Saturday, 6 June 2009

No. 150 : Wake of Death




Good old Jean Claude Van Damme, he’s never one for lofty aspirations like doing Shakespeare or Brecht, he knows his audience and sticks to a strict formula for every film. ‘Wake of Death’ is as you’d expect a revenge thriller with high kicks and a high body count but what did you expect?

To give some credit they do try and be a wee bit clever with a big car chase and deadly peril for JCVD right at the start. Before he cops it the film flashes back and it’s over an hour before we get back to the opening scene again. I hope Jean Claude’s fans weren’t too confused by this non-linear experiment but don’t worry it’s not ‘Memento’ or anything, just a cheap way to open with an unearned bang.

Anyway Jean is a club owner who has just retired from his job as a hench man for the local mafia boss. He has a pretty wife and young son and wants to be nice. Fat chance! The wife works at immigration and when a boat is found full of Hong Kong refugees she takes a little girl home, like you do. But no! This little girl saw her Dad kill her Mum and she’s on the run.

Nasty Dad touches down in LA minutes later and sets about reclaiming his daughter. After some gratuitous sex Van Damme heads to work only for his wife to be killed by the baddie with his big stiletto knife. Claude has about 30 seconds of blubbing and flashbacks to happier times before a chinaman jumps through his window with a samurai sword and it’s game on.

The rest of the film is basically Jean and his pal high kicking their way through the Yakuza. He uses his underworld contacts to do some pretty nasty torture on his behalf and lets his pal do most of the high kicking as he’s getting on a bit himself. As the end nears and we pass the bit we saw earlier we have to wonder if Jean will reclaim his son, save the nice little girl, get the bad guy and have a little bit of redemption for himself.

If you put your brain in neutral you’ll have a good time with ‘Wake of Death’. It ticks most of the boxes with some good fights and explosions. You also get a small dose of angst, some nudity and a man being stabbed in the balls. The plot is as predictable as they come but at least some effort is made to show that Jean isn’t a totally nice guy and some of the deaths are brutal to say the least.

The villains are a bunch of oriental caricatures but this was never going to be a film with a layered and fleshed out bad guy. The ending on a ship, in the fog at night was a straight lift from ‘Lethal weapon 2’ and ‘The Usual Suspects’ with every door offering a fresh seaman for a colourful dispatch. The ending may have a small element of surprise but that’s the only bit in this workmanlike, straight forward and highly enjoyable thriller.

Best Bit : Wife makes up for the Chinese Takeaway
‘W’ Rating 13/23

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