Avec un grand ha ha, c’est Burl! I’m here with a little early-90s action for you, and I know what you’re thinking: Seagal! But nope, it’s the other one, Van Damme, the punchfighter we know so well from Universal Soldier: Regeneration! The movie I’m talking about is graced with one of the most generic titles in action history: Nowhere to Run!
There was a period during which I and my pal Pellonpaa, who might have been my roommate at the time, would settle in and watch one Van Damme movie or another, and at some point we watched this one! As soon as it was over, we both had the same feeling: like we had somehow glitched through the past hour and a half in some kind of mental stasis! It was as though absolutely nothing had happened during that time, as though an incredibly localized black hole had sucked, not physical objects, but ninety minutes of time itself into some netherworld from which it could never be recovered! Ha ha!
Well, that was how we felt at the time, and it was a curiosity over whether that would happen on a repeat viewing that led me to, somewhat incredibly, watch this same movie again! Now, it’s always fascinating to see what explanation they would make for his French accent (why did they bother, when they rarely did it for Schwarzenegger!), and here, as in Death Warrant, he’s a Québecois fellow, but a bank robber instead of a Mountie!
Rosanna Arquette from Crash and After Hours is the pretty widow lady with two adorable moppets who is being forced off her land by evil developers! The Jabba-like Joss Ackland, from The Hunt For Red October, is the smirky, overconfident boss who has hired strong-arm man Ted Levine, whom we all know from Love at Large and The Mangler, to toss Arquette and her kids off the land! Ha ha, Levine’s character is called “Mr. Dunston!”
Meanwhile Van Damme, calling himself Le Sam, escapes from his prison bus with the help of a buddy, quickly finds himself alone when the buddy is shot, and stakes himself out a spot in the woods on Arquette’s property, where he sets up a tent and reads from a magazine called Top Heavy! Ha ha, the family finds Le Sam, and, after initial doubts, take to him, especially the little boy! (The boy’s desperation for a father is the picture’s only effective emotional angle!) The local lawman who nurses a crush on Arquette isn’t happy about this, and the stage is set for conflict! And when it all goes down, whose side will the lawman take?
There are surprisingly few punchfights in this picture! In fact its heart doesn’t seem to be in the action much at all, though there are some effective moments in a car chase here or a punchout there! Van Damme emotes even less than usual, but Levine leers at him enough for two actors, and his almost psychotically intense Midwestern drawl serves his evil designs well! Eventually Mr. Dunston checks out, but he puts up a pretty good fight!
It comes from the director of The Hitcher, which is a solid picture pulled off with some style! Nowhere to Run offers the occasional attempt at its own kind of style, like a speeding bullet P.O.V. or a comically apparent grad filter on some of the landscape shots, but eventually throws up its hands and grudgingly gives up the Van Dammage in the most quotidian manner possible! But there’s not a surfeit of thrills to be had, one must admit! It’s a curious concoction that somehow took the combined screenwriters of Basic Instinct, Dante’s Peak, and Tango & Cash, and the director of Return of the Jedi, to come up with!
It’s nice to see Luana Anders, from great pictures like Night Tide, Easy Rider and The Trip, even in a small role as a waitress, but otherwise Nowhere to Run hasn’t much to offer! It’s as unmemorable as it ever was, and I give the picture one rumpled suit!