25 Years Ago… Lionheart - ManlyMovie

25 Years Ago… Lionheart


Round about now, a quarter of a century ago, Lionheart was playing in theatres.  Man, time does fly.  This Jean Claude Van Damme movie is quite good and very underrated.

You know, it’s the simplicity of Lionheart that I love.  From the humble story, to the director giving us lucid but effective fight scenes.  You don’t need to reinvent the wheel and shake the camera and throw the reel into an editing blender.  And who says that every fighting movie has to have the depth of Rocky or ‘Warrior’?

Nowadays Jean Claude Van Damme’s talent would probably have been wasted with that king of thing.  It’s also and old school beat ’em up.  No bullshit ‘tapping out’ or tedious holds.  Big kicks, big payback.

The film was a success, bringing back its budget four times over.  Let’s drink to Lionheart, gents!


  1. mark

    January 13, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    Overall a good fight and certainly well directed/edited compared too a lot of modern fight scenes (I am talking about fight shown attached to main article)
    I would say two minus points watching it again + two arguable points.
    1) The lack of reaction from the opponent when JCVD kicks him in the head and then lands a spin kick that seems false, he reacts like he had been hit by a much weaker punch not those powerful kicks.
    Perhaps instead he should have blocked/avoided those kicks and when JCVD went for the third kick grabbed that and done the move he did.
    Also compare to slightly later in the fight when ONE head kick from JCVD knocks him off the car bonnet.
    2) When JCVD tries to punch the guy and the opponent avoids it and his hand goes through the car window, that should have damaged his hand quite badly (see beginning of karate kid 2)
    Arguable points, I put the first one down to personal preference..
    1) The ending hammer fist/holding the guy up and “showing” him too his backers certainly works but would have preferred personally a knock out punch and the crowd cheering/sounding their car horns for JCVD’s character. I didn’t find that finishing movie that good, it works just not my personal preference.
    2) The fight could have been longer by a one/two minutes. After JCVD kicked the guy in the head and he fell off the car bonnet and they got up into the grappling position where they traded body punches this bit till the end could have been longer arguably with more trading and maybe (see point 1) a better finish move for JCVD.
    For a major plus point I think the beginning is particularly good and also establishes character both JCVD’s and his opponent.
    JCVD tries to shake hands showing he is a sportsman and willing to fight fairly, like say touching gloves in a UFC fight and his opponent smiles but that uses this to instead poke him in the eye before delivering a couple more hits establishing him as nasty guy who will do ANYTHING to win (see the later usage of an improvised weapon, eg the car aerial)
    In some respects even as it is I would say it is arguably the best fight in the film.
    The end fight in comparison although entertaining is worse, it is JCVD taking a bad beating for a fair bit of it combined with a total pummelling of his opponent once he lands the kick showed in the picture at the top of this article which doesn’t apart from knocking Atilla down appear to damage him that much.
    There is a bit of trading in the fight but not that much.
    It also has a totally unnecessary bit where JCVD had his ribs injured prior to the fight when considering how deadly Attila was established to be seemed totally unnecessary.
    This has happened before in JCVD fight flicks, see also tong po fight in kick boxer that his brother is kidnapped to force him to lose until he is freed.
    Tong po again established with his fight with his brother to be ruthless and highly skilled (his brother was a champion) didn’t IMHO need that advantage even after who JCVD had been trained by.
    It makes Tong Po arguably seem weak and frankly JCVD’s training should IMHO only made him on par/slightly better, not the total one way beating it turned into as soon as he was free to fight.
    In final fight of blood sport, bolo yueng (chong li) yet again was getting slaughtered until he temporarily blinded JCVD and yet again was established to be a deadly fighter.
    JCVD did blind folded training though so this was at least established BUT landing jump spin kicks to the head was IMHO a step too far looking back at it.
    I do though 100% agree though that fight scenes were a lot better directed/edited back then but looking back without rose tinted glasses on it is a shame some of them weren’t better choreographed/ had their scripts tweaked.
    I am NOT saying these films weren’t entertaining and certainly a lot better than most modern direct to dvd films BUT they could have been better and there is room for someone modern to do films like that better IMHO (BTW these films were all direct to VHS in the UK, no cinema releases over here that I can remember)

    • Austrian Oak

      January 13, 2016 at 9:41 pm

      I think Isaac Florentine is one of those modern directors trying to push the envelope. Still, these old movies may have lacked perfection in choreography but they had style atmosphere and one liners that modern movies can only dream of IMO.

      • Duncan BROcleod

        January 14, 2016 at 2:53 am

        And they were fun, too. You could watch “Double Impact,” “Lionheart,” and “Bloodsport” over and over and enjoy the fights and the one-liners despite whatever shortcomings each movie may have. Unfortunately, the same thing can’t be said about a lot of newer genre movies or even Jean-Claude’s more recent stuff, most of which have been morose or just flat-out lifeless.

  2. Duncan BROcleod

    January 13, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    And it also gave us this fight, in which Jean-Claude deployed his deadliest technique. Hail Lionheart!

    • mark

      January 13, 2016 at 4:52 pm

      An interesting ending to that fight certainly and still could have been used but would have had more of a fight first.
      After all sonny was established in earlier fight with the black opponent as a skilled fighter and didn’t seem type of guy to go for an immediate head kick minus set-up.
      In this earlier fight he was shown to be mainly a counter fighter and skilled so I doubt even if he was attacking he would have gone for a risky move like an head kick for his opening attack.
      He should also be able to see that JCVD’s character was being cautious so that was a even riskier move in this situation
      I have seen head kicks minus set-up in the UFC but needs precise timing and more often than not doesn’t land + no deliberate groin strikes unlike this type of illegal no rules street fighting.
      That could have been the finish move for JCVD certainly but would have had a much longer fight prior to it.
      Too me that fight after the set-up of sonny’s fighter was a bit of a wasted opportunity.

    • Mucho Macho

      January 13, 2016 at 6:56 pm

      Classic!!💪 the end ” Come on man, you ain’t gonna do shit”

      • mark

        January 13, 2016 at 7:05 pm

        agreed mucho,
        That line certainly worked and that guy in the audience clearly wasn’t going to do anything.
        For JCVD funny line though…
        I think “That hurts me just looking at it” when JCVD’s buddy walks into his hotel room in blood sport while he is doing the splits between two chairs.

        • Mucho Macho

          January 13, 2016 at 7:12 pm

          Hahaha..that was another great line mark.
          these movies if you think about it were very witty. They were filled with great one liners.
          Another lost artform i think in today’s action movies..the one liners

  3. mark

    January 13, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    Too be honest guys I think you could remake lion heart and improve it..
    I’d choose scott adkins potentially for the JCVD role.
    As mentioned I think several of the fights could be improved and I’d personally remove the whole damaged ribs bit from the storyline as that makes Atilla seem weak as although established to be “deadly” he needs JCVD’s character to be injured to seem enough of a threat.
    Atilla minus any injuries should be more than enough of a challenge.
    In fact talking of Attila I think his rip in half move was rather silly, better a neck break or a throat strike nothing wrong with OTT moves in certain films but I don’t think it was right for lion heart overall.

    • Austrian Oak

      January 13, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      I agree, as cool as they were you could improve the fights. If you look at the undisputed sequels (2&3) the fights are much better in terms of technique. Still Lionheart had a great story at the core. And a remake wouldn´t work cause you won´t find actors like that anymore. Apart from Scott Adkins and Michael Jai White I don´t know any young actors in the industry who can do what those guys did and still have the charisma to rock the screen. Van Damme was at his peak at that time, and the other martial artists were top notch too.

  4. Mucho Macho

    January 13, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    Oh the days were 1 could go to the movies & for a lower price watch movies like this. I seriously don’t understand why young men nowadays don’t enjoy , like nor seek out more movies like this.
    This were the cinematic superheroes from our youth.
    Your loss Millennials… you wouldn’t know a good action movie if it licked your balls.

    • Austrian Oak

      January 13, 2016 at 9:23 pm

      manly men are an endangered species.

      • Mucho Macho

        January 13, 2016 at 11:20 pm

        Sad but true my amigo

  5. ColonelBobi

    January 15, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    A true JCVD classic with some cool ass fight scenes though the director was a little over fond of showing the same punch/kick from multiple angles multiple times so it looked like our hero had unleashed a vicious salvo on some chump when it was really only 1 hit. I love the way JC punches the soldier off his jeep when he’s deserting near the start, also when he elbows the guy in the swimming pool. They don’t make em like this anymore.