Lionheart (1990 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sheldon Lettich
Produced by Eric Karson
Ash R. Shah
Anders P. Jensen
Executive Producer
Written by S.N. Warren
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Sheldon Lettich
Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme
Harrison Page
Deborah Rennard
Brian Thompson
Lisa Pelikan
Ashley Johnson
Ash Adams
Michel Qissi
Abdel Qissi
Music by John Scott
Cinematography Robert C. New
Edited by Mark Conte
Wrong Bet Productions
Imperial Entertainment
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • January 11, 1991 (1991-01-11)
Running time
105 min.
Country USA
Language English
Budget $6,000,000
Box office $24,078,196

Lionheart (also known as Wrong Bet, A.W.O.L.: Absent Without Leave, and Full Contact) is a 1990 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 arrives at the U.S. French Embassy, where he is told that the LAPD could not care less about finding Lyon, 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 "Attilla the Hun", who has so far been unbeatable. After betting a large amount on "Attilla", she arranges to have Lyon handed over to the Legion soldiers after he has been defeated thoroughly.

Lyon's fight with Atilla is hampered by his broken rib. Attilla'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 "Attilla" 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 Attilla 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. The Legionnaires 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. After an emotional farewell, Lyon and the Legion members speed off, but just down the road, moved by the family's heartbreak, the Legionnaries decide to let Lyon go out of respect for his determination, willpower, and personal integrity, both during the fight and in helping out his sister-in-law. Ultimately, Lyon is able to go home and be a family man.



The critical reception for the film was mixed, but was responded to negatively by most critics.[1][2][3][4]

On the aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 33% rating.[5]

Box office[edit]

Lionheart performed rather well at the box office.[6] The movie dropped to 7th in its second week.[7] In its third week it dropped to 9th.[8] 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)


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