By: John M Jerva
After Jean-Claude Van Damme’s popularity started to decline in the 90’s, the action star saw his slate of action films start to go the DTV route and while many see that as a bad thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean death to a career. It’s true that JCVD’s next wave of flicks weren’t on the same scale as his theatrical efforts but there were still some diamonds in the rough that fans could enjoy from the Muscles from Brussels.
One such film that rose above the others was Van Damme’s 2004 slow burn action-drama Wake of Death which hails from director by Philippe Martínez who took over the project when late Hong Kong filmmaker Ringo Lam left after a few weeks of filming to be replaced by Cess Silvera who was subsequently fired after he only lasted a few weeks.
Van Damme stars as Ben Archer who is an ex-mob enforcer now living the quiet life with a family and here JC optimizes the anti-hero element to full effect. There’s a reason why Van Damme was a star and now legend and here he shows up and punishes the bad guys all out.
The film saw some theatrical releases around the globe but it was generally delegated to the home video market in most countries. The movie is dark and ominous but it is one of JC’s best efforts from that time period. The movie hits UK special edition Blu-Ray today from Kaleidoscope and we have the key art, images and trailer for you below!
One of the main elements that I enjoyed about Wake Of Death when I initially saw it back then was the emergence of co-star Tony Schiena who is a legit bad ass in real life being a former Karate champion as well as a South African intelligence operative turned government defence contractor who has instructed various security forces around the world and is sought-after as a consultant on terrorism, espionage, ISIS, and modern-day slavery. Those are some fine credentials if you ask me and Schiena rocks in the action department.
Schiena, who has gone on to star in several action pics like The Number One Girl and Darc which is on Netflix, plays Tony, Van Damme’s brother, and he gets serious in the finale with a well choreographed fight scene against co-star Philip Tan which includes some nasty blades which immediately put the man on my radar.
The rest of the cast which includes Hong Kong legend Simon Yam as the ruthless lead Triad boss antagonist as well as aforementioned action actor and stunt performer Philip Tan of Showdown in Little Tokyo fame who plays Yam’s evil enforcer are up to the challenge here as well and they definitely are formidable opponents for JC’s Ben Archer and Schiena’s Tony.
There is some martial arts action which is pretty good but you also get a generous helping of gunplay as well in the film’s various action sequences. Van Damme looks good in the movie having survived the 90’s and his off screen issues and he certainly shows up for the dramatic and action scenes and dishes out a lot of rage in the thrilling moments of the movie.
The film is 90 minutes long and while it takes a bit to get going it never overstays it’s welcome and once it starts moving it doesn’t let up. The payoff is admirable for the audience and Van Damme is in fine and brooding good form as it contains a mixture of everything that makes action great like explosions, gunfire and hand to hand carnage.
Troubled production aside, Wake of Death isn’t a happy picture but for a revenge potboiler, it delivers the brutal and unforgiving goods. One day I hope to do a much more extended review of the movie as I have a copy of it and watch it occasionally.
Check out the release trailer for the film from Kaleidoscope which it out today and order the film now in the link below!