Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Van Damme vs. Seagal

Genre: Comedy
Premise: Seagal and Van Damme play Los Angeles neighbors in the midst of a long-standing feud.
About: This is an older project I've been meaning to read forever. Friends told me it was good and the hook was too hilarious to pass up. The problem seems to be that Seagal and Van Damme won't do it. Which is a shame because realistically, this is their only chance of getting out of straight-to-dvd land. (If anyone has an update on this project, please e-mail me or leave a comment!)
Writer: da drooz

Remember the good old days when Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal flicks were *the* movies to see? I'll never forget the day that changed. When a movie titled "Fire Down Below" came out, an "eco-action-thriller." About 20 minutes into watching this garbage dump of a film, my friend and I turned to each other and said, "What the f*ck is this shit?" You could replay that movie for me right now with Steven Seagal in my living room explaining every plot point in detail and I still wouldn't know what was going on. It was around that same time I heard a story about Van Damme being a diva on the set of Predator (his first American film) and my love for these two childhood icons died. My only interaction with them since has been seeing their slightly-disheveled mugs pasted on their latest straight-to-DVD release when I peruse through the video store. What Van Damme and Seagal don't realize is that this movie would completely change all that.

Dave is a struggling writer working on an obscure autobiography of a Bulgarian feminist when he's informed of a job by his agent that's a little...out of his comfort zone. Jean Claude Van Damme wants him to write his autobiography. "Jean Claude Van Who?" When Dave finds out it's some aging action movie star he adamantly refuses. Dave is a "serious" writer who does serious feminist biographies only. But the 175,000 dollar check changes his mind and off to Los Angeles he goes. What Dave doesn't know is that the only reason Van Damme wants to write an autobiography is because he's found out that his neighbor, the man he hates more than anything in the world, Steven Seagal, is writing his autobiography, and just like everything else in life, Jean Claude wants to beat him to it.

Naturally, the job of Van Damme's biographer turns into more than just being his biographer. It requires training with Van Damme, shopping with Van Damme, picking up after Van Damme, and even waxing Van Damme. Not nearly as in demand as he once was, Van Damme spends most of his days spying on Seagal and satisfying a sexual appetite that makes David Duchovny look like Ernest Borgnine. Not to be outdone, Seagal has his own set of spy equipment that he uses to watch Van Damme. He also enjoys sneaking into Van Damme's house at night and putting up posters of Under Siege or lobbing water balloons into his yard filled with his own urine.

During one of Seagal's spying sessions, he spots Dave and assumes that Van Damme is building an army to defeat him. The unwritten rules of their feud dictate that this is forbidden so Seagal heads off to see the United Nations of the Van Damme-Seagal conflict, Chuck Norris. Chuck Norris convinces Seagal to calm down, pointing out that an army requires more than one person. But Seagal is not convinced. He goes to his old friend Dolph Lundgren for help, but Dolph is doing something that's become a bit alien to Seagal and Van Damme - a movie. Not only that, but Dolph is going to direct his first film afterwards. Excited, Seagal inquires about a possible part. But Dolph looks away. He's sorry but he doesn't have anything available.

Beat up and depressed, Seagal decides to further investigate Van Damme's secret one-man weapon and discovers that he's not a weapon at all, but rather Van Damme's biographer. Seagal seeks out Dave's biography about the Bulgarian feminist and reads it. It is so touching - he is so moved - he kidnaps Dave and insists that he write *his* biography. This is after we find out that Seagal wasn't even writing a biography in the first place. Van Damme had some bad intel. But now that he knows Van Damme is writing a biography, he wants to write one first.

In the end, the former movie stars must team up to save Los Angeles from a group of terrorists who were living right in the house between them this whole time (they were too consumed with each other to notice). And of course, at the very very end, they finally fight each other.

Van Damme vs. Seagal was a nice surprise. I expected a big goofy rompified mess. And it was a big goofy rompified mess. But it was a lovable big goofy rompafied mess with a lot of charm and a surprising amount of story. The scene that everyone talks about is the water-balloon fight (talk about the perfect trailer moment) but this script has tons of funny moments. One of my favorite ongoing gags is that Seagal has slept with 5000 women while Van Damme's only slept with 4998. In this scene, Dave is taking a pottie (sitting down) when Seagal sneaks in through the window, trying to convince him to write his biography, promising to help him bed women in return. Van Damme walks in and catches them in the act.
But before Dave can say anything, the door opens and VD enters the tiny bathroom.

What the hell is going on in here?

Can you people not see I'm on the toilet?!

Yes. I see you. Sneaking in here, pretending to be on the toilet, pretending to make number 2 so you can talk to your new best friend Steven Seagal.

I'm not pretending. And I didn't sneak in here. He snuck in to try to get me to help him write his book by helping me win over Theresa.

I can't believe I called you a great employee.

I said no.

VD is thrilled.

Of course you did. He could never help you win over a woman.

Seagal rolls his eyes.

I could do a lot better job than you, Flemmie. In fact, I could do two better than you.

He sure knows how to press VD's buttons.

The only reason you have two more conquests than me is because no women were able find me for two days after you changed the name of my street sign.

Seagal laughs fondly at that memory.
I'll let you read the funniest moment of the script yourself, which happens after Van Damme and Seagal team up. When one of the terrorists spots their position, they must improvise something to stay alive. Let's just say if it ever happens, it would be one of the the greatest moments in movie history. I don't know if it's even legal to give a script named "Van Damme vs. Seagal" an impressive rating, but I'll tell you, I came Van Damme close (come on, you know I had to go there).

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest

[xx] worth the read

[ ] impressive

[ ] genius

What I learned: Gimmick scripts. Scripts with a gimmicky angle usually never get made (or sold for that matter). We've seen this with The Gary Coleman - Emmanuel Lewis Project and the more recent "Balls Out" by The Robotard 8000. I remember hearing about a script a long time ago where a frustrated writer wrote one giant 'fuck you' to the industry before giving up. Surprisingly, the script was a town favorite and actually got sold (by the way, if anyone knows the title of this script or has it, please send it to me). While selling a gimmick script is the exception and not the rule, their ridiculous nature tends to create a buzz, getting writers into meetings where other work opportunities can be found. Gimmick scripts are a legitimate avenue into the business. Just remember, they still have to be good (I still think VD vs. Seagal could pull in a 25 million opening weekend though. People would flock to this).