Bullet Points: Death Warrant
Today is day 2 of our 2nd annual Best Van Damme Week Ever! If you’re new to the site then I recommend that you use the search bar and read up on last year’s BVDWE. It’s the type of life-changing event that your fortune cookies have been talking about.
For today’s review, I got down with another one of Jean Claude’s early films, Death Warrant. Comparing it to some of his other early flicks like Bloodsport or Universal Soldier would be doing Death Warrant a disservice. If you want to compare it to anything you should be doing it to other action/prison movies like Sly Stallone’s Lock Up. Doing that will give you a greater appreciation for this film since I don’t believe that it’s one of JCVD’s best films but I do think it’s a very enjoyable flick.
Synopsis: JCVD is a former Mountie, which must be pretty tough in Canada since he takes down the maniacal serial killer by the name of The Sandman. Van Damme’s Burke doesn’t take much time to celebrate as he’s quickly thrust into an undercover operation to infiltrate a maximum security prison in L.A. to find out why inmates are mysteriously dying like flies. It isn’t long before Burke is dishing out some Canadian spin kicks like they’re running out of style. It’s gonna be hard to eat that prison chow with a broken jaw BITCH!
Canadian Batman: Burke shares a couple of traits with Bruce Wayne; they are both elite fighters, use their skills as detectives to stop criminals, and they each have a very grimey voice. I don’t know if that was a conscious decision by JCVD or the directors call but his voice sounded like he could use a throat lozenge.
Prison Cliche: Of course we’re given a “fresh fish” scene but Death Warrant goes one further and has the new black prisoner hop off of the bus wearing a pair of stylish sunglasses! It must have been a goof because the camera pans out and he’s no longer wearing them but it was good introduction to the types of cliches that would be displayed for the rest of the film. There is the Hispanic group who hate the blacks, the aryan nation guys who hate the blacks, the prison guards who hate the blacks, and the black guys who smoke prison dope and pimp out trannies to the other inmates. Sounds about right to me.
We need a Hero: Despite his rad high-waisted jeans with no shirt look, I never really got into JCVD’s character in Death Warrant. Except for his revenge killing of the Sandman at the beginning I never truly understood what Burke’s motivation throughout the film was. Justice, I guess? Not the best lead in a prison movie. Hell, even the prisoners wanted Burke to die at the end of the film and the guy he was fighting was a bed time song reciting lunatic.
Bring me a Dream: The Sandman should have gotten more screen time. The whole storyline skirted around the Burke/Sandman feud and I have to believe that even Van Damme knew that most of the movie stunk as he tried his best to bring down the guy who played Babe Ruth in The Sandlot.
Have some more Bullet Points you addicts!
- Working title: Written and filmed as “Dusted” by Cannon Pictures. Written by David S. Goyer, who also wrote the Blade films, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, and Man of Steel.
- Supporting Cast: Notable for having Paula Tocha, Al Leong, Gary Cervantes, and Patrick Kilpatrick.
- Something I assume: JCVD and Cynthia Gibb totally hooked up on set.
The Verdict: There were several missed opportunities in Death Warrant. It needed at least one more good fight scene for Van Damme to truly showcase his moves and Burke had numerous chances to drop some great one-liners but he didn’t do it. If it had starred Jeff Speakman or Jeff Wincott then it would have been among their best films but for Van Damme it’s only middle of the pack. It didn’t make my Essential JCVD Collection but it’s still a fun movie to watch with a cooler full of beer.