Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Friday, July 7, 2017

JCVD-A-THON: Nowhere to Run (1993)

Nowhere to Run” is probably the most 1993 movie ever made. It combines the two genre most representative of my early childhood: Sappy family films and violent action movies. It stars a gloriously mulleted Jean-Claude Van Damme, an Arquette, and a Culkin. Joe Ezsterhaz wrote the screenplay, though he would later disown it. The only thing missing are some pastel colors and a cameo from Vanilla Ice. Despite an oddball formula seemingly designed to please, “Nowhere to Run” doesn't work. Mostly because it's a Van Damme movie sorely lacking in Van Damme trademarks. There's no roundhouse kicks or splits. The film represents the Muscles from Brussel in a sensitive mood, befriending a little kid and saving an endangered ranch.

Sam Killen is a convict eager to escape prison. A friend helps him wreck a prison bus, at the sacrifice of his own life. Now Sam is on the run. He eventually comes to rest at the lakeside ranch of Clydie Anderson, a widow with two young kids. Soon, her son discovers Sam. Soon after that, he's moved into the family barn, forming an odd bound with the children, and developing a romance with their mom. Meanwhile, greedy and cartoonishly evil land developers are trying to get Clydie to sell her farm. When she refuses, they send in the violent thugs. Now Sam is forced to fight again to defend the new family he's found.

“Nowhere to Run” is clearly rated R. Rosanna Arquette provides some gratuitous nudity and, later, shares a saucy sex scene with Van Damme. The violence is moderately bloody and there's some profanity. Despite this, “Nowhere to Run” is tonally closer to a Disney flick. The plot – evil land developers threaten the family ranch – subs out the basketball playing dogs with Van Damme and the heroic break-dancing with fight scenes. On paper, this unlikely tonal mash-up sounds delightful. Unfortunately, “Nowhere to Run” is mostly a snore. Many of the characters are mourning dead friends and spouses, lending a downbeat mood. The movie's pace is overall too relaxed.

When “Nowhere to Run” shift gears towards violence, it actually works pretty well. Director Robert Harmon, previously of “The Hitcher,” engineers some hard-hitting action scenes. The opening bus crash is nicely chaotic and concludes with a fantastic POV shot of a bullet. The handful of action scenes are equally intense. Van Damme leaps around a truck, tossing a chain through the windshield. There's a pretty cool motorcycle chase midway through, featuring lots of vehicle-on-vehicle damage. The climatic fight between Jean-Claude and Ted Levine is amusingly extended. The two guys go through walls, sinks, doors, and car windows as they wail on each other. Despite Van Damme's character being more laid-back than usual, he still deploys a few cheesy one-liners. Sadly, this stuff doesn't comprise nearly enough of the movie.

Van Damme's performance has him strictly in the sentimental mode. This is closer to the sappy crying of “Lionheart” than the wild-eyed screaming of “Bloodsport.” Honestly, Jean-Claude's acting is solid, proving once again he has decent chops. The film still felt the need to load up with a strong supporting cast. Rosanna Arquette shares decent chemistry with the kick boxer and seemed to enjoy working with the actors playing her kids. Kieran Culkin, the most talented of the Culkin brothers, was around nine at the time but gives a very insightful performance. He's never hammy, rough, or hits a false note. Ted Levine is entertainingly sleazy, as you'd expect him to be, as the villainous heavy. He gets a card trick gimmick for some reason but that pays off nicely.

“Nowhere to Run” was poorly reviewed upon release, like most of Van Damme's movie. The difference is, even the people making the movie didn't seem to like it. As I said, Joe Eszterhaus repudiated the film, claiming his original script was changed beyond recognition. Rosanna Arquette supposedly hated making it, accepting the gig only for the money. In an interview years later, Van Damme admitted this one wasn't his best effort. Even Van Damme fans, who are willing to forgive a lot, don't talk about this one very much. I guess combining an action movie and a family flick wasn't a good idea after all. [5/10]

[THE VAN DAMMAGE: 1 outta 5]
[] An Entire Fight, Sans Shirt
[] Close-Up Screaming
[] Dancing
[X] Jump-Kicks A Guy, Through Something
[] Performs Either a Split or a Spinning Roundhouse Kick

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