded moves (Ie: “Can he move like this?” scene) was truly original. LIONHEART will always be my favorite of the “Van Damme fights competitively” movies though. That’s the one that should’ve really been called STREET FIGHTER.

  17. Actually when I think back it was the second time I went to a theater cause THE FLY II was the first but KICKBOXER was by far the more memorable experience of the 2.

  18. KICKBOXER is also superior to BLOODSPORT in that it has the more hilarious training montage. It borders on pretentious after a while with all the flying eagle symbolism.

  19. The one major plus for BLOODSPORT is Bolo Yeung. He’s not a villain per se, just an antagonist who I think lives only for the Kumite. When Van Damme starts winning the audience over, Bolo seems almost heartbroken. Very amusing. I don’t mean to sell Tong Po short. He’s fantastic as well, and it’s one of his two brothers who plays the main opponent in THE QUEST.

    Did anyone ever see the action movie Tong Po wrote, produced, starred in, and directed? It’s called EXTREME FORCE, and co-stars the third of the Qissi brothers. Michel Qissi also directed a movie called TERMINATOR WOMAN. No way that one is even half as good as the title suggests.

  20. The presence of Orgre from Revenge of the Nerds in a sidekick role was a definite plus for Bloodsport.

  21. I can’t even begin to imagine what TERMINATOR WOMAN is all about. I remember seeing one called LADY TERMINATOR ages ago and only still remember it because it has the distinction of being a movie where a snake goes up a chicks cooter and turns her into a badass.

  22. KICKBOXER is good, but everything is much better in BLOODSPORT.

  23. I had to go back to Vern’s Expendables 1 review, where I encountered this priceless expression: “Ain’t It Cool style dick metaphors”

  24. The Original... Paul

    August 17th, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    I couldn’t get past about forty minutes of this movie. And I tried three times. I would like to go back and analyze it to see just what it missed for me, but that would require watching it (or at least the start of it) again… and quite honestly I couldn’t be arsed.

    I can’t comment on the whole thing but basically it just failed to do anything for me, on pretty much any level.

  25. Paul -don´t be arsed then.BLACK EAGLE is not a big deal. Pretty shit. The movie made me kind of depressed, so skip it if you can anyway.

  26. The Original... Paul

    August 17th, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I have a lot of love in my heart for Lionheart though. It meanders between “genuinely good” and “utterly hysterical” with a charming lack of self-awareness. It’s quite a sweet movie really.

    Bloodsport as well. I’ll say (again) that I’m of the camp of Van Damme fans who think that Bloodsport is a better version of Kickboxer, and not the other way around. I watched both movies at around about the same time, and seeing them together, little things really stood out in both films that I thought they got right or wrong.

  27. Yeah, Lionheart was peak Van Damme. I totally do remember it being essentially like “what if they took a street fighter-type video game but tried to make it a movie with an actual semblance of narrative?” This was a good ‘en.

  28. I once watched BLOODSPORT three times in one day. Each viewing was separated by a viewing of CRITICAL CONDITION. That was one weird hot summer day.

    I love BLOODSPORT.

  29. IIRC, Van Damme pushed for the shitty death scene himself, because at this stage in his career, he wasn’t ready to be beaten badly in the manner called for. Far cry from the end of EX2, in which he was nothing short of awesome,

  30. So you have seen TIMECOP, Vern? Thoughts?

  31. I just found Cyborg in a bargain bin. Never seen it, so I’ll watch it today. I remember always seeing that cover in video stores years ago and thinking I should check it out.

    Apparently, it’s pretty bad. Bad in a good way or bad in a shitty way?

  32. I remember it being pretty boring. Sometimes Albert Pyun pulls off outstanding shit like NEMESIS or DOLLMAN. But then you watch the most generic,boring shit ever made and forget its the same director.CYBORG I remember being mostly boring. Apparantly there is a directors cut of CYBORG available.I have heard its superior to the standard cut.
    But then again,I have not seen CYBORG in like almost 20 years so I don´t know what i will think of it now.

  33. Nemesis is why I thought I’d give Cyborg a shot. Watched it years ago and was well entertained.

    Wasn’t Pyun gonna make a sequel or remake of Cyborg a while ago?

  34. I think the sequel has morphed into a project called CYBORG NEMESIS, starring Nattasia Malthe, Michael Paré, Dina Meyer, Kevin Sorbo, Sasha Mitchell, Olivier Gruner, Bianca Bree (daughter of Van Damme) and possibly Ving Rhames. That’s a pretty impressive cast for Pyun at this stage in his career. And this looks like it will be a real movie, as opposed to the no budget green screen stuff Pyun has been doing for the last decade. I’m kind of drawn to Pyun’s unique brand of awfullness, so I’m looking forward to this project.

    Knox: If you like NEMESIS, you’ll probably like CYBORG too. They’re pretty similar movies. NEMESIS may have a greater sense of fun, but CYBORG stars JCVD, and Vincent Klyn is the villain. The director’s cut mentioned can only be bought directly from Pyun, and came from a VHS source, which is why I never bothered. Pyun has also releases a DC’s of CAPTAIN AMERICA and TICKER (surprised Vern never sought that one out. I don’t think it was even mentioned in the updated edition of SEAGALOGY). A DC of NEMESIS is upcoming, with added CGI and stuff. I’ve heard/seen nothing to suggest that any of these new cuts are preferable to the originals.

  35. Here is how the cover of the DC of CAPTAIN AMERICA looks like. Such a uniquely, absurdy awful cover art I just had to share.

  36. There was a CYBORG 2 with Angelina Jolie, Elias Koteas and Jack Palance(!!). There is somewhat of a connection between both part 1 and 2. Part 2 references the events of the first movie. But´s more of a William Gibson-esque cyberpunk thriller of the kind that were popular at the early 90´s. I have it on Video-CD, I have only watched about 20 minutes of it, because there is a terrible audioglitch which makes for a very irritating watching experience so I couldn´t watch anymore. But from what I could tell,it looked like an entertaining movie.

  37. Having seen both recently I have to say CYBORG holds up better than CYBORG 2. I actually like that Van Damme is like a silent drifter throughout most of CYBORG. It adds gravitas to a character named after popular guitar brands. CYBORG is basically a MAD MAX like post-apocalyptic actioner filtered through a very low budget and genuine hack sensibilities of a crook like Albert Pyun.

    Sure CYBORG has some of the slowest Norris-like choreography ever put in a Van Damme feature. Like the fight against the 2 knife wielding goons. But there is some stuff there worth still remembering in terms of action like the final rain soaked one on one. I do remember NEMESIS being better but I haven’t seen NEMESIS in years though.

  38. Broddie – I rewatched NEMESIS a couple of years ago and ended up liking it much more than the first time I saw it. Oliver Gruner is terrible. But it sure is a fun time. It even has Tim Thomerson and Brion James as villains.

    Even NEMESIS 2 is worthwhile. That one abandons the cyberpunk and goes more for the post-apocalyptic setting.

  39. Man, Wrong Bet is a much better title for Lionheart than Lionheart. I remember watching an old VHS copy of that movie back in college, and afterwards my friend and I would use the phrase “wrong bet” whenever possible. I’m glad that the marketing division in other countries realized that that single phrase is a highlight of the film.

    I realize that I’ve only seen a few Van Damme flicks. Does anyone here remember The Quest (I think it is Van Damme’s only directorial effort). It’s been a long time, but I remember kind of enjoying it.

  40. RBatty024, the QUEST is not bad, but it is still nothing more than a lesser remake of BLOODSPORT set in a different era. Frank Dux is even credited as one of the writer on the film. It is not that there is anything terribly wrong with THE QUEST it’s that JCVD already made a better version of the exact same film. THE QUEST is enjoyable, but I like SUDDEN DEATH and TIME COP better.

  41. Thanks Vern! That was an enjoyable read. Short and to the point. Before you know it, you’ll have worked your way through the entire Michel Qissi filmography.

  42. BLACK EAGLE should’ve been a fun flick considering the cast but it is very much a “euro-thriller” in feel and tone i.e. boring as all fuck. A shame.

    I have a copy of AWOL aka LIONHEART aka WRONG BET that is titled FULL CONTACT – Just how many titles does this film have?

    I’ve just gotten my hands on the DC of CYBORG. I’ve only watched the first ten minutes or so but it’s interesting as it’s clear just how much it changed when (supposedly) JCVD himself re-edited it after having Pyun thrown out the editing room.

    It’s nice to see JCVD all over the place at the moment and you can see he’s loving being in EX2.

    He was being interviewed on a Making of EX2 show today and he actually said, before this movie I was stuck in DVD and this gets me back on the big screen.

    He’s a candid motherfucker and that’s part of why I love him.

    And so:

    http://uk.movies.yahoo.com/blogs/movie-editors/jean-claude-van-damme-reveals-steven-seagal-feud-144107054.html

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