Lionheart (1990 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sheldon Lettich|
|Produced by||Eric Karson
Ash R. Shah
Anders P. Jensen
|Written by||S.N. Warren
Jean-Claude Van Damme
|Starring||Jean-Claude Van Damme
|Music by||John Scott|
|Cinematography||Robert C. New|
|Edited by||Mark Conte|
Wrong Bet Productions
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
Lionheart (also known as Wrong Bet, A.W.O.L.: Absent Without Leave, Leon and Full Contact) 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.
The film stars Van Damme as 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.
Arguably one of the essential Van Damme films in the view of fans, the film's cast and crew included two people that 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.
Lyon Gaultier is a paratrooper in the French Foreign Legion, stationed in Djibouti, North Africa. His brother, who is married to an American woman in Los Angeles, is burned alive during a deal gone wrong and suffers third-degree burns, dying shortly afterward. Lyon deserts his legion when they withhold letters from his brother's wife and ultimately refuse to let him see his brother. He steals a jeep and escapes through the desert, finding work on a tramp steamer headed for the U.S. Meanwhile, the Legion commanding officer also travels to the States, arriving at the French Embassy, where he is told that Lyon's desertion is ranked at low importance with the LAPD, so he orders two of his own Legionnaires to do the job.
Lyon arrives in New York and travels to California to be with his brother's family. Along the way, he meets Joshua, a man who runs fights for money, and also learns that he cannot avenge his brother's murder, as he failed to identify his killers before dying. Tagging along with Joshua, Lyon meets Cynthia, who organizes underground fights for the rich elite and decides to sponsor him. Figuring that this would be the best way to earn the money his family needs, Lyon fights in no-holds-barred bare-knuckle fights to finance the trip. Once they reach L.A., he tracks down his brother's widow, who is reluctant to accept financial aid, even though she obviously needs it, because she is angry with Lyon for "deserting" his brother years ago. Lyon continues fighting, and Joshua poses as an insurance man who delivers checks to her from an account her husband allegedly had left behind. Joshua introduces Lyon in the fighting circuit as the titular "Lionheart," derived from "Lyon."
Meanwhile, the two Legionnaires catch up with Lyon in Los Angeles. Lyon fights them off, but suffers a broken rib. Cynthia decides to take advantage of Lyon's string of victories by stacking the odds in favor of a massive, brutal fighter named "Attila the Hun", who has so far been unbeatable. Cynthia stacks the odds by smuggling an early video of Attila fighting poorly, which as expected fails to impress the oddsmakers. Cynthia later reveals Attila's true prowess to the Legionnaires, and she promises to deliver Lyon to them after he has been thoroughly humiliated and beaten. The Legionnaires agree to this, provided they can be in the audience.
Lyon's fight with Atilla is hampered by his broken rib. Atilla's trademark (deliberately withheld from Lyon) is to let his opponent tire themselves out before viciously breaking them, often killing them in the process. When it appears "Attila" has won, Joshua begs Lyon to give up, revealing that they were both used by Cynthia. Joshua, for the best of reasons (Lionheart's family), placed all of his own money on Attila as a form of "insurance," as all the odds are against Lyon winning. Lyon, angered by this news, bounces back and summons up all his remaining strength to defeat Atilla but spares his life. Cynthia is sidelines by the gamblers demanding she pay up, but Leon is found by the Legionnaires. They escort him back to the apartment, where they give him some time to say his goodbyes before being deported back to Africa, where he will be court-martialed for desertion. Leon tells his niece that he must go but try to look for times when life can be good, which is emotional as she does not understand. However, just down the road, moved by the family's heartbreak, the Legionnaries decide to let Lyon go. They believe he has shown the Legion's values of honor, determination and service to others, both during the fight and helping out the family, and wish him luck in his new life in America. Ultimately, Lyon is shown running back to a pleased Joshua and joyous family.
- Jean-Claude Van Damme as Lyon Gaultier
- Harrison Page as Joshua Eldridge
- Deborah Rennard as Cynthia
- 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
Lionheart performed rather well at the box office. The movie dropped to 7th in its second week. In its third week it dropped to 9th. Ranging from $24,078,196, with a budget of $6,000,000. Along with the following grosses in other countries:$24,078,196 (USA) £283,848 (UK) (19 October 1990) €2,745,637 (Germany) (22 November 1990) €658,874 (Spain)
- Wilmington, Michael (1991-01-11). "Karate-Themed 'Lionheart' Is a Swift Kick in the Teeth". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
- "Lionheart". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-12-01.
- "Lionheart". Entertainment Weekly. 1991-01-18. Retrieved 2010-12-01.
- "Lionheart". Washington Post. 1991-01-14. Retrieved 2010-12-01.
- "Lionheart". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-12-01.
- 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.