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Death Warrant

Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme
Director: Deran Sarafian
Genre: Action
Year: 1990
Rating: 2 / 5

Who you gonna call when there’s something strange in your neighborhood… prison? For action fans, there is really only one option – Jean-Claude Van Damme. In a career that has spanned slightly less than two decades, Van Damme has produced his fair share of pitiful offerings, but he has also managed to surprise from time to time. Death Warrant is neither pitiful nor a pleasant surprise, which puts it squarely in the land of the typical Van Damme film, namely, uninspiring. Van Damme kicks some ass, he rattles off what he believes to be witty one-liners, and he ends up getting the girl. All in a day’s work for one of Hollywood’s most maligned stars.

Louis Burke (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is a undercover cop who infiltrates a prison to investigate a rash of mysterious deaths. Bodies are piling up, and coincidences surround these deaths. The victims are new inmates, ones given a relatively clean bill of health. All are dying in the same fashion, via punctures in the back of the head. With the help of sage prisoner Hawkins (Robert Guillaume), Burke begins to uncover clues about a corrupt system involving both prisoners and guards. Just as he’s beginning to put the pieces together, a new prisoner who could blow Burke’s cover is transferred to the compound, setting the stage for a fiery conclusion.

If you have seen one Jean-Claude Van Damme film, you have seen them all. Such is the mantra of the non-believer, although, to an extent, there is some truth to it. Van Damme does display similar “acting” skills in all his offerings, always dishing out his trademark kicks and punches with his perpetually pained expression. Each film features a few slow-motion roundhouses delivered to the heads of helpless mannequins flashing that deer-in-the-headlights look. Van Damme also tries to riff like Schwarzenegger with quick quotes that never come off quite right. Of course, this is more than made up for by mandated scenes explaining, yet again, Van Damme’s famous accent.

Director Deran Sarafian deserves minimal credit for placing Van Damme in the same situations in which he labors in every movie. Granted, Death Warrant does still represent Van Damme on his way up, although this is a relative term compared to his current direct-to-video glory. The actor does action well, although even that can be a bit trying after a second or third viewing. Jean-Claude Van Damme is ultimately a star who quickly found the limits of his talents and chose to milk them for all they were worth. I guess we should be grateful that he churned out movies like Death Warrant instead of true clunkers like Oscar.


Jean-Claude Van Damme..........Louis Burke
Robert Guillaume..........Hawkins
Cynthia Gibb..........Amanda Beckett

Certification: Rated R.
Running Time: 93 minutes.

Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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