Black Eagle

Director: Erik Karson (1988)
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sho Kosugi
Find it: IMDB

That one time the KGB and Jean-Claude Van Damme had the snot beaten out of them by a massive nerd. With its beautiful Maltese location, cold war plot and selection of sinister bad guys, Black Eagle is one of the more obvious James Bond rip-offs ever made. Sho Kosugi, however, is no Sean Connery. Instead, Ken Tani (Kosugi) is more of a Roger Moore type secret agent; that is to say, an enormous geek. Thankfully, he's just as competent in a fight as he is in, say, a library, or pretending to be a bumbling scientist in order to throw the KGB off his scent.

The Jaws-like henchman to Kosugi's Bond, Van Damme is the film's muscle, casually murdering a captured CIA agent (via Bruce Lee style neck snap) before stopping to impress the crew with his haf-naked doing of the splits while throwing knives at a small target. It's a smallish, early role from Van Damme, but an entertaining one nonetheless.

Appreciating that Black Eagle is more Bond thriller than your traditional punchy, kick-fu Jean-Claude Van Damme action film should help viewers appreciate it more. There's not any actual proper action until over the halfway mark, with Tani spending most of his time scuba diving (minus the gear, being so hard and all) or taking his achingly dull children to the beach. That makes it only a matter of time before the kids are kidnapped and it becomes... personal.

Black Eagle is a little slow, a little underwhelming and a lot badly acted - particularly by Kosugi and Van Damme - but it does look good, and is unusual enough that one won't resent spending time with it. At the very least, it's better than the worst James Bond movies.

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