Having seen the best of Van Damme and the very worst of Van Damme, I have to nominate Wake Of Death as his dullest film. I had pretty much forgotten it all just after the end credits rolled, which made gathering my thoughts for a review tougher than it had been for any other Van Damme film.
Van Damme plays Ben Archer, a man who is set on a quest for revenge when his wife is killed in a Triad hit, and his child is taken away. This is all to do with a young woman named Kim (Valerie Tian), who happens to be an illegal Chinese immigrant with a powerful, dangerous father (Simon Yam).
Directed by Philippe Martinez, who does a competent job but nothing to make himself stand out as a great talent, the most amazing thing about Wake Of Death is that it also took four people to write it. Four people. That's not what you'd expect for a fairly straightforward revenge movie, but the film manages not to feel too muddled, even if nothing is done to give viewers a decent set-piece that can be taken away from the film when it's finished.
Van Damme gives another of his underwhelming performances, the norm from him at this time, and although Tian, Yam, Philip Tan, and Tony Schiena do alright, they don't give any standout performances to make up for the lack of presence from our leading man.
It's perhaps most interesting to look at the struggle of Van Damme at this time by looking at the topics he chose to explore while moving himself further and further away from the action movie idol role he used to occupy. In Hell gets much closer to the feeling of a proper prison movie than Death Warrant, this film uses illegal immigration as a starting point for the plot, Until Death is a surprisingly interesting look at a corrupt cop seeking a path to redemption, and 6 Bullets revolves around children being kidnapped into lives of sex slavery. Some of the themes resonate more than others, but it's admirable to see that Van Damme at least kept trying different things, even if he sometimes felt completely out of his depth.
Unfortunately, none of those thoughts, or admiration, make this particular film any better. It's not terrible but the dullness makes it a bit of a slog.
Here's the DVD.
Americans can get it here.