Monday, September 28, 2020

Nowhere to Run - Van Damme on Full Display

Well, I’ve hit my yearly burnout. Sometimes, I just cannot motivate myself to write about movies. Life and work and whatnot just takes over and writing about old Van Damme movies just doesn’t seem like a worthwhile activity for some reason. Thankfully, I’m starting to snap out of it. I still realize that the stuff I write about for my site isn’t exactly important, but at this point, I write for entertainment and escapism. I lose myself for a few hours while I pay too close attention to a movie then disappear into a theory or something weird I noticed. But the fact that I need to devote hours to doing it sometimes keeps me from doing it, even if it would help me mentally in the long run to do so. This is the eternal struggle of Why Do I Own This?: this is all a bit of a waste of time, but doing it relaxes me, if only I can allow myself the hours to do it. Does that make sense? Who knows? Anyway, I’m back, and even though this is the end of September, this is still my first post of the month, so here’s another Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.

Little Van Damme

I’m just going to be upfront about this: this section is about Van Damme’s dick. I can think of no other movie in Van Damme’s filmography that blatantly addresses Van Damme’s dick as much as Nowhere to Run. Now, Van Damme was/is a sex symbol, so his dick comes into play in most of his films. But Nowhere to Run sticks out (pun intended) because of how it’s addressed: by a woman and her two small children at breakfast. Let me explain.

In Nowhere to Run, Van Damme is an escaped convict who ends up camping on a widow’s (Clydie) property (the main plot involves an evil land developer trying to force her off the land). While camping there, he befriends Mookie, the Clydie’s son. Mookie happens upon Van Damme while Van Damme is bathing in the pond. For some fucked up reason, Van Damme decides it’s okay to walk out of the pond in full (frontal) view of Mookie. As he’s exiting the pond, Mookie’s younger sister, Bree, shows up...and also sees Van Damme’s dick. 

Eventually Van Damme is welcomed into Clydie’s home. While taking a shower, Van Damme is confronted by Lonnie, the local cop who’s been banging Clydie. Lonnie holds Van Damme at gunpoint while questioning him. Clydie shows up and de-escalates the situation. Van Damme’s dick is on display to both of them throughout the scene. He doesn’t even attempt to cover himself.

At breakfast, Bree casually mentions that Van Damme has “a big penis.” Mookie joins in the discussion, and Clydie has to put a stop to it before commenting that it’s not that big. It’s played for laughs (who doesn’t find children talking about adult penises funny?), and perhaps audiences found it humorous in the ‘90s. But watching it today, I was just bewildered by it. Why was so much attention paid to his dick? Why did so many people, including children, see it within the first half hour of the movie? I guess the ‘90s were a simpler, more dick-friendly time. But now, I’ll just always think of Nowhere to Run as the Van Damme dick movie.

Nobody Was Happy with This Movie

Van Damme’s dick is the least of the problems with this movie’s script. It can’t decide whether it wants to be an action movie or a romantic drama, so it tries, and fails, to be both. The romance and drama is too predictable and boring (of course he’s going to end up banging Clydie and saving her home), and the action is lackluster at best (not nearly enough fight scenes for a film featuring a martial artist). 

A Van Damme film ending up being mediocre isn’t all that interesting, but with Nowhere to Run, there are more comments about the film after the fact than usual. According to IMDb trivia and Wikipedia (I know, I know, but this isn’t a scholarly essay, so let’s just assume it’s all true), original screenwriter Joe Eszterhas (Basic Instinct, Showgirls) hated the movie, claiming that Van Damme took his script, which was supposed to be just a drama about an escaped convict connecting with a widow and her family (so is Labor Day based on Nowhere to Run’s original script?). Eszterhas said, “The script was taken and destroyed many years later by Jean-Claude Van Damme.” Oddly enough, Van Damme has similar feelings.

Van Damme is quoted, “the script was...not that good. The writer told me he was going to fix everything. I was in his house, he shook me hand, he promised me, but he didn’t fix it.” Van Damme must be referring to Randy Feldman, the only other man credited as a screenwriter (Richard Marquand was given a story credit, but he was dead before the film was developed). So both Eszterhas and Van Damme thought the script sucked, and likely for opposite reasons. 

Eszterhas most likely thought Nowhere to Run was altered into too much of an action film. Van Damme most likely thought the script was too dramatic. Both are right. It’s such a stupid Hollywood thing. A script is sold as a straight drama, but through years of development, an action star ends up attached to it, meaning the drama must also become an action movie. Why? Just make the script that you bought. Why not start from scratch if the material doesn’t suit Van Damme? I get how it happened: they had already spent money on the script, Van Damme had a contract with the studio, they needed to make something, this was sitting there ready to go, fuck it, let’s see what happens. It’s just annoying that this kind of thing happens, because it’s a waste for everyone. Eszterhas’s original script might have made the relationship between the convict and the widow much more nuanced and interesting. And the promises made by Feldman to Van Damme might have included much more satisfying action experience. But everyone got too lazy and in too much of a hurry for anything great to happen. Instead, we end up with a middle of the road Van Damme movie during his prime, and all the Van Damme dick jokes in the world can’t rectify that.

Van Damme Name and Origin Check

Sam Gillen from Quebec. Bonus points for the Quebec origin, but I don’t know that I buy Van Damme as a “Sam.” Or “Gillen,” for that matter, which is an Irish surname. Why not just change it to Guillaume? It sounds close enough to the original Gillen and is French.

Why Do I Own This?

It’s a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.

Random Thoughts / Favorite Quotes

Story by Richard Marquand, the dude who directed Return of the Jedi?

How common is it for a bus full of prisoners to be out on some secluded road? And how easy is it for a muscle car to make a bus wreck? This has happened in so many movies…

Another odd trope is the doomed criminal buddy with a heart of gold. These guys tend to say things like, “It should have been me,” and are generally way too “gee willikers” to be believable criminals. Billy in this film is such a character. Thankfully, he dies immediately, but the fucker did leave a tape full of bullshit that we have to listen to later on, with such classic dildo lines such as, “I wonder which way I’m headed. Either way, up or down, I guess I got a 50/50 chance of meeting Elvis,” and “I’m glad I knew ya.” At least good ol’ Billy had the wherewithal to know that being such a douche meant he wouldn’t last long in the movie, so he better leave a tape for Van Damme. I do not know why Billy annoys me so much...

“What’s broken, your arm or your leg?”
“Your face!” *Van Damme punch*

“I wouldn’t sell meat without whiskey.” What the fuck are you talking about, you random dumbass gas station clerk?

So the plot of this movie doesn’t happen if Rosanna Arquette isn’t blaring country music so loud that it draws Van Damme in (from at least a mile away) to check her out taking a shower...and to steal salt? Yeah, there are some script problems…

This would make for a good shitty double feature along with Seagal’s Fire Down Below.

I bet Van Damme brought his own copy of Top Heavy to the set.

“You like boobs?”
Could you break that down for me, Van Damme? Give me some examples of when you do like boobs and when you don’t. 

Two Van Damme bathing scenes in the first thirty-three minutes? Score!

A lot of people see Van Damme’s dick in this movie…

“I don’t want to hear any more about penises.”

So Mookie sees a fire, and his first impulse is to go get the drifter living in the barn? Why do you need the drifter to tell you to call the fire department, Mookie? Quit staring at Van Damme’s dick and use some common sense.

Lonnie acting all upset because Arquette doesn’t want to bang him anymore...come on, Lonnie, you know you had no chance once Van Damme showed up.

Van Damme tells a goon, “Strike three, you’re out,” after hitting him with a 4x4 board. At first, I thought this cheesy line was just a poorly thought out addition to the script because the filmmakers thought the hero should always say something witty after knocking someone out. I also didn’t like the stupidity of it. How is hitting a guy with a board “strike three”? He’s the one holding the bat in this scenario, and he made contact. I also thought it was dumb for a French Canadian to make any kind of baseball reference at all, and that’s when the brilliance of the line struck me: Van Damme doesn’t know shit about baseball, and that’s why the line makes no sense. It’s actually just a lazy one-liner, I know, but as a Van Damme fan, I like to sometimes go a long way to justify aspects of his movies.

The kid is way too jazzed up about the prospect of his mom banging a drifter.

“Mookie’s going to hear lots of things about me, most of them not true.” What isn’t going to be true? You are a thief. A person was killed during a robbery you were involved in. Your partner caused a prison bus to wreck, potentially killing many people and releasing dozens of prisoners. What lies will be made up that’s worse than the truth?

If Van Damme is trying to be sneaky when he suddenly jumps onto his motorcycle, why does he let out a patented “Mwahhhh!” as he does it?

I was not anticipating a woodlands horse/motorcycle chase sequence when this film began.

The British bad guy shows up at the house with his henchmen near the end. Isn’t the point of hiring henchmen that you don’t personally have to do shit like this?

The henchman that gets kicked by a horse is one of the least intimidating henchmen I’ve ever seen.

Ted Levine is so pissed at the end of the film, bitching about how he’s sick of the town. But he’s done nothing for most of the movie other than send his lackeys to do bullshit that high school kids could’ve done as pranks. He only has himself to blame. 

And the British dude talks about how he has to burn the house down just in case, even after getting her signature. Then why not just set the house on fire from the get-go? Why show up in person to intimidate a woman and her two small children? Just wait until they’re out of the house, then have a low-level henchman burn the fucker down. God damn, these people suck at being bad guys! And all this to build a resort town in Hickville, USA, that no one will want to go to anyway. What a stupid fucking movie.

But it does feature Van Damme fighting a pitchfork-wielding Buffalo Bill, so it’s not a total loss.

“Au revoir, fucker.”