It was a popular decision to throw Rob Schneider into your action movie for comic relief in the 90’s. This goes for Demolition Man, the famously bad Judge Dredd, and Knock Off. The story of Knock Off follows a fashion designer who is recruited to fight terrorism. Yep. So, just picture Zoolander meets Mission: Impossible.
Marcus Ray (Jean Claude Van Damme; He’s back... and not for the last time), is known for making knock off fashion who appears to be given a second chance by a friend (Rob Schneider) until it turns out he is working with the government to take down a big ring of counterfeit clothing manufacturers that also happen to be terrorists. Now, as if that isn't stupid enough, get this: They're using Marcus' knock-off clothing to smuggle explosives. Yeah... Somebody wrote that.
If that premise doesn’t scare you, how about this? Van Damme doing comedy. That should send chills down your spine if nothing else does. Knock off is bad from start to finish because, while it does not take itself entirely seriously, has some gratuitous violence that sucks the comedy out of the scene because we’re supposed to read these scenes as legitimate action and not as humorous. Therefore Knock Off fails at being a serious action flick, and the comedy sucks. So... Fail!
Action/comedy has worked before. It worked with Lethal Weapon and, to a lesser extend, 48 Hours.
The characters in these films were likable but the film never forgot that it was actually an action flick. A more recent example is Tropic Thunder, which had humor but was still a serious action flick, and the film played like an action movie first. Knock Off seems a little unsure of what it is. Like Demolition Man, it has strange pacing and and a confused tone, but at least Demolition Man had some resemblance of substance; It still wasn't good, but it did try to do something a little different. Knock Off feels like a knock off in its own right, while the plot is CERTAINLY "different" (ish), the action and execution is derivative and it never feels like it ever hits the right notes.
I'll close on the acting. Boy is it bad. I mean like, really bad. While Van Damme and Schneider are always bad, I think most of the blame for this mess goes to director Hark Tsui. Tsui made a good film with Once Upon a Time in China but has mainly since been resigned with retread sequels of that film and lower-budget projects. He also directed number 91 on this list, Double Team a film that would be worse if it weren't so unintentionally hilarious.