Twitter Plot Summary: Van Damme is two characters. One sets fire to things and people, the other is a genetic clone. Yeah, it’s stupid. Just go with it.
Jean Claude Van Damme is The Torch, a killer who targets women who have not demonstrated good parenting skills. His method of choice for dispatching said women? By burning them to little more than charred remains, of course. Michael Rooker is the cop who has spent three years trying to catch The Torch but without success. He chooses to retire, which is exactly the point where some chap in a suit rocks up and advises that there may be another way of stopping the killer.
In a plot point that must have taken five minutes of brainstorming at the very first production meeting, they choose to clone the killer and hope to use the clone’s memories in order to stop the killer from bumping off yet another single mother. Riiiight… Clearly when this was cooked up there was no thought given to making even this outrageous plot point logical in the film world, let alone for an audience looking in from the outside. It never makes sense and you’re probably best just forgetting or ignoring much of this part of the narrative if you’re going to enjoy the film.
Van Damme is back on dual role duties, as both the killer and his youthful/simple minded clone. Is this because he gets paid twice for every film like this, or is he just a glutton for punishment? In any case, he’s solid enough as both characters and manages to clearly distinguish each of them besides the fact the only physical difference is that they have different hairstyles. Michael Rooker is his usual dependable self, even if the material he’s working with isn’t the strongest he’s ever been given.
Meanwhile clone Van Damme has to contend with the violent prejudice of his handler Michael Rooker, who treats him very much like a dog in order to curb his potentially homicidal tendencies. His gradual change from harsh taskmaster to friendly face isn’t one that sits too well – what are his reasons for coming to like this man who represents all of his failures over the last 3 years?
This incredulity extends to the overall story. The science fiction plot is given no explanation – we’re shown the “birth” of the clone and it’s left at that. No reason is given for their shared memories and psychic link either – again, perhaps best left for another, better film. There are more plot inconsistencies as events progress, in particular a hooker who wants to protect clone Van Damme despite the fact he tries to rape her and almost succeeds. It’s one instance (of many) in film where solid female characterisation is non-existent.
Still, we’re not here for plot, we’re here for some canny action sequences. Van Damme is still an athletic presence – and yes, he does his trademark splits for no apparent reason – and even when fighting himself the fights are still nicely choreographed to use body doubles in place of expensive CGI. There’s probably not enough of it to justify the cost of entry, but what we do get is of reasonable quality.