Tuesday, August 13, 2019

"Once Upon a Time...Inherent Vice."

*As always, I write these articles under the assumption that you’ve seen the film, so...SPOILERS. (This also applies to Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood.)

I’m still sticking with my current monthly plan of Van Damme, Oedekerk, and western, but getting a chance to see Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood inspired me a bit. That’s why I went ahead and wrote a review of that, but it also made me want to revisit Inherent Vice. Basically, I wanted to rewatch Once Upon, but that wasn’t a possibility for me, so I went with the film it most reminded me of with Inherent Vice


Once Upon a Time...Inherent Vice

There are some obvious connections between these two films (the setting, the Manson references, the comedic tone, etc.), but the main connection I found was both films’ theme dealing with the end of an era. It’s as if Inherent Vice’s world is what Tarantino wanted to prevent by changing history at the end of his fairy tale. That’s probably why Once is a much lighter, funnier film than Inherent Vice

In Inherent Vice, the overall point (as far as I’m concerned, anyway) was the death of the carefree ‘60s and the birth of the paranoid ‘70s. This is evidenced by the general tone, especially the music, of the film, but it’s pretty obvious with the plot, when you can follow it, that is. You see the co-opting of the hippie movement (Bigfoot playing a hippie in a commercial, Owen Wilson being planted within the community by a government agency), and the general fear of hippies and drug users because of Charles Manson (when the cop pulls over Doc with Dr. Blatnoyd, Japonica, and Denis he lists all the things they’re on the lookout for and Denis even namedrops Manson). You get the sense that within Doc’s own life things were simpler when he was with Shasta, but now things have changed and it seems like everything is controlled by sinister forces. So even when they seem to end up together at the end, Doc is still looking in the mirror behind him, as if someone might be following him. Things will never be the same. 

This is what Tarantino laments in Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood. He’s more specifically concerned with Hollywood (hence, the title) than the general culture, but it’s still about how the Manson murders helped put an end to a carefree era. You get the sense of foreboding with Once Upon anytime you see the Manson women (hitchhiking, dumpster diving, etc.), and it comes to the forefront when Cliff ends up at the ranch, in an amazingly tense, creepy sequence. Overall, things are kept fairly light because Tarantino’s film is a fairy tale, not only for the main characters of Rick and Cliff, but for all of Hollywood, as well. Tarantino’s film posits that stopping Manson’s followers could let that world stay the same. You could argue that stopping Manson’s followers would not have stopped the change in our culture, but it is a fairy tale, so in that world maybe it could have. 

This is why I think Inherent Vice and Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood make a great double feature. And it doesn’t matter what order you watch them in. If you go with Vice first, you see a more historically accurate change in the culture, and if you follow that with Once Upon, you get to what things were like before and how it could have been avoided. I think it works better with Hollywood first, though. In that order, you get to see this world and its alternate history, and Inherent Vice becomes this darker sequel about what would have happened if things went differently at the end of Hollywood. Either way, both films create a world I wouldn’t mind spending an afternoon in.


It’s weird feeling nostalgic for an era I never experienced.

Feeling nostalgic for the world of either film is strange since I wasn’t alive during this time. It’s nothing new to want to live in a fictional world that I don’t personally identify with (like, say, wanting to live in the world of Star Wars even if I would have probably just been a moisture farmer or nerf herder…), but to feel a bit of nostalgia for a real time period I didn’t experience is a strange feeling because it’s a world I almost experienced. 

I was born in 1984, so most of my childhood memories are late ‘80s/early ‘90s. To me, those were carefree times, but I’m sure they weren’t to adults who had grown up in the ‘50s and 60’s. So I think this feeling that the world changed because of one or more events is something that happens to every generation. For me, it’s 9/11. But that also happened during my senior year of high school, a common time for people to start thinking more about the world instead of their own silly lives. 

My generation is unique, however, in that we will be the last people to remember a time of landline phones, no internet (at least no internet in its current ubiquitous form[fun fact: Pynchon included a subplot about the beginnings of the internet in the book, so even that was covered to a degree]), no DVR, etc. I still remember a time when driving around was a thing, and people had to track each other down to hang out and make plans. We had to look things up the hard way, and the world could be more interesting and mysterious due to our lack of information. Now, with information both real and fake being presented at a nonstop rate, it’s easy to look back to my childhood, or an era like the ‘60s, and think, “Man, I wish things were like that again.” This is all ignoring the common issues with nostalgia, by the way, like the fact that no time period is ever as great or simple as you remember it, and odds are it was a terrible time period for entire groups of people different than yourself. But at face value, that’s where my nostalgia for an era I never experienced comes from.

That written, it’s not so crazy to feel like there was a time in my life that was similar to Inherent Vice and Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood. With Vice, the main thing that comes across to me is the generally hanging out feeling I get as Doc seems to randomly wander through the story. I feel like high school was like that a bit: just living in the moment, not worrying too much about the future. As for Hollywood, I feel like the movies I grew up watching aren’t really made anymore, so Hollywood has changed for me. Once again, I think this happens to every generation, and it has a lot more to do with getting older than it does with cults and terrorists. But who wouldn’t want to live in a fairy tale where these terrible things never happened?

Why do I own this?

It’s a Paul Thomas Anderson movie.


Random Thoughts

“Someone might be watching.” The foreboding beginning is brought full circle in the final moments of the film as Doc keeps checking his mirror as if he’s checking for a tail. The era of paranoia had begun.

Brolin in that commercial at the beginning is the most subtly threatening hippie of all time.

“So while suspect, that’s you, was having alleged midday nap so necessary to the hippie lifestyle…”

Doc watching Bigfoot eat that chocolate-covered banana…

Now that I’ve seen Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood, I get the joke Doc makes to the FBI guys about “missing” an episode.

“What’s a Puck Beaverton?” Reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Game of Thrones: “What the fuck’s a Lommy?”

“[F]rom a bass player turned record company executive, which trend watchers took as further evidence of the end of Hollywood, if not the world as they know it.” I think of this and Once Upon as films very much about the end of Hollywood and the world as people knew it back then.

“‘Gee,’ he thought, ‘I don’t know.’”

I kind of disliked/didn’t pay much attention to Sortilege’s narration the first couple times I watched this. Watching it now, I feel like her narration, while nonsensical at times (the astrology stuff, but maybe that’s just me), actually sums up a lot of the film’s themes.

“Are you sayin’ that the U.S. is somebody’s mom?”

The Last Supper image with the pizza is one of my favorites. It beautifully visualizes Owen Wilson as Christ-like (mainly in that he has returned from the “dead”), and I remember reading about it in the book and PTA captured it perfectly.

I never give this film enough credit for being a love story. That scene with Doc and Shasta looking for dope after calling the number from the Ouija Board is a great moment that effectively captures what it’s like to be in a great relationship during a carefree time. It is the perfect subplot (in a film that seems to be nothing but subplots) for the theme of innocence lost as paranoia sets in. In the film, that theme applies to the changing culture in America at the time, but it can also apply to Doc and Shasta’s relationship in the end. They seem to be slightly back together, but the innocent, carefree love of before is gone. Doc is driving forward, as is their relationship, but who knows where it’s headed now? And when did he start worrying about where things were headed? Perhaps that’s the real loss of the hippie culture of the ‘60s. People stopped living in the moment are started living in fear of the future. But what do I know? I was born in 1984.

“You know it?”
“Shakes a tambourine.”
I have to remember to start using that instead of “rings a bell.”

This is the first time I noticed that Japonica’s dad was with the Voorhees-Krueger law office. Of all the unexpected elements of this film, a reference to Jason and Freddy is pretty high on the list.

“God help us all. Dentists on trampolines.”

“Did I hit you?”

I guess I just have a soft spot for movies that are about an end of an era without being too obvious about it.

“So you guys been working for the Golden Fang long?”

In the end, Shasta references it being like the Ouija day, and it being “Just us.” But Doc looks suspicious of this now. 

“Under the paving-stones, the beach!” I forgot this text was at the end of the credits. I think it fits in with my general thoughts about the theme of the film, in that the corruption, drugs, and paranoia in general became the paving stones while enjoying a simpler life was the beach.

"Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood" - Tarantino's Hilarious Nostalgic Fairy Tale

This post is more like a general review. I don’t technically own this film yet, but I definitely will. When that happens, I like to write my initial thoughts as a review and re-visit the film after I’ve bought it to give it my usual treatment. The biggest difference is that I won’t have a Random Thoughts section since I wasn’t able to write those down as I watched (which is what I do for regular posts on this site). I will still be writing this review with SPOILERS, however, because I don’t feel like tip-toeing around the points I want to make about the film. 


Quentin Tarantino’s work has always been tied to other films, so it makes sense that he would finally make a film overtly about Hollywood. Specifically, he made a film about the Hollywood he loved and wished had never changed. As usual, he masterfully recreated an era and the films and TV shows from said era in such a way that the film is enjoyable on the surface alone. 

I wasn’t alive during the time period represented in Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood, so I have no feelings of nostalgia for most of the things presented here. But Tarantino’s obsessive love for the time period comes across so strongly that I ended up wishing I had experienced it. By the end of the film, I was just like Tarantino: I wanted this world to keep going and never change.

Which brings me to the “twist” ending that some people have had issues with (I’ve avoided most press about the film because I like to keep my thoughts untainted, but I have seen article titles about the ending, and I’ve seen a few theories that want to explain away the ending as Cliff’s acid hallucination [which I completely disagree with]). By having Cliff and Rick (and Brandy!) take out the would-be murderers, Tarantino did two things. First, after building up to the murder we all knew was coming, he found a way to surprise us by literally changing history. Second, and more importantly in my opinion, he made this film the fairy tale its title suggested it was in the first place. 

The focus on Sharon Tate throughout the film wasn’t meant to create foreboding for her eventual murder that we all knew was coming. It was meant to show the pure joy Tate had as a successful actress in Hollywood. This is what Rick was wanting the entire film. He wanted to get through that gate to become connected to Tate so his career could become what he always wanted it to be. 

Taking out the Manson cult members at the end was a bit of gleeful wish fulfillment, much like Tarantino did in Inglourious Basterds by killing Hitler. In both films, I found myself laughing and enjoying myself more than any other time I can remember at the movies. It’s easy to cheer for the grisly demise of such people, and I love how Tarantino uses grotesque violence for humor rather than simple shock and disgust. 

While both endings represent wish fulfillment for historical events, Hollywood is deeper than that because Tarantino has such affection for the time period in Hollywood that was brought to an end (in large part because of the Manson murders). With Basterds, I think killing Hitler was more about being able to give the team a win at the end. That’s fine, but I think Hollywood’s ending is more satisfying thematically. 

The ending is only successful because Tarantino spent so much time setting up the world before that moment. He recreated a Hollywood I want to hang out in, and, most importantly, he created characters I want to hang out with. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are so great together that I wish the scene of them hanging out watching TV together went on twice as long. They come across as genuine friends. My only complaint about the film is that they spend too much time apart during it. But each character’s journey is entertaining enough that you don’t notice it that much. 

DiCaprio has found in Tarantino another director that brings out the best in him. DiCaprio has a lot to do here, and he nails it. There’s the stuttering insecure Rick, there’s the actor Rick who has to put on a public face of confidence, and there are all of the characters he portrays. The most notable character was the heavy in an episode of Lancer, which is one my favorite sequences in the film. The filmmaking alone in that sequence is great as Tarantino effortlessly switches back and forth between the actual show and the mistakes Rick makes that stop the scene. He draws you into the scene so much that you start to forget that you’re not watching an actual western. But it’s DiCaprio’s performance both as a successful actor and as an insecure actor that make it special. The two show-stopping moments for me are Rick’s trailer freak out and his nailing of the kidnapping scene. 

Pitt plays a simpler character but that doesn’t mean his scenes or performance are lacking. Cliff the more tragic of the two, and it’s arguable that the ending saves his way of life more than Rick’s. Pitt portrays Cliff as fearless and carefree, but there’s a hint of melancholy to the performance that makes it one of Pitt’s most subtle and enjoyable performances of his career. 


There are an embarrassing amount of amazingly cast side characters that I’ll wait to write about when I can re-visit the film at home. But I did want to comment on Margot Robbie’s performance as Sharon Tate. Her lack of lines is a criticism that Tarantino has faced, and I can see the argument. Her character is probably too silent, but I believe it’s because Tarantino was using her as the embodiment of what Rick wanted, both as a career and in life. Obviously he wanted to get close to Polanski to possibly work with him and elevate his career. But more importantly he wanted to be like Tate when she watches herself in the theater. He wanted to entertain people and be loved. And it’s a credit to both Tarantino’s script and Robbie’s performance that she didn’t need many lines to convey this. When Tarantino could be bothered to take the camera off of her feet, you could see all the hope and happiness to make this point in Robbie’s face. I can understand why people think her lack of lines and screentime is problematic, but I also don’t think the movie is about her at all. She simply represents a Hollywood that both Tarantino and Rick want, and you don’t necessarily need a lot of lines to get that point across.

The performances and amazing moments (like the also controversial Bruce Lee scene) are enough to make this movie one of my favorites of the year, but it’s the foreboding feeling throughout the film that cements it as my number one film (there are a lot of movies still to come out, of course, but I feel confident that this movie will stay in my top three at least). The foreboding feeling is mainly the Manson murders that the audience is thinking of every time we see Tate on screen. But the foreboding isn’t just about the terrible murders that were going to happen in reality; it was also about the end of an era. The film I’m most reminded of in this regard is Inherent Vice (so much so that I immediately re-watched it and will write about it next). That divisive film is one of my favorites from Paul Thomas Anderson because the whole film is about the end of the carefree ‘60s and the beginning of the paranoia of the ‘70s that still persists to this day. It was when we stopped living in the moment and started living in fear (“we” culturally speaking since I didn’t actually experience this cultural shift). The movie is largely a comedy but with this feeling of dread throughout that I found fascinating. This is why I love Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood. It’s one of the funniest movies in recent memory, but it also says something about what happened to our culture in this time period without ever actually having to say anything.

Because of Tarantino’s set up for the first two-plus hours, when we finally reach the boiling point and the violent climax occurs, the true point of the movie is clear: Tarantino, a man who has built his career paying homage to the films and TV shows he loves, longs for this time period and wants it to last forever. And as a filmmaker, he can change history in the form of this fairy tale, and imagine what could have been. 

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Saturday, August 10, 2019

"Death Warrant" - It's Like "Shawshank" with Roundhouse Kicks.

*As always, I write these articles under the assumption that you’ve seen the movie, so...SPOILERS.

Getting off to a late start this month, but still, a new month means another Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. This month I went with a childhood favorite that I think flies under the radar among Van Damme movies: Death Warrant. Part of the problem is the title. Of all JCVD’s movies, this one most likely gets the response, “Was that a Van Damme or a Steven Seagal movie?” It’s not because of the content; it’s because Seagal was in more movies with “Death” in the title. Anyway, most people will remember this one because of the prison/serial killer element. I remember finding the bad guy in this movie to be a bit scary when I was younger (part of the reason why I probably should not have been allowed to watch it at a young age, but oh well). Watching it again, it’s not all that scary, but my God is it dark. It’s a movie about a serial killer and organ harvesting set in a corrupt prison. Fun! The prison aspect stuck out the most to me. First, it’s one of those movies that makes prison seem so utterly ridiculous. I have no firsthand knowledge of prisons, but I hope even the corrupt ones are not run like the prison in Death Warrant (one example, a prisoner named Priest has been given control of an entire section of the prison where “even the guards” won’t go). Second, I couldn’t help but notice all the similarities to another prison movie…


The Shawshank Redemption...with roundhouse kicks or The Jean-Claudeshank ReVanDamption.

It’s easy to compare any prison movie to The Shawshank Redemption, but there really are a lot of similarities between the two films. And remember, this movie came out first! (The short story Shawshank is based on was published in 1982, but still.) Before I get into the similarities I want to point out that I know a lot of these are prison movie cliches that show up all the time. This is very tongue-in-cheek, and I just like comparing a Van Damme movie to a movie widely considered be one of the best films of all time. 

First, the main character in both films isn’t supposed to be in prison. With Shawshank, it’s because Tim Robbins is innocent. In Death Warrant, it’s because Van Damme is a cop who’s in prison undercover. The funny thing is that they both end up uncovering corruption within the prison, and they both end up in the hole for their troubles. With Robbins, it’s a form of revenge against the warden and guards. With Van Damme, it’s his job. So that makes Robbins a more interesting character, but he’s severely lacking in the able-to-roundhouse-kick-someone-in-the-face department. 

Which brings me to the next similarity: corruption in prison. This is probably the most common element of all prison movies. In Shawshank, the corruption is about falsifying accounts and taking bribes for prison labor. Things are a bit more sinister in Death Warrant, as prisoners are being killed so their organs can be sold for profit. It’s all about money, though. And, in the end, the people in charge are taken down. In Shawshank, it’s with letters. In Death Warrant, it’s with kicks to the head.

The prisoners in Shawshank are presented in a much milder manner than the psychos in Death Warrant, but there is still one major similarity. Van Damme meets Hawkins as soon as he gets to the prison and realizes he’s a man who can get things for you. Ring a bell? Also, both Hawkins and Red are played by older black actors. But aside from that, most of the prisoners in Death Warrant are horrible scumbags.

Another common element of prison movies is rape. In Shawshank, Tim Robbins is threatened with sexual abuse many times before he gets on the warden’s good side. He fights off his attackers at times, but other times he loses. In Death Warrant, Van Damme’s cell mate immediately tries to get him to suck his dick, but Van Damme puts a stop to that immediately. 

Both films also feature a brutal head guard who gets what’s coming to him in the end. Clancy Brown is great in Shawshank, but Art LeFleur in Death Warrant actually comes across as more imposing. I can’t believe I wrote that, especially since Clancy Brown was the Kurgan in Highlander, but I have to be honest.

You have to admit that there are a lot more similarities between these two movies than you would assume. That written, I could spend just as much time writing about the differences between the two films (like the whole serial killer subplot...but the real killer in Shawshank is kind of a serial killer, and he even kind of looks like the Sandman...never mind, I have to stop). It is fun to compare the two movies, though. And I’m not saying Frank Darabont copied this film, but I am saying it’s a possibility. 


They should have just picked organ harvesting or serial killer, not both. Add that to the ever-growing list of sentences I can’t believe I typed.

Death Warrant truly feels like two separate movies that coincide at the end. The Sandman stuff dominates the first few minutes and the last twenty minutes. The hour in between that is all about the organ harvesting going on in the prison. Both plots are fine and equally dark, but I ended up wanting more out of both. 

For the Sandman stuff, I would have liked a bit more backstory. Why is he called that, for instance. All I noticed was that he was wearing pajamas at the beginning. Aside from constantly referring to himself as the Sandman we don’t really get any more info about it. And why did Van Damme follow him to L.A.? Was the Sandman in Canada first? And then he goes to L.A. to keep killing? If he’s originally from Canada, then why do the L.A. prisoners love this guy so much? He shows up at that prison and is instantly given the freedom to do whatever he wants, and almost all of the prisoners gleefully become his lackeys. Why? Who the fuck is this guy? This doesn’t ruin the movie for me, but it does feel like a missed opportunity because this character left an impression on me as a child, and as an adult I want to know more about him.

The way the movie abandons the Sandman plot after the first few minutes made little sense to me, as well. It made me wonder why Van Damme took the case at all. My memory of the film was that he infiltrated the prison to finally finish off the Sandman, but the Sandman was only transferred to the prison later on to stop Van Damme. Why does a Canadian police officer feel the need to get involved with this case? 

The guys at the beginning of the film say they picked Van Damme because of his work getting the Sandman and because he’s unrecognizable to the prisoners, being from Canada and all. First off, what about taking down the Sandman makes him the ideal man for an undercover prison assignment? I guess they explain it’s because it seems like there’s a serial killer in the prison, but it still seems like too different of a case to warrant bringing him in from Canada. As for the unrecognizable part, they don’t have a rookie cop or a federal agent from another city they can use? Is it even legal to bring in a foreign police officer to work for L.A. County? 

I’m breaking one of my own rules here by questioning the basis of the plot. If any of these issues I raised were brought up then the movie wouldn’t exist. I just think there is a solution to this. So Van Damme is brought in because these prisoners (and the assistant warden) were killed the same way, making it seem like a serial killer is at work in the prison. Why not make that serial killer the Sandman? All they would have to do is establish that the Sandman killed his victims the same way the people in the prison were killed. Then, to get Van Damme to take the case, they can tell him that the Sandman is in that prison, but it being kept in isolation. So Van Damme needs to find out if the Sandman is somehow killing these people or if people are doing his bidding in the prison. Since the Sandman is in isolation, no one will be able to ID Van Damme as a cop. And you can still have Sandman released into general population later in the film to blow Van Damme’s cover. And the whole mystery of it all can be that the warden, doctor, and attorney general were using the Sandman to take out their victims. Sure, that seems like a stupid plan, but I don’t think it would be out of place for this movie.

I just think that there should have been more tying the two plots together aside from “We’re going to transfer the Sandman to fuck with Van Damme because he’s getting too close.” It also annoys me because it took me five minutes to come up with some connecting elements. Did no one read this script and think of this? Or, like most of the movies I cover, am I now applying more thought and scrutiny to this film than it ever received while it was being made? I’m afraid that might be the case, and that’s a shame because this could have been a top tier Van Damme movie if the script had been tightened up to streamline this story instead of just leaving feeling like two separate movies that collide at the end.


Why do I own this?

It’s a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.



Random thoughts 

According to IMDb trivia, this was possibly going to be a Steven Seagal movie. It’s a rule of action movies, if some form of the word “death” or “kill” is in the title, then JCVD or Seagal has to be considered for it.

For the record, Van Damme has been in six movies with “kill,” “die,” or “death” in the title, and Seagal has been in nine movies with “die,” “dead,” “deadly,” or “kill” in the title.

Awesome. An immediate reference to Van Damme's character being French Canadian to explain the accent.

80s and 90s movies have this weird thing with Latino gang members showing up as quasi-comedic relief. This happens in Cobra, too.

"He killed my partner." Classic action movie motivation for not waiting for backup. 

So the Sandman is called that because he dresses in old timey pajamas?

"16 months later." What an odd amount of time later. 

That is quite the love fest Van Damme gets at the police station. 

Sixteen minutes, fifty seconds before the first roundhouse kick. Not bad, but should have been sooner.

Man, that dude in the cafeteria has disgustingly hairy shoulders.

An Asian guy in a Latino gang named Bruce. Why isn't this movie about him?

That's some good interrogating: talk or I'll make you drink piss!

So the government dudes in this movie are okay with sending a foreign police officer into a prison undercover but they draw the line at getting money to him?

What is going on at the assistant to the AG's house? She's eating at a table with three bottles of wine, a four pack of something called "Juice Squeeze,” a wrestler action figure, and she's drinking a Budweiser. Who was the set designer on this? A 12-year-old?

So how does Van Damme know this kid hacker? From the last case? That was a year and a half ago. Plus, Van Damme isn't from the area. I need the backstory on this relationship.

Pretty sure Christopher Mintz-Plasse modeled his acting style on the hacker kid.

I know it’s a Van Damme movie, so he has to have sex with the female lead, but the timing couldn’t be worse. They’ve both just been made to undress in a demeaning way by the guards, so that made them horny? Why did they let Van Damme have a conjugal visit, anyway? They seemed to be suspicious of him and his “wife” yet they let them meet in the sex camper? 

Damn it, the medical waste cabinet is padlocked. Hey, it’s a good thing this bone saw is sitting out on a table near it!

First off, it’s crazy that the Sandman survived being shot by Van Damme in the beginning of the movie. Second, that should have been what got Van Damme to agree to enter the prison in the first place. It makes little sense for him to take on the case without knowing the Sandman would end up in there with him.

This movie needs to be short, and it’s nice how quickly things happen (hell, we’re introduced to Van Damme and the Sandman, and Van Damme is in the prison within the first ten minutes), but it gets a bit too sloppy in the last third. Connecting scenes seem to be missing. Like when does Van Damme get completely released from the hole? When does he meet back up with the other prisoners to plan their break in to the lab? What was going on with Van Damme when Sandman’s goons captured him? All that stuff happens in less than two minutes.

“In the cage, man, a cop is worse than a...baby raper.” God DAMN!

Killing prisoners to harvest their organs and a serial killer subplot? This is easily one of the darkest Van Damme movies.

Hairy shoulder man calling Van Damme “scum” is ridiculous. You’re a lackey for organ-harvesters, hairy shoulder man! You don’t get to call anyone scum.

I like how Hawkins tells Van Damme to “stop playing around” after kicking hairy shoulder man three times in the face. Once is enough, apparently. Any more kicks is “playing around.”

Mohawk guy had to have been hired simply for his ability to make stupid faces.

Damn, Priest got taken out exactly like Scatman Crothers in The Shining.

Van Damme flexing while spinning in a circle yelling, “Come on!!!!!!!!” as a comically large wrench hurls towards him is one of the silliest scenes of his career, and that’s saying something.

That prison has one hell of a boiler room complex...

I know the Sandman is crazy and all, but opening a boiler and standing directly in front of it in the middle of a fight with a karate man is pretty fucking stupid.

It’s still one of my favorite Van Damme kills. Kicking a dude into flames is awesome by itself, but when the dude comes back to take a bolt to the back of the head? That makes it special.

How did Van Damme not say, “Sweet dreams” after killing the Sandman? Come on!

The original title was Dusted, which explains why that phrase is used two or three times in the last thirty minutes. I’m not crazy about the title they ended up with, but I think it’s the better of the two.

It seems like there should have been more to the ending. So what happened to the AG who was in charge of it all? His wife finding him holding his assistant at gunpoint is his punishment? 

Thinking on it a bit, I kind of like how abruptly many of JCVD’s movies end. Double Impact had a similarly quick ending. Why dwell on details? The bad guys have been kicked to their deaths, so it’s time to go home. The end. Why mess with that?

..