The past few years have brought about a Darwinian thinning of the action-star herd, as dinosaurs like Charles Bronson, Rutger Hauer, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Steven Seagal have been driven into the direct-to-video market by escalating production costs and diminished box-office returns. Seagal seems to have been granted a temporary reprieve from this fate thanks to the DMX-powered success of Exit Wounds, but he pops up in a sizable supporting role in the direct-to-video action bonanza Ticker. The latest from prolific director Albert Pyun (Dollman, Corrupt, Crazy Six), Ticker forces Seagal and Tom Sizemore to essentially switch roles, as gifted character actor Sizemore plays the action hero and action hero Seagal plays a colorful character role. Prominently billed rapper Nas co-stars as Sizemore's partner, but his good cop doesn't make it past the 15-minute mark. Before falling victim to the bad guys, Nas provides some surprisingly sensitive advice, begging Sizemore to let go of his demons before they consume him. Nas isn't the only law-enforcement agent concerned about Sizemore's emotional well-being, with increasingly puffy bomb-squad hotshot Seagal also offering sage words of counsel: "You gotta get beyond fear and hope, learn the nature of your own mind," and "be more Zen." Sizemore doesn't seem to absorb Seagal's message concerning Zen and the art of ass-kicking, but nevertheless partners with the beatific ponytail enthusiast to take down IRA-connected mad bomber Dennis Hopper and foxy terrorist Jamie Pressly. Outfitting its renegade-cop hero with all the requisite accoutrements—a murdered wife and child, suicidal thoughts, stubble, a snotty rival perpetually riding his ass—Ticker revels in schlock, lovingly lingering over every cliché and cockeyed line of dialogue as if discovering it for the first time. For anyone masochistic enough to find the concept of buxom Poison Ivy: The New Seduction star Pressly playing a morally conflicted scientist strangely irresistible, Ticker delivers the low-down Z-movie goods, and then some. Equally derivative but far less enjoyable is Replicant, Jean-Claude Van Damme's latest direct-to-video thriller. Lazily cross-breeding Arnold Schwarzenegger's The 6th Day with The Watcher and Van Damme's own Double Impact, Replicant once again casts Van Damme in a dual role, this time both as a Gavin Rossdale lookalike with a nasty habit of murdering mothers, and as the clone sent to bring him to justice. The 6th Day's Michael Rooker, an actor seemingly obligated to appear in every thriller in which a muscular European with a comical accent battles his clone, plays Van Damme's reluctant partner, who suspends his retirement after the government forces him to baby-sit Van Damme's laboratory-spawned double. Impersonally directed by Hong Kong veteran Ringo Lam, who previously did Van Damme duty on 1996's similarly generic Maximum Risk, Replicant defies plausibility at every turn, without providing much incentive to suspend disbelief. Replicant is far too familiar, sordid, and joyless to be much fun, although those seeking Ticker-style unintentional laughs needn't wait much longer. Van Damme and Lam are scheduled to reunite for The Monk, a thriller that, heeding Seagal's call to "be more Zen," casts Van Damme as a deeply spiritual monk with a predilection for ass-kicking.

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