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UNTIL DEATH
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Reviewed by: The Arrow

Directed by: Simon Fellows

Starring:
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Selina Giles
Stephen Rea

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
Smack addicted, shamelessly crooked and hooker banging Detective Anthony Lowe (Van Damme) is pure scum… and he’s having a bad week. A shakedown goes sour, his wife got knocked up by another dude and Stephen Rea wants him nixed out. After a bullet sends Lowe into a coma, he eventually wakes up with a bad hair cut and a yearning to make the wrong things right. Can you spell Vandammage? I sure can!
Is it good movie?
Jean Claude Van Damme has been hitting and missing now of late. For every In Hell and Wake of Death he puts out, where he showcases his growth as an actor within superior than the norm efforts, we get a 5 steps backwards The Hard Corps or Second in Command. So where does UNTIL DEATH fall? Smack in the middle baby!

Until Death came through gangbusters for its first half mainly due to one reason; Jean Claude Van Damme’s visceral performance. This was “Requiem for a Van Damme” with the lad bravely playing selfish, morose, drug abusing and senselessly violent to a T. His range as a performer has definitely expended since we last saw him and he effortlessly made his co-stars look like bottom of the barrel amateurs (evil and loving it Stephen Rea aside of course). The audio/visual execution at hand also helped Van Damme look good. Some of the ‘artsy light” editing choices were striking, camera moves were often slyly used to echo the lead’s damaged state and I esteemed the lack of music during some of the shoot-outs; it gave the whole a grittier feel.

Alas the flick let me down when it came to its narrative, especially during the second half. The plot/subplots/relationships were either handled in a vague manner (what was really going on here) or they never went far enough to carry much impact. Action wise, for better or worse (you be the judge), JCVD has traded in his famous fighting skills for gun fights in this one. Problem was; director Simon Fellows didn’t fare as well with the physical get-downs as he did with the drama. The action scenes were underwhelming in terms of staging, cutting and energy (or lack of). At least they were brutal and grisly, which kind of made up for their shortcomings. So all in all Until Death was a swell showcase for Van Damme’s ever growing acting chops first and a somewhat compelling character study dipped in ho-hum action bits second.
Video / Audio
Audio: I don’t know if it was just my screener but the English Dolby Digital (5.1) sound was fine in all instances except for the dialogue which was more often than none very hard to discern. Thank god for them subtitles!

Video: We get a nitty-gritty Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic image.
The Extras
Do trailers for other films count as extras? How about English subtitles? In my book …NO! I pray for the day that Sony will give Van Damme releases the respect they deserve. I wanna see JCVD behind the scenes! Some featurettes! Give me something man! COME ON!
Last Call
UNTIL DEATH was yet another firm step in the right direction for Van Damme “the actor”. He put out a fearless and layered performance that had me transfixed to the screen. I’d kill to see that talent showcased in a big budget film, KILL! Although the film was involving enough throughout and some of the visuals delivered, the limp action scenes, the lousy acting by the side players and the fuzzy/shoddily executed narrative dragged the whole down. A perfect case of Van Damme being too damn good for the mediocre film he’s in.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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