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Review Lionheart a.k.a. Wrong Bet a.k.a. A.W.O.L. (1990): One of Van Damme's best titles!

genre: martial arts, action, drama

Without a doubt one of Van Damme's best titles. Why? Since next to good action it has a good story. Nothing complicated or complex mind you. It's simple but effective.

Lyon is a soldier in the French Foreign Legion. After word gets out to him that his brother is badly wounded (burned alive) he tries to get a leave of absence which they blatantly deny. Not having one inch of sympathy. He then decides to desert them  and flee to the U.S. to visit and help his brother. Unfortunately he did not come in time. While having failed his brother he wants to do whatever he can to take care of his niece and sister and law that are left behind. Helene (the sister in law) is angry at him for not being there when he was needed and refuses his help even when she desperately needs it. Most of course is her grief speaking. But also because she blames him for the fact that his actions forced the brother to be out on the streets. As it turns out this is not true at all and Lyon tried to get him away from any bad activities so that he could focus on his future. She even says that he should have let him go to jail. To which Lyon replies that he would not have survived it. All I take from this is that right from the start Lyon has a big heart and tried to do whatever he could to take care of people he considers family. Hence why he is called Lionheart.

This might give you the impression he is a pushover. But he is not. Far from it. He is a force to be reckoned with, especially in combat. His skills get recognized and appreciated by Joshua (Harrison Page) who takes him under his wing. If Harrison Page might seem familiar then you probably know him from Sledge Hammer! where he plays the captain. He introduces him to Cynthia played by Deborah Rennard who organizes fights which are illegal BTW. It's never clarified if this is the only thing she does or that it's just a very lucrative side activity. It doesn't matter much since it's obvious that she can live off it. Through Cynthia Lyon can provide for his family so he accepts whatever fight she wants him to be in. While he is doing this he also has to avoid capture by two MP's from the French Foreign Legion who are determined to take him back and punish him accordingly. One of these MP's is played by Michel Qissi (Tong Po in Kickboxer, Bloodsport and Terminator Woman). 

This brings me to the fights and action. Clearly what most people tune in for. The martial arts is solid. The choreography is slick and stylish enough and at times it does seem to depict what an organized street fight would look like. But it's the emotional component that give the fights that extra edge and make them more compelling.

As far as I am concerned this is a classic. It remains strong after multiple viewings and shows that Van Damme does have it in him to do more acting wise when given the chance. So a must watch for sure!

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