Sunday, July 27, 2014

Death Warrant (1990) Review:

By 1990, Jean-Claude Van Damme had claimed success in his late 80s sports films like Kickboxer (1989) and Bloodsport (1988). Along with this film, was Lionheart (1990) released the same year, which also many fans enjoyed. The thing was for almost every film Van Damme had played in, his role was that of a character with a family member he had lost and was fighting for.  It was new and touching for him as an actor in the beginning. But as time went on, the story lines began to feel awfully similar. Still, they entertained fans and viewers alike for the most part. Then came Death Warrant (1990), a movie with a whole different setting and situation which is great, yet failed to change the rest of the elements that Van Damme has already worked with in past stories.

This ain't the sports area anymore
Van Damme plays a cop named Burke who goes incognito at a penitentiary to solve a series of murders that have taken place there. This particular plot line is fine if it were handled without being treated so generically. Helping Burke from the outside is Amanda (Cynthia Gibb, best known for playing Sandy in Short Circuit 2 (1988)), posing as his wife. Starting off with how generic this story line is already headed, I'm sure viewers could pick out what happens between Amanda and Burke. It's quite blatant with how both characters are set up and developed. Are they memorable? Mehhh,...maybe to some. The only part of the plot that is different from Van Damme's past movies is that he's no longer fighting for a family member, he's fighting for himself. Kind of like First Blood (1982) but with a mediocre script.

Besides these actors, the rest of the main cast isn't terrible but are mostly under developed too. There's Abdul Salaam El Razzac as a man named Priest and Hawkins (Robert Guillaume - known for voicing Rafiki to The Lion King (1994)). Both of these actors give interesting character portrayals but somehow side with Burke for little to no reason. If they are criminals what exactly made them warm up so quickly to Burke? Then there's a cult favorite for some fans, Art LaFleur for playing in Stallone's Cobra (1986) & The Blob (1988) remake. He plays the head of the penitentiary and dislikes Burke a lot and for what reason? It's not given either. Lastly is a character known as the "Sandman" (Patrick Kilpatrick) who has the ability to withstand almost any type of lethal damage. And the reason behind this is? Again,...not given. Kilpatrick also isn't that memorable as a villain. He's more obnoxious than actually threatening.

You now gotta face those beady eyes!
Here's the biggest surprise, the screenplay was written by the now insanely sought out David S. Goyer. Yes, the man behind all the future comic book movies - this was his entry into film. Wow, Mr. Goyer you didn't start off that great. Russell Carpenter as head of cinematography was ok but nothing really stood out. The editing was strange at times though, especially during the fight scenes. There would be quick cuts to an action Burke would make and it would be repeated to make it look faster but instead it felt like filler. Even Gary Chang's score was in the middle. At times it work by using his signature marimba drums to emphasize the wild like instincts to survive such a hostile place, but it also didn't feel totally appropriate at times. He even has a main theme for Burke but it doesn't have a tune that is memorable. Sigh.

Its situation is written differently from that of Van Damme's earlier efforts but somehow all the same elements make it in as well. Plus, the screenplay suffers from several motivations and explanations that aren't explained. Thankfully it at least has a decent cast and music to back it up.

Points Earned --> 5:10

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