Stowe is a dirty cop who is hooked on heroin, and everyone dislikes him. Because of an accident he is put into a coma, and comes out of it a better person. He wakes up wanting to put things ... Read allStowe is a dirty cop who is hooked on heroin, and everyone dislikes him. Because of an accident he is put into a coma, and comes out of it a better person. He wakes up wanting to put things right.Stowe is a dirty cop who is hooked on heroin, and everyone dislikes him. Because of an accident he is put into a coma, and comes out of it a better person. He wakes up wanting to put things right.
Now in my honest opinion, I found this to be Van Damme's best film overall, period! At the same time it's hard to even call this a Van Damme movie. It's like a lost movie from Bronson or Eastwood, circa 70's. It's like Siegal and Peckinpah joined forces and took on the reckless abandon and excessiveness of Michael Winner. Those who want the new Bloodsport will not take this to their hearts as Van Damme's pinnacle, but still, they should enjoy Van Damme in a film with genuine atmosphere, in a role he stamps real authority on. Van Damme, minus the flashy kicks, plays a walking turd! He's a degenerate drug addled morally abstruse cop, and a borderline maniac. Van Damme has a role split into two halves if you like, pre-coma, post-coma. Pre coma is the dirty cop Stowe who's lost all regard for the people close to him, and his co-workers. He lives only for himself, and only to bring down ex-partner Callaghan (Rea). He'd sell his own mother to get the collar. Van Damme gives his best performance. He's really playing an unlikeable character whose judgement has become clouded. He thinks he's doing right, trying to do right, but loses track of the right and wrong ways to get what he wants. Van Damme is just a mean, badass machine in the first half of the film, not a man to be crossed at all. When Stowe wakes from his coma, having been left for dead by Callaghan, he wants to turn his life around, while he has to fully recover from his injuries. Here Van Damme is equally good. The film is a real departure for him. He really immerses himself in the role and vanity is so far from his mind here. Van Damme looks outta shape (and should do), and early on is really made to look dishevelled. Elsewhere Stephen Rea kind of flitters in and out in an extended cameo, but he gets to really chew scenery in a great scene at the end, when he and Stowe come face to face for the first time since Stowe's resurrection. Rea is simply picking up his paycheque, but he gets the one scene to let loose and deliver, and he leaves a lasting impression. Selina Giles as Stowe's wife enters the film with a bang! It's not a good one either, cause she's not delivering a good performance. However no sooner than Van Damme gets shot in the head, she begins delivering a fine performance. It's quite strange in that respect. There's also decent support from Adam Leese and Gary Beadle.
The action is short and swift. It's supposed to hit hard, and hit fast. They're simple scenes but they pack a punch, in a way that The Hard Corps and Second In Command were lacking. Ditto Wake Of Death, while supremely violent was a letdown in the action. Here though it's all about the violence. It's efficiently choreographed and edited and it has impact. When people die, you know they're dead. Those eagerly awaiting plenty of hand-to hand will be disappointed it, there's only a few quick little flourishes, but for this film Van Damme is far better armed with a shotgun than unleashing his kicks. The action isn't meant to be over the top, drawn out and excessive. It's about the forceful violence dished out. To see what I mean simply check the end action sequence in Straw Dogs.
Simon Fellows does well here as I mentioned, and he keeps the film ticking over nicely. Doug Milsome's cinematography is the best in a Van Damme movie for a while now. It looks great, and really keeps that dank 70's vibe going. There's also great sound design and Matthew Booth does a good job piecing everything together in the editing suite. A real standout though is the score from Mark Sayfritz, a blend of orchestra and synth effortlessly combining. Occasionally there's a real Massive Attack vibe in the music. It's arguably the best score in a Van Damme film, and Sayfritz will be a welcome returnee for Van Damme's next film, The Shepard. All in all, those who like a good gritty action thriller with some vicious violence, need look no further than Until Death. Those who saw Wake Of Death as a turning point were seeing a false dawn, cause this is Van Damme's career defining moment. It proves he's now an actor, and that WOD wasn't a flash in the pan. This is the best DTV film I've seen, and as those who know my love of Lundgren's Mechanik, will realise that means a lot. ****
- Apr 11, 2007