By Clint Morris
Van Damme was at the height of his success when “Wrong Bet” was released in 1988.
These days, for such a film to get a theatrical release, the distributor would have to blow the chain’s chief executive officer. Back then, there were no favours needed – the film would and did sell.
Having impressed with his raw martial-arts outing “Kickboxer” a couple of years before, “Wrong Bet” had no trouble attracting it’s audience – it’s endless array of fleshy martial-arts skirmishes was just what the pimply-faced teen asked for.
At the time, Van Damme was being earmarked as the man to replace ageing action heroes Sly and Arnie – and though he never quite got there you can see, you can see why they were thinking that way.
The muscles from Brussels really did have the goods – he could kick butt for real (how many action stars can you honestly say that about!?), had a sort of slimy charisma, and then – not now – knew exactly what his audience wanted to see of him.
Directed by Van Damme’s long-time pal and collaborator Sheldon Lettich (then hot off “Rambo III” – which he co-wrote with Sylvester Stallone), “Bet” has JC playing Legionnaire Lyon, in L.A to track down his brother whose apparently been seriously injured. Fleeing from two of the Legions security force who have orders to bring him back at any cost, our muscly short-stack reluctantly turns to the illegal bare-knuckle underground fighting circuit to raise the money he needs to help his brothers family.
There’s not much of a story here, but there’s plenty of action – and stacked up against some of Van Damme’s more recent efforts (all of which go direct to DVD), it’s a minor gem.
This, the â€˜Uncut’ Version, apparently includes a few more minutes of blood-letting and bruising.
Extras include the short film â€˜Monaco Forever’ which marked the acting debut of Van Damme.