Knock Off

USA/Hong Kong 1998

Reviewed by Jamie Graham


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Hong Kong, 1997. Marcus Ray and Tommy Hendricks deal in 'knock offs', inferior imitation goods. Their scam is exposed when sales executive Karen Leigh arrives from the US. But Karen is really after Eddie Wang, a Chinese gangster who is Marcus' adopted brother. She insists Marcus and Tommy raid Eddie's factory that night. Before the operation, Marcus discovers Tommy is an undercover CIA agent working for a division headed by Johansson - the CIA plans to oversee the raid. But the factory is bombed before Marcus and Tommy can enter. Marcus finds a remote-controlled nanobomb hidden in a knock-off trainer. Dismayed at the treachery, Marcus agrees to get Eddie to testify to the CIA.

Wang pleads he only provided a group of Russians with the knock-off goods. Another bomb detonates, killing Wang. Marcus and Tommy discover Karen is also a CIA operative, looking for a mole in Johansson's team. Learning there will be a shipment of nanobombs that night, both CIA divisions, Marcus and Tommy sneak aboard. During a shoot-out Johansson is revealed as the mole. The ship blows up but the protagonists escape, Marcus and Tommy with Johansson's detonator which later accidentally sets off a nanobomb that kills Johansson.


Whatever you think of Jean-Claude Van Damme's acting skills, there is no denying his acumen when it comes to career-development choices. Graduating swiftly from his early, funnier films (Black Eagle) to martial-arts contest movies (Kickboxer), there was even a brief moment following Universal Soldier when stardom beckoned. But then he chose to anchor his place in the mainstream by turning to Hong Kong action flicks, a sub-genre which largely supplanted the Schwarzenegger-Stallone heroics of the 80s. Knock Off is the fourth movie in six years in which Van Damme has teamed up with cult eastern directors, and his second outing for Tsui Hark after Double Team. It is of interest only in that this is far more the director's picture than his own.

Tsui's imprimatur is apparent in both the convoluted plot (involving nanobombs and Russian gangsters) and the staging of the fight sequences. It has long been accepted that Van Damme's fans don't come to his films wanting the labyrinthine complexities of The Big Sleep, but they do expect plenty of roundhouse kicks, splits and at least one 'butt shot'. Knock Off has none of these, Tsui seemingly preferring to show off his own techniques rather than his star's. The fight sequences are often filmed in disorienting close-ups, while slow and fast motion, freeze frames and Evil Dead-style crash zooms whip up plenty of sound and fury to camouflage the central emptiness.

Tsui's fondness for style over substance even extends to his use of the Hong Kong handover as a backdrop. Despite frequent bulletins counting down the hours and intermittent shots of Al Gore, Chris Patten and the lowering of the British flag, the historic event is irrelevant, only adding to the overall cacophony. Even Wayne Wang's ill-advised Chinese Box made better use of the handover than this, which is particularly disappointing considering Tsui's track record of bolting politics on to pyrotechnics in the Once Upon a Time in China movies.


Nansun Shi
Steven E. De Souza
Director of Photography
Arthur Wong
[Wong Ngok-Tai]
Mak Chi-Sin]
Production Designers
James Leung
[Leung Dut-Sang]
Bill Lui
[Lui Chor-Hung]
Ron Mael
Russell Mael
©TriStar Pictures Industries, Inc.
©Knock Film, A.V.V.
Production Companies
A Knock Films, A.V.V./MDP Worldwide presentation of a Film Workshop Company Ltd/Val d'Oro Entertainment production
Raymond Fung
Line Producer
Ken Wu
Associate Producers
Peter Nelson
Richard G. Murphy
Production Supervisor
Manila Unit:
Oli Laperal Jr
Production Controller
Dan Frisch
Production Co-ordinators
Cindy S. Chan
Kim Neunuebel
James Portolese
John Stevenson
Film Workshop Office Co-ordinators
Fandy Mok
Janet Ma
Production Services
Manila Unit:
R.S. Video & Film Productions
Production Managers
Peter Choy
Visual Effects:
Daniel Yu
Unit Managers
Fung Chi-Wai
Visual Effects:
Luk Kam-Ku
Unit Production Manager
2nd Unit:
Chow Lai-Yin
Post-production Supervisors
Marvin Lawrence
Limor Diamant
Completion Supervisor
Judy Sharinger
2nd Unit Director
Sammo Hung
[Hung Kam-Bo]
V-Six Jeans Commercial Unit:
Joe Bauer
Manila Unit:
Peter Nelson
Assistant Directors
Joe Chi
Kingson Shek
Rico Chu
Sharon Lam
[Lam Suk-Ching]
Eddy Yeung
[Yeung Kwok-Wai]
Visual Effects:
Lemon Liu
Sylvia Liu
[Liu Jingyi]
2nd Unit:
Lam Hark-Ming
Josephine Chan
V-Six Jeans Commercial Unit:
James Kiat
Script Supervisor
Petra Jorgenson
2nd Unit Continuity
Fanny Lee
Illana Diamant
Lauris Freeman
Lauris Freeman

Jo Jo Hui
2nd Unit Directors of Photography
Kwong Ting-Wo
Visual Effects:
Gigo Lee
Lam Wah-Chuen
V-Six Jeans Commercial Unit:
Joe Chan
Manila Unit:
Arthur Wong
[Wong Ngok-Tai]
Pick-up Unit:
Keung Kwok-Man
Steadicam Operators
David Choi
Raymond Lam
[Lam Fai-Tai]
Special Video Effects
Modern Videofilm
Visual Effects Supervisor:
Joe Bauer
Visual Effects Co-supervisor:
Ziad Seirafi
Digital Supervisor:
Brian 'BC' Conlon
Visual Effects Producer:
Michele Ferrone
Digital Compositors:
Brian 'BC' Conlon
Brent Gilmartin
Mark Intravartola
Rick Shick
Rick Cortés
Jeff West
Computer Graphics
CGI Supervising Animator:
Justo D. Casscante III
CGI Animators:
Andrew Lam Tsz-Him
Andrew Chen Wei-Wen
Toby Hung Hing-Cheong
Jacky Chung
Data Management:
Matt Olivo
Visual Effects Engineer:
Ray Shantz
Special Effects Supervisor
Lau Hon-Cheung
Model Supervisor
Visual Effects Miniature Construction:
Cheong Pui-Yik
Model Makers
Visual Effects Miniature Construction:
Chan Siu-Chung
Stanley Cheung
Chu Chung-Kei
Fong Ka-Hing
Ho Ka-Kin
Lai Cho-Kin
Lai Kwok-Chuen
Lam Wai-Cheong
Lee Po-Sum
Ng Mun-Lung
Stephen Sy Chee Fie Lau
Anne Sy
Wong Leong-Chon
Wong Yuk-Sing
Additional Editing
Martin Hunter
Annellie-Rose Samuel
Storyboard Artist
Kwan Chun-Ming
Costume Designers
Ben Luk
William Fung
Mable Kwan
Kwan Lee-Na
2nd Unit:
Poon Man-Wah
Principal Hairstylist
Kim Robinson
2nd Unit Hair
Samuel Wong
Title Design/Opticals
Film Effects Inc (Toronto)
Additional Music
Varouje Hagopian
Craig Titus
Jeff Dalzeil
Tony Visconti
Music Editing/Additional Arrangements
David Trevis
Score Mixers
Brian Reeves
Stephen Traub
"Ten Girls" music/lyrics Samuel Hui [Hui Koon-Kit], arranged by Raymond Wong [Wong Ying-Wah]; "Crazy Mood" by Caroly Larsson, Gabe Lee, "Wind in New Orleans" by Gabe Lee, Gary Justice, produced by Stephen Traub; "Dandy" by Varouje, Craig Titus
Production Mixer
Gary Wilkins
Re-recording Mixers
Scott Purdy
Keith Elliott
Brad Thornton
Don White
Andy Koyama
Supervising Sound Editor
Nelson Ferreira
Additional Sound Editing
David Trevis
Wayne Swingle
Dialogue Editors
Joe Bracciale
Andrew Bray
Sound Effects
Paula Fairfield
Craig Henighan
Stephen Roque
Darcey Kite
Joe Bracciale
Andrew Bray
Steven Bain
Virginia Storey
Brad Zoern
Underwater Camera Unit Co-ordinator
Kevin Chan
Stunt Co-ordinators
Yuen Bing
Joe Chi
2nd Unit Action Director
Yuen Bing
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Marcus Ray
Rob Schneider
Tommy Hendricks
Lela Rochon
Karen Leigh
Michael Fitzgerald Wong
[Wong Man-Tak]
Paul Sorvino
Harry Johansson
Carmen Lee
[Lee Yeuk-Ting]
Ling Ho
Glen Chin
[Chin Ying-Ming]
Jeff Joseph Wolfe
Wyman Wong
[Wong Wai-Man]
Eddie Wang
Moses Chan Ho
Officer Fong
Raymond Leslie Nicholas
Michael Miller
Steve Brettingham
Mark Haughton
Peter Nelson
Kim Maree Penn
Thomas Hudak
Steve Nation
Rosa Librizzi
Buddha CIA
Noel Rands
Dennis Chan
[Chan Kwok-San]
William Chow
Papa Wang
Stuart Kavanagh
Colonel Carrington

Noorie Razack
fruit market old man
Heung Hoi
fruit market accountant
Dennis Chan
Eddie's kid
Simon Cheung
supermarket kid
Leslie Cheung
young worker, Skinny's freight
Matt Grant
Nyree Hansen
Kent Osborne
Lynne Francis
V-Six secretary
Cordelia Choy
Leon C. Somera Jr
Eddie's ringer
Mathew Tang
Roks Chik
Wong Yui-Sang
Tse Wai-Yin
Chan Man-Cheong
Irene Luk
Leung Yiu-Hay
Han's assistants
Kerrie Jordan
Amena Lee Schlaikjer
Bethany Wetjen
Helen Praetorius
Leta Chung
Eniko Mayer
Belinka Polakova
Anika Yuen
Sinna Ping
Anu Kattoor
Simone Lee
Hanna Josesina Chaplain
Irena Budayova
Karin Holm
Marilka Aling
V-Six models/cheerleaders
Nina MacKenzie
Trudy Jane Mansfield
Maria Butler
V-Six office girls
Denis Couprie
Duane Davis
William Chan
Skinny's bodyguards
Brad Warren
David Saunders
Tony Trimble
Ian Bruton
John Whitney
Phillip Duffy
Max G.
Stuart Lee Markham
Michael Lambert
Jude Poyer
David Fiddes
Jake Sear Jacob
Jason Todd Hancock
Peter Kramer
Russian mafia
Pascale Harris
Alex Mazija
Robert Baynton Eke
CIA staff
Martyn A. Minns
Melanie Page
Ian Clarke
Phil John Greatches
Cesar Liesa
Ted John Michaels
Kevin Butler
Albert Dedem
rickshaw racers
Garry Beckhurst
Paolo Mario Moscardini
Steve Syson
Barry Wensueen
Ian Tang
Aaron Richardson
David Rolls
Au Man-Leong
Leon C. Somera Jr
Yiu Shiu-Chung
rickshaw passengers
Columbia Tristar Films (UK)
8,204 feet
91 minutes 10 seconds
Colour by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011