Thursday, December 9, 2010

Van Damme double feature

Death Warrant (1990) * * *


Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Robert Guillaume, Cynthia Gibb, George Dickerson, Art LaFleur, Patrick Kilpatrick, Joshua Miller, Conrad Dunn, Abdul Salaam El Razzac

Directed by Deran Sarafian

Van Damme goes undercover in prison to put the foot down (literally) on the warden and such who are harvesting organs while trying hard to keep his cover, which will be tough as The serial killer sandman (Kilpatrick in an excellent performance) he put away is transferred into his cell. Death Warrant is yet another classic Van Damage film, and really Van Damme at his peak is essentially what makes Death Warrant a must for genre fans. However it should be noted that this is actually Van Damme’s best made film, it’s a low budget but slick film with a (welcome) brutal edge. Real stakes are being played and Van Damme feels vulnerable and not exactly a superman. Indeed the finale is suspenseful, well lit and actually quite suspenseful. That said Death Warrant doesn’t start out well, it seems like it’s going to be standard prison clich├ęs and the standard undercover plot, but once Van Damme goes behind bars the film kicks into high gear. Most of this atmosphere makes Death Warrant seem gloom and doom, but the movie is well acted and the characters (mainly Guillaume, Dunn and Razzac) that make the prison environment feel real. Sarafian manages to set up suspense and really the movie is a heavy duty action flick that is actually a half way decent film, and not just a good Van Damme flick. Death Warrant then follows a predictable formula, but given the atmosphere and emphasis on grittiness, the formula works.



Double Impact (1991) * * *

Cast:Jean-Claude Van Damme, Geoffrey Lewis, Cory Everson, Bolo Yeung, Alan Scarfe, Alonna Shaw

Directed by Sheldon Lettich

Van Damme plays twin brothers (and martial arts experts) who join forces to take back the big business bad guys and triads who killed their parents and stole the million dollar tunnel that they own, of course the business baddies aren’t going down with a fight but JCVD (x2) knows how to pack a punch and is bringing out the guns. Double Impact is a lot of fun because it’s essentially a gimmick martial arts film but one that works. There really is no reason to talk about the plot and story because it just serves to showcase kung fu battles as two Van Dammes destroy bad guys by the hundreds. Indeed the climax finds Van Damme fighting Bolo Yeung (Possibly looking for vengeance after Bloodsport) and the overall ship climax became ripped off repeatedly in other DTV kung fu movies (Back In Action and Deadly Target to name a few) The flick also features a great scene where Van Damme takes on himself in a completely ridiculous sequence set up by even more ridiculous circumstances (Van Damme #2 thinks Van Damme #1 is sleeping with his girlfriend in one of the most hilarious sex scenes ever) so it all leads to both of them feuding and Van Damme #1 saying how he’ll swim back to L.A The action element is what really makes this worth seeing, it’s all well made and well directed and although the film is really goofy and ridiculous, it doesn’t take away from the movie, in fact it makes Double Impact a fun martial arts flick.

2 comments:

  1. This is a great combination for a double feature. I know you've wanted me to review them for a long time, and I split the difference with you by doing the Van Damme film fest post. This was him at his best, the perfect follow ups to Lionheart, Kickboxer, and Bloodsport, and he rode the success of these two films for a while after. Whenever someone cracks a joke about Van Damme now, as much as I think of those first three, I also think of these two in making a case that they don't know what they're talking about.

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  2. I saw a newer film just the other day that completely ripped off the end fight between JCVD and Bolo- complete with the big, giant barrels and the hero kicking them, the whole nine yards- wish I could remember what it was called, shows how memorable it was.

    These movies are easily in Van Damme's top five, after 'Lionheart,' I saw every Van Damme theatrical movie up to 'Double Team' on the opening day. It was 'Lionheart' and 'Double Impact' (along with 'Kickboxer') that propelled me to do this- even when it was a bad movie like 'Nowhere to Run'.

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