Awfully Good: Knock Off

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Well, if nobody else is going to celebrate the 20th anniversary of movie, I guess I'll do it myself…


Knock Off (1998)


Director: Tsui Hark
Stars: Jean Claude Van Damme, Rob Schneider, Lela Rochon

Only one man can stop the Russians from taking the entire world hostage after they plant tiny explosives in fake toys and clothes. Unfortunately, that man is partnered with Rob Schneider.

Ironically, KNOCK OFF is anything but. While undeniably a bad movie, it's filled with enough insanity and a go-for-broke attitude that makes it, at least in this reviewer's opinion, quite memorable. Trust me, once you see Rob Schneider whip Jean Claude Van Damme with a fish while they race a little person in a rickshaw, you'll never forget it.

The COP AND A HALF sequel nobody wanted.

We've covered no shortage of Van Damme movies for Awfully Good, from STREET FIGHTER to NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER, and KNOCK OFF finds the Muscles from Brussels in top form.

…At least when he's actually on camera.

Van Damme admitted he was on so many drugs while shooting this movie that he doesn't even remember it. That fact may be obvious while you're watching KNOCK OFF and constantly spotting stunt and fight doubles awkwardly shot from behind and bad dubbing to try and cover everything up. But at least whenever he is on screen, Van Damme brings the goods. There are a couple action sequences, including a dizzying fight inside a fruit factory, where the star gets to shine. And if you measure the strength of a performance by volume, Van Damme deserves an Oscar for his non-stop yelling of all his lines.

Paul Sorvino has seen your browsing history.

Unfortunately Van Dammage and the rest of the cast (including Lela Rochon and Paul Sorvino) are saddled with Rob Schneider, who plays his undercover CIA agent as essentially the exact same sidekick from all his 90s movies like SURF NINJAS and JUDGE DREDD—i.e. incredible annoying. With no fighting chops, no real comic relief in the script, and zero chemistry with anyone, Schneider doesn't bring anything to the table here, aside from the occasional brief joy of seeing his character get punched in the face or thrown in to a wall. At least there's that.

However, the real VIP of KNOCK OFF is acclaimed Hong Kong filmmaker Tsui Hark (THE KILLER, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA). Hark has always had kinetic visual style as a director, but he takes this movie to entirely different level. It's like someone was holding his family hostage and said, "You have to direct this movie at 100 MPH or your kids will explode!"

Not many people wanted to sign up for the Van Damme's Damn Van Driving School.

There's just so much unnecessary over-directing that it borders on pure art. A few examples:

  • The camera goes inside electronics any time someone makes a phone call or uses a remote control or looks at a TV on the wall. Many times it actually follows the electrical signal until it reaches the end destination.
  • The camera goes through a hoop earring as it's being put on, because ALL OTHER SHOTS ARE BORING.
  • At one point, Jean Claude Van Damme reaches inside a box and the film switches to a picture-in-picture view to show his hand inside the box. What's inside the box is of no consequence and is never seen again. Also, this technique is only done this one time.
  • Someone goes to put on sneakers and we immediately see a POV shot of their feet going in to the shoe
  • Multiple POV shots of bullets being loaded and firing from guns
  • A weird strobing special effect is used when people run that make them look like ghosts


The directing is so over the top here it even outdoes Hark's previous American debut film DOUBLE TEAM with Van Damme and Dennis Rodman, and that movie ended with Mickey Rourke getting attacked by a tiger and blown up by a land mine at the same time. Unfortunately for all of humanity, KNOCK OFF was so poorly received that it made Tsui Hark quit Hollywood and take his genius brain back to China.

1998 International Hide and Seek Champion Lela Rochon.

Somehow the plot that ties all this visual nonsense together manages to be both stupid AND unnecessarily complicated thanks to a script by DIE HARD (and 1994's STREET FIGHTER) writer Steven E. de Souza. The idea of undetectable micro-explosives being smuggled in everyday products to take the entire world hostage may be dumb, but it also sort of fits with the genre. But then the film makes everyone and their mom an undercover spy or a double or triple agent with so many ludicrous twists that by the end you don't have any idea who is on what side as everything blows up around them. (To be fair, I always rooted for the side that was currently punching Rob Schneider.)

Rob Schneider is confronted with his own suck.

In the hands of an appropriate director, this could've been a brilliant satire of action movies. There are some moments, like a bad guy who uses the lens from his eyeglasses as deadly weapons or Van Damme slip 'n' sliding during a gun fight like a John Woo pool party, that do feel like outright parody. But most of the film's issues feel less intentional. Such as the Russians assassinating a guy by hiding a rocket launcher in his safe so that when he opens it, it shoots him outside via a missile. Or Paul Sorvino very clearly dying in a massive explosion, but the movie forgetting about that and showing him alive without a scratch in the next scene.

The subplot involving Van Damme learning how to do the Macarena was a bit much.

At less than an hour and a half, KNOCK OFF doesn’t overstay its welcome, but it almost feels too short. It's even more bewildering considering that legendary Hong Kong action star Sammo Hung choreographed all the fight scenes, but most were cut for time. Because of course people don't want to see more action in a Van Damme movie. No, they want to see Rob Schneider get carried around in a rickshaw and make jokes about date rape.

Van Damme doing his best yelling and Rob Schneider doing his best impression of someone who's really annoying.

The best action moments, including fight scenes, explosions, impalings and of course the rickshaw race.

Van Damme continues to find ways to take off his shirt and/or pants.

Do the splits on two chairs! Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • There's a weird camera shot
  • Someone's voice is clearly dubbed
  • There's an obvious stuntman or woman
  • There's green fire
  • Someone slides around

Double shot if:

  • JCVD removes an article of clothing


Thanks to Shawn and Marlena for suggesting this week's movie!


Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.


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