Friday, January 22, 2010

Wake of Death (2004)

I must be honest. For many years I hated Jean-Claude Van Damme. I couldn't understand why people actually watched his movies. Sometime I could agree that they where mildly entertaining, and sometimes really good. Hard Target for example. But except that one, only shit.

Well, I grow up. I'm 32 years old and has a sometimes a beard, partner, my own apartment and a lousy cat that don't respect me at all. All that is about getting older. And one other thing is trying to accept that I actually enjoy Van Dammes work. Some if it is pure trash, like Derailed. Or The Order. Universal Soldier 2. But what the hell, a lot of it was really fun. I mean, I was one of the few that actually loved Knock Off and Double Team. Silly movies, yes. But good entertainment. 

But sometime, after Van Damme wasn't the big shot anymore in the biz, something happen. It began with Maximum Risk. A good, solid action-piece with a good script, some good action and competent direction by Ringo Lam. It got that great combination of euro-action and Hong Kong-mayhem. And I loved it. So, was it hope for Van Damme? The answer was yes.

Replicant wasn't a big masterpiece, but it was better than many of his bigger Hollywood-pieces. The main surprise was the acting. Because suddenly Van Damme could act. I told this to people. They laughed at me. But I said to them, there's a very good actor inside that well trained body. And somehow, during the way, I got another proof: In Hell. This prison-movie was the most gritty and violent that Van Damme has starred in. His acting was the best in the movie, maybe not a surprise, but it was good. Fucking good. He also had a big beard, went to the toilet and the fights where raw, graphic and "realistic". No ten minute fights, just short brutal ones with blood and crushed bones. And I said to myself: what the hell? What’s happening? What does Van Damme has that Dolph Lundgren and Steven Seagal don't have? Don't get me wrong, I love those to guys, but with Van Damme it was something special.

And there was Wake Of Death. The DVD-cover makes it look like an ordinary, shoot-in-Bulgaria-action-flick. Really crappy. But I saw the trailer once and it felt different. It's hard editing a trailer to make it look like an ordinary Van Damme-flick when it isn't. So I searched the internet. Found some positive reviews... and I realized I need to get this one.

Van Damme is a middle-aged security man, Ben Archer. He's having a middle-aged wife and a little son. He loves them both. And he's very tired of his work. We get flashbacks from another boring day. Aggressive people and drugs. So he quits his job, gonna spend more time with the family. His wife, played by the charismatic Lisa King, works as a social worker for INS and after they find a lot of Chinese refugees on a boat she takes one of the home, Kim - a little girl. But what we, the viewers, know is that she's hunted by her dangerous triad-boss father, Sun Quan, played by the great Simon Yam.

Sun Quan kills Ben's wife and then the hunt is on. Be wants revenge, and he asks his old friend Max, an old man in a wheelchair, to help. So with the help from Max and his husband/partner/friend (it's VERY unclear) and a younger man, maybe Ben's brother, Ben takes a very bloody and brutal revenge on Sun Quan's men and every other that stands in the way.

Wow, I got really blown away by this movie. I'm special you see. When I watch a really good movie I take the whole day, because I don't want it to end. I take break, cook food, surf on the internet. So it took me maybe five hours to watch Wake of death. Not because it was boring, but because this is the best Van Damme-movie so far and one of the best modern revenge-flicks I've seen. And the best action movie I've seen this year.

Okey, I'm hyping it up here. I can feel it. So see it with low expectations. But I stand by my opinion. It's fabulous. The best thing with this movie, action-wise, is that it's nothing funny. Nothing is funny at all. The violence and fights are brutal and bloody, people are feeling pain. And Van Damme is so up in his fury that after every bloody outburst, he's getting down. Depressed. Weak. Crying. And then the bloodthirst is there again.

But it's good action. Lotsa fine kicks, a great motorcross-chase in a mall, bloody shoot-outs, brutal beatings and probably the most perverted and twisted torture-scene ever filmed for a straight-to-dvd-movie. A man stuck with tape to a chair. And then there's two old French men with a big fucking drill. And those are the good guys. 

If Gaspar Noé or Michael Haneke was directing a Van Damme-movie, this is it.

The music is really good, and the Ennio Morricone-score (not his western themes) is really smooth and beautiful and fits the movie perfect when it's necessary. Except that there's some interesting and experimental drum 'n bass jazz-esque songs and some good electronica. I want the soundtrack.

The visual look of the movie is very dark, high contrast and more handheld camera than steadycam, which I prefer. The colour-tone is realistic and gritty, and there's probably no sets involved, only location-shooting. Or maybe sets, but they're very well constructed.

I'm hyping it. But that's because I love it and got very moved by Van Dammes and the other actors performances. The action was great and the rest was better. There's some stuff that ain't that good. The plotline is a bit confused sometimes, some characters just shows up and disappear and it feels like some sequences got lost in the editing. Which is sad because I felt that this had been a perfect movie if there were some more character-developments. As usual, the asian people is portrayed as slimy, bad, ugly, mean sadists, and sometimes the logic in that is a bit weak. But there's still nothing bad about the acting itself. Simon Yam is very cold and mean as Sun Quan, and his powerful presence is good thing for the movie and story.

So here's a message to Oliver Stone, Gaspar Noé, Johnnie To and other interesting and provocing actors: go get Van Damme. He's getting better and better, his looks is more rough and hard, and his acting is very powerful. I mean, I think I've never liked him before because he doesn’t seem that interested in delivering one-liners and act in really stupid action movies. He's a much better actor than that and is more good with out the silliness. He can act for real.

That's something that even great Dolph and always chubby Seagal never can.


mamoulian said...

It really is something with Van Damme and Wake of Death -- It's a very good film and it's the only interesting and talented presentation of a Van Damme charachter I've seen to date. The story is engaging and well above the average Martial Arts, Asian-whatever-action flick...

Tobias Thuresson said...

Totally agree about Dolph. Love the guy, but he really cannot act. At. All.

Oh... Wake Of Death rocks!

Alex Bakshaev said...

I too like "Double Team" and especially "Knock Off", so you're not on your own there!

Ninja Dixon said...

Alex Bakshaev: It's always nice with someone with good taste :)

Randy Scott's Ghost said...

Great review!
If you haven't already be sure to check out UNTIL DEATH. It's just as good as WAKE.