Legionnaire (1998) Review

Director: Peter MacDonald

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama, War

Runtime: 99 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

It may have the mandatory close-up of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s ass, but Legionnaire is not your typical movie to feature the Muscles from Brussels. I sure don’t recall seeing any roundhouse kicks. Anyway, this film is about French boxer Alain Lefevre (Jean-Claude Van Damme) joining the French Foreign Legion in the 1920s to avoid the mob. He, of course, ends up serving in the Rif War in Morocco. It’s not the most original tale, but it’s a well-told story that kept my attention.

While primarily a war/action-adventure flick, Legionnaire features a satisfactory dramatic core. Jean-Claude Van Damme has an underappreciated knack for picking projects with nifty, simple, yet effective, emotional hooks. The characters here are mostly clear and easy to root for. The musical score by John Altman works well, and there’s only a minimum of romance.

All of those components are fine and dandy…but how’s the action? If you’re just here for the combat, then you probably won’t leave disappointed. The film’s action sequences, mainly battles between the French Foreign Legion and Moroccan rebels, are truly excellent. This picture was directed by Peter MacDonald, who also helmed Rambo III (1988), and his scenes of physicality here are almost as impressive as the ones in that Rambo flick. Van Damme is definitely in action hero mode here, but he’s not really an obnoxiously unrealistic one-man army.

On the flip side, Legionnaire is home to some of the most clichéd dialogue in movie history. If an original script is one of the primary things you look for in a film, please skip this one. However, if all you’re looking for is a war picture with reasonable drama and spectacular action set-pieces, Legionnaire is more-than-worth looking into. It’s much more epic in scope than your average JCVD feature and feels more grounded in reality. I like it quite a bit.

My rating is 8 outta 10.

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