Image Entertainment // 2010 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 1st, 2011
When the law can't protect the innocent, the only hero left is an outlaw.
From the '90s action bargain bin: one of Van Damme's weaker efforts brought back to life for the high-def era. Meanwhile, still no Sudden Death. Fate, you are a cruel and fickle mistress.
Jean-Claude Van Damme (Bloodsport) stars as Sam, a convict riding a bus to prison. Along the way, a cohort hijacks the bus and springs him; turns out Sam was doing time -- wrongly -- in his stead. Before the two can exit into the sunset, a spurned cop manages to get a shot off and, like that, Sam is on his own.
So he finds a plot of land, pitches a tent and bides his time until the heat is off. The bad news: he picked a campsite on some acreage that a greedy land developer is after and will do whatever he can to get it; whether that's burn down buildings, send goons to intimidate or attack passers-by with a bulldozer. The good news: the homeowner is a hot single MILF (Rosanna Arquette) and the chance for intercourse is high.
Nowhere to Run is definitely one of the lesser offerings Van Damme served up in his prolific action movie run during the Clinton years. And I'm a Van Damme guy. But this jalopy fails at nearly everything it attempts, from the lame villains to the uninspiring fight scenes to the, frankly, surreal and disturbing relationship between Sam and the homeowner's young son (Kieran Culkin).
Start with the heavies, a bunch of mouth-breathers hired by a loud, cartoonish land developer who, as all land developers tend to do when a property owner refuses to sell her house, immediately turns to arson and attempted murder. Even the thugs that are dispatched and ultimately tangle with Van Damme are forgettable, a parade of middle-aged stiffs that threaten as much bodily harm as a group of surly octogenarians.
Not that we'd have anything to look forward to anyway as the hand-to-hand sequences are clumsily choreographed, ending in unsatisfying payoffs. Van Damme does his athletic thing adequately enough (there are, however, a frightening lack of flying triple kicks) but the fights lack zip. The bad guys circle and pounce, JCVD unleashes a flurry of punches and they're knocked out. Even the finale with the big bad guy is subdued, culminating in a confusing aerial flip into a cop car windshield. Worse, the action is spread out far too much, leaving much dead time devoted to tedious exchanges about property rights and "struggling to make ends meet."
And, you know, I'll take an additional 45 minutes of eminent domain discussion over the painfully awkward stuff written for Culkin and Van Damme. The first time their two characters are introduced Sam is bathing in the lake. The boy happens upon this nude muscular stranger with a liter of hair product coated on his skull and instead of doing what he was taught in kindergarten and run away to look for an adult he can trust, the kids hangs out and chats. Eventually, this encounter leads to the conflict with and defeat of the developer so it turns into a net win for the kid and his family, but that doesn't mean I'm comfortable with the screenwriter's choices.
Nowhere to Run is an underperforming Van Damme experience all around, and the Blu-ray matches its mediocrity. The rehabbed 1.85:1 widescreen presents a modest bump in visual fidelity. Details are murkier than they should be and grain pops up intermittently. An improvement over standard definition, sure, but not by much. No 5.1 mix, but the lossless PCM mix is efficient enough and suitably loud during the more hectic shenanigans. Zero extras.
A forgettable action relic. A forgettable disc.
Guilty. Next time, try civil litigation instead of the bulldozer death attack.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R