08th Feb2018

‘Kill ‘Em All’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Peter Stormare, Maria Conchita Alonso, Autumn Resser, Daniel Bernhardt, Kris Van Damme, Mila Kaladjurdjevic, Paul Sampson, Kieran Gallagher, Peter Organ, Eddie Matthews | Written by Jesse Cilio, Brian Smolensky, Craig Stewart | Directed by Peter Malota

kill-em-all-poster

After a massive shootout, a mysterious stranger (Van Damme) arrives at a local hospital on the brink of death. Then, a foreign gang brazenly comes to the hospital to hunt him down. His nurse, the sole surviving witness to the follow-up shootout, must face an FBI interrogation that unlocks a plot of international intrigue and revenge.

For those of us that grew up in the VHS age, guys like Jean-Claude van Damme were gods amongst men. Action heroes that semingly churned out hit after hit after hit, with fans – like me – calmouring for news of their latest release and… if you were also like me, pre-ordering each and every film for that first night of release rental, so you could be amongst the first to see what the latest kick-ass action epic was. Of course a LOT of years have passed since then, and we’ve all grown older. But that doesn’t mean that a) Van Damme and co. have stopped making movies; and b) wwe’ve stopped watching. In fact, even though I know that there’s more of a chance of being disappointed these days, I’ll still snap up new action movies from those 90s stars I loved without so much as checking out a single review or watching the trailer.

However it’s safe to say that in recent years Van Damme’s output has been something of an up and down affair, with the action hero finding more success, cinematically, as a bad guy rather than the hero he’s mainly known for playing. Which brings us to Van Damme’s latest opus, Kill ‘Em All; a film that sees the actor take a stab at the anti-hero trope.

Told entirely in flashback, Kill ‘Em All comes from first-time director Peter Malota, a man who’s been worling with Van Damme since the days of Double Impact, helping to co-ordinate and choreograph many a fight scene for JCVD in films like Universal Soldier, The Quest and Nowhere to Run. Which means, of course, that the fight scenes are more than up to par – with Van Damme not only going toe-to-toe with Daniel Bernhardt, the man who replaced Van Damme as the lead in the Bloodsport franchise, but also with his own son, Kris Van Damme: who brings a very similar moveset to his ass-kicking as his father did back in the day.

Yet Kill ‘Em All is not all about the action. The film also has things to say about global politics, in particular Yugoslavia and the fallout of the Yugoslav wars in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia. Heavy stuff for an action movie. Though, in all honesty, writers Jesse Cilio, Brian Smolensky and Craig Stewart merely use these terrible atrocities as a reason for the actions taken by characters in the film – anything more would have been something of a huge stretch and also somewhat of a mockery of what actually happened.

Props must also go to the writing team for not sticking to the generic action film formula either. Besides all the butt-kicking action, Kill ‘Em All has some nice “bait and switch” twists and turns, with enough intrigue to add some depth to what seems, on the surface, to be something of a flimsy plot. The plot twists also go a long way to justify why the entire film is told in flashback – which, at first, seems like an odd choice for an action movie but by the conclusion becomes vital to the Usual Suspects-esque reveal that flips the whole plot on its head!

A decent direct-to-DVD outing for Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kill ‘Em All is actually the perfect vehicle for an ageing action star like JCVD – he gets to show off his skills, both acting and action, and showcase his friends and family in a film that adds plot where once there would have been none. Definitely a must-see for Van Damme fans!

Kill ‘Em All is available on DVD now from Sony.

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