death

Shortly after the debut of the radio show The Reel Thing, the film review program I co-hosted from 1990 to 1993, it felt like we were inundated with Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. We weren’t, but there were two within our first few months on the air. That felt like punishment enough. As a general rule, even the worst movies got one star on our four-star rating scale. If I dropped below that, I was really serious about how much I hated it. Deran Sarafian, the director of this film, went on to be a prolific, respectable television director. The screenplay is the first credited to David S. Goyer, best known these days to contributing mightily to making the DC Cinematic Universe as appalling as possible.

In the film DEATH WARRANT, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Louis Burke, a police officer from Quebec who relocated to Los Angeles in order to get revenge on the man who killed his partner. This personification of indestructible evil is named “The Sandman” and is played by Patrick Kilpatrick. After taking care of that piece of business, Burke apparently decides to stick around in the City of Angels, and the film rejoins him sixteen months down the line as he is asked to take on a special assignment: going undercover in a prison to find out who’s been killing off convicts. So Burke makes his way into a jail where the menacing wardens try to intimidate the inmates with their peanut shell fetish and by telling them, “You are fish.” What follows is what you’d expect from your average “Wham Bam Van Damme” release: Jean-Claude gets the girl, uses his amazing intellect to solve the case, and he hits people real hard so they fall down and get hurt. And, of course, there must be a final battle scene. For this, “The Sandman” returns. Never mind that earlier in the film Burke put four or five bullets into his chest. He’s back and he’s tough enough to take almost anything. The film, as you might be able to guess, is nothing but mindless action sequences connected by uninteresting plots and subplots. And even the fight sequences aren’t all that exciting. Others wasting their time here are Cynthia Gibb, as the woman who learned to love Burke, and Robert Guillaume of TV’s “Benson”, as Hawkins, an inmate who befriends Burke. All I can say about the film “Death Warrant” is that it deserves one.

1/2 star, out of 4.

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