Shitty Movie Sundays: Enemies Closer (2013)

Jack Webb and Harry Morgan. Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell. Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal (this actually happened). Buddy action duos extraordinaire. Now, get ready for…Tom Everett Scott and Orlando Jones?

Today’s film is proof that actors aren’t the only Hollywood folk that slum it in the latter stages of their careers. Peter Hyams, who had a decent run as a mainstream filmmaker, including that aforementioned Hines and Crystal collab, wrapped up his directorial career with Enemies Closer. He was a hired gun for this flick, and, if information on the internet can be trusted, was intrigued by the prospect of shooting a low-budget action flick with a tight shooting schedule. Whatever the reason was for taking on this project, his skill as a filmmaker is probably what keeps this flick from falling into the nether reaches of the Watchability Index.

Enemies Closer, a play on the old chestnut, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” follows Tom Everett Scott as Henry, former special forces, now a park ranger at a remote island in a lake on the U.S./Canada border. One fine day he is stalked by Clay (Orlando Jones, who also produced), the brother of another commando who was killed in Afghanistan while under Henry’s command. That incident, and the guilt that followed, is what led Henry to such an isolated occupation, but Clay doesn’t care about Henry’s suffering. He wants payback for his brother. Just when this part of the plot is about to reach denouement, on the scene arrive a group of French-Canadian gangsters led by the deliciously evil vegan environmentalist Xander (Jean-Claude Van Damme). They’re on site hunting a treetop flyer that crashed nearby carrying a load of their heroin. Now, the two would-be enemies must work together to defeat Xander and his thugs if they wish to survive the night. See? Enemies become closer by necessity. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a movie gets its title.

With a budget of around five million bucks, Enemies Closer was not a poverty stricken production when compared with some of the other films in the Index. However, although an independent production, this is a film that still operates within the industry, which means Enemies Closer 2013 movie posterthat five million got sucked up much more quickly than something made by outsiders like the Polonia brothers, for example.

What this means for the viewers is a simple location, a small cast, and bare-bones action. It works, and doesn’t. The movie swings back and forth between believability and absurdity. Scott and Jones are both operating outside of their comfort zones. That’s a good thing, as typecasting sucks. But, part of the appeal of action movies are action stars doing action things. Sure, it may seem like an ideal aspiration for the everyman action hero to be actually played by someone who has everyman credentials. Bruce Willis managed to do this. But that’s not what we fickle viewers really want. We want Schwarzenegger or Dwayne Johnson. Names. Big names attached to big people. Not the drummer from That Thing You Do. That said, Tom and Orlando kick some serious ass in this flick.

The one true treat in Enemies Closer, though, is Van Damme. He was cast in Scott’s role in pre-production, but was switched over to being the baddie. Van Damme decided to add the character’s eccentric touches, including a hairstyle done with a fork and an electrical socket.

Xander has all the best lines in the film, and a sense of omnipotent ruthlessness that just makes the audience want to see him get his comeuppance all the more. Xander is such an over the top action villain from the old school that he even gets a witty line at the climax.

This is an anonymous action movie. There’s no way around that, despite tight direction and pacing from Hyams, and Van Damme giving it all he’s got. It was meant for the video market, despite getting a limited theatrical release, and it shows. The market gets flooded with dozens of releases like this every year. I should know, as I try to watch most of them. And most of those are total trash. This is not. It’s watchable, slotting into the Watchability Index at #159, displacing Raise the Titanic. Someday in the future, though, I’m going to be perusing the Index, see this title, and I won’t be able to remember a thing about it.

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