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Nowhere to Run(1993)
An escaped prisoner hiding from authorities, Sam always manages to be in the wrong place at the right time. Risking his hard-fought freedom, he aids a beautiful young widow against a ruthless developer who wants her land. Hunted by the police and the developer's hired killers, Sam pulls no punches in his furious fight for survival.
For more about Nowhere to Run and the Nowhere to Run Blu-ray release, see Nowhere to Run Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on July 14, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kieran Culkin, Rosanna Arquette, Ted Levine, Joss Ackland, Allan Graf
» See full cast & crew
Nowhere to Run Blu-ray Review
JCVD protects a single mom, hits people. Hard.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, July 14, 2011
Yep. I think that about sums it up. Can I move on to the next review? Only kidding. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love the action films of Belgian-born martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme, and those who adamantly do not. Well, that's not quite true. There's also a third category: those who know JCVD's movies are--for the most part--complete trash, but who love them anyway and watch them for semi-ironic kicks and giggles. I suspect most remaining Van Damme fans fall into this last category and, if I'm being honest with myself, I do to. His films are mindless and noisy and impossibly generic, but they're good for a laugh and will probably make you mildly nostalgic for the late 1980s and early '90s, that is, the golden age of one-liner-spouting muscle-bound action stars. Van Damme never made it to the Hollywood top tier--the province of Stallone and Schwarzenegger, Willis and Gibson--but he had a modest hit with 1993's Nowhere to Run, which NBC critic David Sheehan called "the best Van Damme movie ever!" I know, I know. That's not saying much, but up until the surprisingly good self-referential crime/comedy JCVD, Nowhere to Run was unique in the kickboxer's filmography in that, along with punching mouths and kicking groins, it required Van Damme to...wait for it...act. Or, try to at least.
Shamelessly derivative of Shane, the classic 1953 western starring Alan Ladd, Nowhere to Run was co-written by pulp-erotic schlockmeister Joe Eszterhas, the man responsible for Showgirls, Jade, and Basic Instinct. This is clearly one of his lesser efforts, and that is saying something. Van Damme plays Sam Gillen, a convict who gets busted out of a Federal prisoner transport bus by his partner in crime, who dies during the escape. Alone, Sam wanders into a tiny midwestern town that aggressively greedy land developer Franklin Hale (Joss Ackland) has been buying up plot by plot, using a cold-blooded brute named Dunston (Ted Levine) to intimidate the owners.
One of the few holdouts is Clydie Anderson (Rosanna Arquette), a widow and single mother of two who flat-out refuses to sell her farm. (If you can't see where this is going, you clearly haven't seen nearly enough mediocre action movies.) While sneaking into Clydie's house to score some salt for his steak--really--Sam catches a covert and gratuitous glimpse of the hot mom naked, but they don't meet properly until he comes out of the woods the next night to defend her from three of Hale's cronies. Van Damme doles out the pain, and for his efforts, the appreciative but slightly wary Clydie lets him sleep in her barn. Of course, as expected, Sam goes from Clydie's barn to her bed in a few short days, and he quickly becomes a kind of surrogate dad to her young son, "Mookie" (Igby Goes Down star Kieran Culkin, Macaulay's younger bro). This doesn't sit well with Clydie's sometime-lover, Sheriff Lonnie Cole (Edward Blatchford), a corrupt lawman on Hale's payroll, and it probably wouldn't sit well with Clydie if she knew she was sleeping with an escaped convict.
There are plenty of sources of conflict in Nowhere to Run, but Eszterhas and director Robert Harmon (The Hitcher) only manage to exploit them in the most tiredly predictable ways. There are no surprises here, save one--this doesn't really feel like your average Jean-Claude Van Damme film. In between sporadic bouts of ass-kicking, Van Damme is tasked with emoting and carrying a more dramatic role than usual. He has to fall in love! Be a dad! Show compassion! This is a job to which he's not particularly well-suited. The film seems like a conscious attempt to elevate Van Damme out of Bloodsport and Kickboxer-type productions and into more mainstream fare.
This puts the movie at odds with itself. What do JCVD fans want most of all? To see him bust skulls and crush solar plexuses with jump-spin heel kicks, naturally. What does Nowhere to Run deliver? Some of that, but also a half-baked romance, complete with a chest-heaving love scene. It's a combo other action stars have pulled off, but it's a bit of a stretch for the normally glowering, taciturn Van Damme, who has never been known for his acting chops. (Although, as I said before, he's unexpectedly great in JCVD.) The other actors don't prove much better. The characters are all scripted as one-note caricatures, and this can't help but come through in the performances. How, for instance, could Ted Levine be so terrifying as Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs, but be so goofy here?
Though you have to sit through lots of ill-advised talking to get to them, rest assured action fans, there are at least a few decent fight scenes in Nowhere to Run. Most of these culminate with Van Damme mouthing a ridiculous one-liner before delivering the final blow. When Sam feigns having a broken bone on the prison transport bus, the guard comes up to him and asks, "What's broken, your arm or your leg?" Van Damme punches the guy in the nose: "Your face." Then there's the time when he cracks a bad guy across the skull with a baseball bat-sized plank of wood: "Strike three. You're out." And, of course, when he finally dispatches the thug who once made fun of his French accent, Sam has the last laugh: "Au revoir, f--ker." Classic. The film also has its share of weird attempts at adult humor, like when Kieran Culkin's pre-teen character initiates a discussion about how big Sam's penis is after seeing him bathing in the lake. "He's got an average sized penis," replies Clydie. This is what passes for sexual tension in a JCVD movie that's also merely average.
Nowhere to Run Blu-ray, Video Quality
Image Entertainment has been delivering solid transfers lately for their licensed catalog titles from the '80s and '90s, and Nowhere to Run is no different, with a 1080p/AVC encode that's not quite perfect, but certainly a worthy upgrade from previous standard definition releases of the film. There's a slight softness to the image that's almost definitely source-related, but the increase in overall clarity is immediately visible, especially in closeups, where facial features, hair, and clothing textures are all more finely detailed. (See the texture of Van Damme's leather jacket or the scruffy five o'clock shadow he sports all day.) The film goes for a mostly realistic look, and while colors are never particularly vivid--minus blood reds--they are more than adequately dense. If I have one complaint it's that black levels, especially during darker scenes, alternate somewhat between crushing shadow detail and looking weak and grayish. The film's grain structure looks natural and untouched by DNR--a word of warning, grain does get quite heavy at times--and there are no major edge enhancement abuses or other post-telecine tweaks. Chroma noise is occasionally visible in the picture, but I didn't spot any other signs of compression, like banding or macroblocking. Overall, Nowhere to Run probably looks better than you might expect.
Nowhere to Run Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Those hoping for a full-fledged 5.1 multi-channel track might be disappointed, but I was actually quite surprised by LPCM 2.0 stereo mix included here. For being limited to only two channels, this track spits out a lot of big sound, with a few effects that are so well implemented you'd swear the rear speakers of your home theater set up were roaring to life. When the prison transport bus rolls over, for example, it's accompanied by a groaning screech that pans quickly, giving the illusion that the sound is going right by your ear. Likewise, the whoosh of water as it spills out of a tank and onto a fire seems to go right past you. Punches and other fighting foley sounds are robust and exaggerated, and there are even some nicely implemented environmental sounds, like loud crickets at night and the sudden flutter of bird wings after a dynamite explosion. There's a standard issue action-movie score by Mark Isham, but it's so nondescript I can't think of anything to write about it. From what I remember it had plenty of kick and presence, though. Dialogue is always easy to understand throughout, and there are no hisses, pops, crackles, or sudden drop-outs. The disc includes optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles, which appear as white lettering inside large black bars.
Nowhere to Run Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are no bonus features whatsoever on the disc.
Nowhere to Run Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Nowhere to Run could have been Jean-Claude Van Damme's shot at mainstream success, but the movie was ultimately too generic to launch JCVD into the A-list stratosphere with the other action stars of the '80s and '90s. It might also alienate fans of the mixed martial artist's earlier work, as it's relatively talky and short on fight scenes. Lack of bonus features aside, Image Entertainment has done a great job with this re-issue, so if you like the film already or you're a hardcore Van Damme fan, I see no reason not to pick it up. For all others, a rental is probably in order.
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