What are you doing tis Coronavirus Weekend?–KAS
|Theatrical release poster|
|Directed by||Sheldon Lettich|
|Produced by||Eric Karson|
Ash R. Shah
|Written by||S. N. Warren|
Jean-Claude van Damme
|Starring||Jean-Claude van DammeHarrison PageDeborah RennardLisa PelikanBrian Thompson|
|Music by||John Scott|
|Cinematography||Robert C. New|
|Edited by||Mark Conte|
|Wrong Bet Productions|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release date||January 11, 1991|
|Running time||105 minutes|
|Box office||$24.3 million|
Lionheart (also known as AWOL and Wrong Bet) is a 1990 action film directed by Sheldon Lettich, starring Jean-Claude van Damme and co-starring Brian Thompson, along with Harrison Page, Deborah Rennard, Lisa Pelikan, and Ashley Johnson. Van Damme plays a paratrooper legionnaire. When his brother is seriously injured, he returns to Los Angeles to enter the underground fighting circuit to raise money for his brother’s family.
The film’s cast and crew included two people who had appeared in an earlier Van Damme film: Michel Qissi (a good friend of his) and Sheldon Lettich. This was the second time Qissi played a villain in a Van Damme film, the first being notably as Tong Po in Kickboxer (1989). Lettich helped write one of Van Damme’s breakthrough films, Bloodsport, along with another Van Damme film, Double Impact. The film grossed $24.3 million on a $6 million budget.
Lyon Gaultier is in the French Foreign Legion, stationed in Djibouti, North Africa. His brother, who is married to an American in Los Angeles, is set on fire during a drug deal gone bad. He is badly burned and taken to intensive care where he screams out his brothers name over and over – “Lyon!”.
Lyon is a convict serving out his sentence in the French Foreign Legion. He receives a letter from his sister-in-law asking him to come back to L.A. as his brother is dying.
He escapes the Legion in a daring break out after senior officers try to imprison him and stop him returning to see his brother. He heads out across the desert to the coast in a jeep and ends up on foot before coming to the coast to a dockyard.
He finds boileroom work on a tramp steamer headed for the U.S. and after the Captain tries to prevent him leaving the ship Lyon overpowers him and dives overboard to swim to some docks in the distance.
Cold and hungry with nothing but the wet boileroom clothes he has scrounged he sets off to try and find a way to make the journey across country to L.A.
Lyon is attracted to an illegal street fight being run by a New Yorker called Joshua. He steps forward to take part in the next fight and destroys his opponent, leaving Joshua astounded. Joshua calls Lyon “the Lion – King of the Jungle” based on his unusual name. Joshua takes Lyon to meet a person called Cynthia, also known as ‘The Lady,’ who organizes underground fights for the rich elite and she decides to sponsor him – dubbing her new fighter “Lionheart”
Figuring that this would be the best way to earn the money he needs to get to L.A., Lyon fights in another no-holds-barred bare-knuckle fight to finance the trip. His next opponent “Sonny” has great distain for his opponents kicking his first opponent squarely inone his groin after the fight is all but over and spitting on him once he is left writhing on the floor in pain. Lyon returns the treatment by counterpunching Sonny straight in the groin with one single focused blow after intimidating him into attacking first.
After leaving the fight Lyon and Joshua look for a phone but get accosted by a street gang who pull guns and knives. Lyon and Joshua fight them off. Joshua calls in a favour from Cynthia and she gets them both across the states to L.A.
Meanwhile Lyon’s Legion Commander travels to Paris and finds that Lyon’s desertion is ranked at low importance with the LAPD, so the Commandant sends two of his own men to bring Gaultier back.
Once in L.A., Lyon goes to the hospital where he finds his brother has died and had done nothing but call for him for weeks up to his death.
He is told by the doctor that the culprits of his murder were never caught but that his brother’s wife Helen and young daughter Nicole are broke and have a stack of unpaid medical bills.
Lyon and Joshua track down Helen’s address. She refuses to accept any financial aid from Lyon, even though she obviously needs it, because she is angry with Lyon for “deserting” his brother years ago and blames him for his involvement in drugs. She threatens to call the cops and Lyon leaves.
To help their financial situation Lyon agrees with Cynthia to continue fighting in the L.A. street fighting circuit but spurns her repeated advances – which angers her.
Lyon next fights a martial artist similar to his own style of Taekwondo / Muai Thai in a mostly drained swimming pool eventually beating him with an elbow uppercut to the jaw which knocks his opponent unconscious in the shallow water from which Lyon drags him out.
Later on he fights a wrestler in a squash court in a different match up. Just as the wrestler picks Lyon up head high to body slam him he manages to elbow him in the head whereupon the wrestler drops him allowing him to be perform a series of side piercing kicks – the last sending the wrestler through the viewing glass on the back wall.
Since Helen refuses to interact with Lyon, Joshua poses as an insurance agent and gives her the winnings in the form of checks, which they claim are from a life insurance policy her husband had. Cynthia is angered that Lyon isn’t keeping the money and becomes suspicious of his motives and possibly jealous of Helen.
Lyon’s next fight involves a proud Scotsman (complete with ceremonial kilt). The fight takes place in a garage with the ring being illuminated by prestige car headlights. Lyon gets distracted by the Scotsman and changes his fighting style to match and ends up using all his energy clambering over the cars and trading blow for blow with his opponent. However the Scotsman is similarly exhausted and all Lyon needs to do at the end of the fight is to let him fall out of his hands.
Two Legionnaires sent from the desert catch up with Lyon in Los Angeles after staking out his sister-in-law’s appartment. Lyon fights them off, but suffers a broken rib. He is saved from the fight when Cynthia’s assistant (who has been tracking him) arrives and takes him away.
Cynthia meets with the Legionnaires and shows them a tape of a fighter named “Attila,” and says that she has booked Lyon a fight with him. Attila is undefeated and appears to permanently disable his opponents with callous finishing moves. Cynthia agrees to hand Lyon over to the Legionnaires after the fight. In order to skew the odds, Cynthia arranges a meeting with potential betters where she shows an altered tape of Attila which makes him look like a poor fighter.
Just prior to the fight, Joshua realizes Lyon is hurt. He encourages him not to fight and recalls a time when he was a fighter and Cynthia set him up similarly, but Lyon ignores him and is determined to win the money to take Helen and Nicole away. Lyon has already placed his stake on the fight, but Joshua is torn whether he should bet on Lyon or Attila.
As the fight proceeds, Lyon is obviously hurt by his rib which Attila takes full advantage of. However Lyon refuses to be intimidated by Attila’s strength and brutal fighting style which infuriates him.
When it appears Attila has won after knocking him down yet again Joshua begs Lyon to give up and tells him he bet on Attila because he feared Lyon would lose and become hurt. Lyon, angered by this news, summons his remaining strength to defeat Attila stating to Joshua he has made the “Wrong bet!”. He manages to perform a series of jump turning kicks followed by a trademark Van Damme jump spin kick in split position. Eventually we see the two fighting in the crowd where Lyon badly pummels Attila but fortunately Lyon backs off before killing him as we are reminded that Lyon has learnt his fighting technique in military service not in the ring.
Cynthia is ruined and is apprehended by the bookies as she put her entire fortune on Attila. And Lyon is taken into custody by the Legionnaires after making amends with Joshua. They take him back to the apartment to say goodbye to his family before returning to Africa, where he will be court-martialed for desertion.
Once they drive away, though, they stop and tell Lyon to get out, wishing him luck as he has fought bravely and he has a family to care for now. He runs back to his family and Joshua, who embrace him.
- Jean-Claude van Damme as Lyon Gaultier
- Harrison Page as Joshua Eldridge
- Deborah Rennard as Cynthia Caldera
- Lisa Pelikan as Hélène Gaultier
- Ashley Johnson as Nicole Gaultier
- Brian Thompson as Russell
- Voyo Goric as Sgt. Hartog
- Michel Qissi as Moustafa
- Tony Halme as security guard
- Clement von Franckenstein as English investor
- Abdel Qissi as Attila
Director Sheldon Lettich had co-written Bloodsport, the film that turned Van Damme into a star. They had become friends and Van Damme was impressed with a short film Lettich made, Firebase, and agreed for Lettich to direct. The director later recalled
Lionheart was a defining film for Van Damme because I did not shy away from giving him considerable amounts of dialogue and character development throughout the film. I trusted him to pull this off, whereas before nobody else believed he could do much more than just deliver some fancy kicks and simple one-liners. Lionheart was the first movie to demonstrate that Van Damme was more than just a flash-in-the-pan “Karate Guy” who would never rise above simplistic low-budget karate movies.
In the film, Van Damme shows his backside in one scene. While we were filming the scene in Lionheart where he takes a shower in Cynthia’s apartment, he asked me if he might casually “drop his towel” and show off his butt for a brief moment. My reply was “Sure, if you’re willing, why not? We can always use a different take later if we decide it’s not a good idea.” So we did one take where he casually lets the towel drop away, and then we later decided to go ahead and put that shot in the movie. Well, that became a very memorable moment for the ladies in the audience, and for the gay guys as well. Showing off his butt (clothed or unclothed) almost became a signature trademark of his after that.
The critical reception for the film was negative. On the film aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, it holds an approval rating of 27% based on 15 reviews. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “B+” on an A+ to F scale.
Lionheart performed well at the box office, debuting in 3rd position in the US with sales of about $7 million. The film dropped to 7th in its second week, and to 9th in its third. The film earned $24.3 million worldwide on a budget of $6 million.
Director Sheldon Lettich says the film became very popular among his fans:
People love the characters. They’re particularly fond of Lyon’s motor-mouthed, self-appointed “manager,” Joshua. Van Damme’s female fans seem especially enamored of this film because it was the first (and possibly the best) to showcase JCVD’s softer, more compassionate side. In Lionheart he’s not fighting for revenge or to “honor his Sensei,” or any of the usual motivations that are typical for these sorts of movies; he’s fighting for his family. He’s getting himself bruised and bloodied in these brutal street fights so that his little niece can get a new bicycle.
- ^ Jump up to:a b “Lionheart”. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
- ^ Q & A with Sheldon Lettich By Marco A. S. Freitas (Guest Post)
- ^ Jump up to:a b c Evan Sathoff, “Badass interview: Talking Jean-Claude van Damme with LIONHEART director, Sheldon Lettich”, 5 Feb 2015 accessed 20 June 2015
- ^ Wilmington, Michael (1991-01-11). “Karate-Themed ‘Lionheart’ Is a Swift Kick in the Teeth”. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
- ^ Jump up to:a b “Lionheart”. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
- ^ “Lionheart”. Entertainment Weekly. 1991-01-18. Retrieved 2010-12-01.
- ^ “Lionheart”. Washington Post. 1991-01-14. Retrieved 2010-12-01.
- ^ “CinemaScore”. cinemascore.com.
- ^ Broeske, Pat H. (1991-01-14). “Home Alone in 9th Week as No. 1 Film : Movies: ‘Godfather Part III’ takes dramatic slide from second to sixth place in its third week out. ‘Awakenings’ is in second”. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
- ^ “‘Home Alone’ Fends Off Yet Another ‘Intruder’ : Box Office: Vietnam War film opens to mediocre business as comedy remains on top for 10th week. After four weeks of release, ‘Godfather Part III’ drops to 12th”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
- ^ “‘Alone’ Stays at Home Atop Box Office Charts : Movies: The comedy has won 11 consecutive weekends. Its ticket sales have topped $200 million”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-04.