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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 8/5/99



Van Damage!

reviews by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Jean-Claude Van Damme on DVD

Nowhere to Run

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Nowhere to Run
1993 (1998) - Columbia TriStar

Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B+/B+

Specs and Features:

94 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, singled-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailers for Nowhere To Hide and Knock Off, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English & French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English & French, Close Captioned




Universal Soldier

Universal Soldier
1992 (1998) - Live Entertainment/Artisan

Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A/B+

Specs and Features:

102 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, single-layered, Snapper case packaging, teaser and theatrical trailers, "making of" featurette, film-themed menu screens, cast and crew bios, production notes, scene access (36 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English & Spanish, Close Captioned




Lionheart
Lionheart
1990 (1998) - Universal

Film Rating: C-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C-/B+/C

Specs and Features:

105 mins, R, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, cast and crew bios, non-DVD-ROM weblinks, production notes, film-themed menu screens, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English (DD 3.0), subtitles: English, French & Spanish, Close Captioned


Nowhere to Run

Van Damme stars here in one of his better movies, a sort-of retelling of the screen classic Shane. JCVD plays Sam Gillen, an escaped criminal on the run. Sam ends up taking refuge on the farm of Clydie (Rosanna Arquette), a beautiful young widow, and her two children (one named Mookie, played by Kieran Culkin). The farm would be the perfect hiding place, save for one thing: it's being eye-balled by a real estate developer, who will do anything to get the land. Suffice it to say, hired goons are dispatched, several of whom get their asses kicked by JCVD.

It's a straight story, that serves this "thespian" well. There is little dialogue, and plenty of action-packed fight scenes. There's also one of the most gratuitous nude scenes you'll ever see (full frontal and "backal" shots of Arquette climbing into a tub), along with one of the most erotic sex scenes ever made for an action film.

All said, Nowhere to Run is an enjoyable flick, and an enjoyable disc. Don't go in expecting any extras, and you won't get them. There's a pair of nice trailers for this film and Knock Off, that will help to whet your appetite for even more Van Dammage, but that's all. This disc has very good quality on both the audio and video fronts. The widescreen picture is 16x9 enhanced (you also get full frame), so it gets huge points there. All in all, this a solid JCVD vehicle and a very solid disc from Columbia TriStar.

Universal Soldier

Uh-oh... Universal Soldier. What can be said? It's cool, it's action packed, and it's the first really important pairing of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich (of Godzilla and ID4 fame). I don't really even think of this as a JCVD film. It's the one film that showed audiences that JCVD was someone to watch, apart from his kick boxing films, but it's so much bigger than him. That's pretty much why I think the sequel, due out this year, is gonna belly flop so hard, you'll see the red marks for years. It's a shame really, because, as I said, Universal Soldier is kind of cool.

Universal Soldier is a huge epic. It starts in Vietnam, when two soldiers, Luc Devreaux (played by JCVD) and Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren), kill each other in a fight over something despicable that Scott did. As the bodies cool, a rouge government medical unit takes them, and turns them into fighting machines with computerized minds (too bad they didn't delete what was in there before they started). The two UniSols, as they are called, eventually remember their pasts, and chase each other across the country, with a reporter caught in the middle.

It's all fun and mindless. JCVD gets to do other things than jump and kick - although he does plenty of both in this. Mostly, it's just great to see Lundgren and Van Damme "act" together. These guys should put on a workshop at the Actor's Studio. Kidding - I'm kidding. For fans of these guys, and the filmmaking team of Emmerich and Devlin, you can't go wrong here. There's some really neat stuff in this film, for everyone out there who took time to read these reviews.

The Universal Soldier disc is pretty good, but it could be better. The video isn't anamorphic, which is a shame. And the day shots look better than the night shots, which is pretty standard with the Van Damme series. Wonder why that is? Film stock choices maybe? Still, it looks pretty good. The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound field is kick-ass. There's a "making of" featurette, and a trailer included, for those who crave extras on their Van Damme discs. I'd say, if you have a few extra bucks burning a hole in your pocket, and you're holding the disc in your hand, just kinda wondering... go ahead and take the plunge. There are much worse ways to spend your money on DVD, trust me.

Lionheart

Well... Rocky this ain't.

In Lionheart, JCVD plays Lyon, a French Foreign Legion soldier who goes AWOL, to take revenge on an LA gang for the murder of his brother (who is set ablaze in the opening moments of the film -- ouch). Lyon hops a freighter (Van Damme's preferred mode of travel in his films), and lands in New York City, where he participates in street fights to try to make enough money to: A) get to LA, and B) give his brother's widow and young daughter a comfortable living. Yep -- same ol' same ol'. Lionheart is definitely more of the same, and is one of JCVD's lesser entries. Okay... it does have a certain charm, that only builds the more you watch it. But not many will find themselves popping this disc in more than once.

The Lionheart DVD boasts simply an okay transfer. It has an overall dark and grainy look to it, which isn't because of a creative choice made for the tone of the film. I found that the color bleeds a bit, and everything looks a bit muted. I'd guess this is a recycled, off-the-shelf, analog laserdisc transfer. It's also full frame, which just blows. The sound is good though. Extras are relegated to the trailer, and some production note stuff. This is a "no big deal" disc, for a "no big deal" film. Enough said.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


Jean-Claude Van Damme on DVD

Nowhere to Run


Universal Soldier


Lionheart


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