Jean-Claude Van Damme returns once more with a solid acting role wrapped up in a dark action film focused on revenge, loss and dangerous mob law. With an emotive opening first half with some powerful performances from Van Damme and young Valerie Tian, the second half turns into a blistering hunt for revenge against those who turned JCVD’s world upside down. It’s rare that the Muscles From Brussels is given decent stories to chew over, because he’s certainly not the worst actor out there with the right material. Here, he has a fair bit of meat to chew on and some emotional context to his actions rather than just the typical mindless drive for revenge.
Going through three directors, it fell to Philippe Martínez to bring the story to life and he does it well. While the editing is a little too flashy and over-the-top at times, detracting from some of the action, it still makes the story look slick and paints a very seedy, dark world of Triad crime and American mobsters. Van Damme is caught up in the middle of both sides as both protector and avenger for those hurt by evil Simon Yam, and with the action taking place across a dark and dirty Los Angeles.
The action is present in all forms of bloody shoot-outs and hand-to-hand combat, with Van Damme serving up as ever to find Triad boss Yam and take him down through one bad guy after the other (not to mention the usual corrupt cop out to make a bit on the side). The genre itself is simple and doesn’t get anything new from Martínez in terms of twists, style of surprises, but it’s one for the die-hard action junkies and Van Damme nuts.
One of the better 2000-era offerings from Van Damme still able to do what he’s always done best, and at 44 he’s showing no sign of slowing down. With a director who knows the genre, the emotional drive he is going for and a story that doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t, the pairing deliver a solid thrill.
For this new Blu-ray release, we aren’t given too much in terms of bonus material except a neat A3 poster for your wall and a short making of feature that goes behind the scenes of how JCVD kicks ass on screen as well as he does.
Kaleidoscope Entertainment presents Wake of Death on Special Edition Blu-ray, DVD and Digital 5 April