21st May2015

‘A.W.O.L.’ Blu-ray Review (101 Films)

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Harrison Page, Deborah Rennard, Lisa Pelikan, Ashley Johnson. Brian Thompson, Voyo Goric, Michel Qissi, George McDaniel, Eric Karson, Ash Adams, William T. Amos, Roz Bosley, Dennis Rucker, Billy Blanks | Written by Sheldon Lettich, Jean-Claude Van Damme | Directed by Sheldon Lettich


When looking at eighties action heroes Jean-Claude Van Damme managed to make a name for himself in a genre built upon already big names and even bigger egos.  Although A.W.O.L. (aka Lionheart) was released in 1990 I think it is fair to still class it as an eighties movie, the fashions shown on-screen pretty much confirm it (they are bad).  Released this week on Blu-ray as part of 101 Films Cult Movie Collection it stands as a perfect example of everything that made Van Damme a star of the action genre.

When Lyon Gaultier discovers his brother is injured and the Foreign Legion with which he is serving held it from him he decides to desert his post, making his way to America hoping to before it is too late.  Finding his brother between life and death and his sister-in-law and her daughter struggling to cope with the mounting bills he decides to use his martial arts skills to earn money in illegal street-fighting, while all the time having to hide from the Legion who are still hunting him.

A.W.O.L. is what we know now as a typical Van Damme movie.  He plays a fairly innocent character caught up in a dangerous situation and he uses his martial arts skills to save the day.  Like a beat-em-up video game each fighter he faces progressively becomes tougher until he reaches the ultimate battle against an almost undefeatable foe (with added injuries just to make things more complicated).  Quite amusingly in A.W.O.L. you can tell when this boss character arrives because of his bad fashion sense and the fact he carries a white cat around with him which he strokes tenderly while scowling at anybody brave enough to get near him, as the description suggest he wouldn’t be out-of-place in a Bond movie.

As with many eighties action movies the evil people are easily highlighted by their typically lavish lifestyles, making money from the pitiful fools that cross their paths and are willing to do battle for them.  Quite amusingly they wouldn’t look out-of-place in the WWE, but this is the very reason that fans of eighties action movies tend to be WWE fans too.  WWE tends to continue the eighties action film style almost forgetting that it is outdated now.  It is a style that works, as A.W.O.L. proves and is arguably one of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s best movies.  The years haven’t been too hard on this Van Damme classic.

When it comes to acting don’t expect any award-winning performances here, the fans watch these movies to see Van Damme kick ass.  I will admit that in terms of fighting I do think Kickboxer may outrank this film, and Hard Target has a certain style that does rank it high up in Van Damme’s best, but for cheesy fun you can’t go wrong with A.W.O.L.

With excellent picture quality this new BLu-ray from 101 FIlms is marked out as a good purchase for fans of the film, but at the same time, rather disappointingly, there are no special features.  Yes, this is a barebones release… However if you like this kind of movie and don’t yet own it on Blu-ray this is the perfect excuse to purchase it, special features are probably not – for fans of A.W.O.L. – a dealbreaker. The quality of the movie itself should be the most important thing, and on this release it shines.

**** 4/5

A.W.O.L. (aka Lionheart) is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from 101 FIlms.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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