Death Warrant - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Death Warrant Reviews

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½ November 2, 2012
Though I didn't have the highest expectations from Death Warrant, with Jean-Claude Van Damme headlining the film I hoped for at least some meandering action fun.

Nearly any Jean-Claude Van Damme film comes with a generic contract in which it promises viewers action sequences and muscles. Yet for some reason, director Deran Sarafian has decided to try and seek out a story within the material he is given. And as a result, there is a distinct lack of action in Death Warrant. The feature spends so much time focused on plot building despite lacking an actual plot to build on, essentially rendering the entire feature an oxymoron. Even though there is potential in the film to be a legitimate thriller about an actual issue, it is conflicted by its obvious B-movie roots and inability to oscillate successfully between being a legitimate story and a mere Jean-Claude Van Damme star vehicle. It's the same kind of material Jean-Claude Van Damme would explore again in Pound of Flesh (2015) which served to be another predictable and cheap thriller
Though the film is set within a prison and clearly has the potential to explore a universe of criminal behaviour and capitalize on themes of confinement and crime, but instead resorts to the cheapest option available. There is simply an empty investigation that drives the narrative while attempting to distract viewers with subplots of romance and revenge rather than action and abs. Despite the title promising some kind of violence-fuelled generic contract, Death Warrant's only true casualty is the entertainment of viewers. Even the most dedicated Jean-Claude Van Damme fans will struggle to embrace Death Warrant simply because it just lacks everything that fans have come to enjoy about his movies while maintaining the thin plot and low production values that are frequently the source of criticism within his works.
The film is a generic prison movie which borrows elements of a slasher film with action scenes and a revenge themed thriller as one of the key narrative elements. It takes in a lot of familiar ground and puts it into a singular film without the budget to provide much of a technological innovation, ensuring that the familiarity of its narrative roots are clear to even the most remedial of viewers. The scenery for the film is nice at first because it provides a convincing setting while the colour scheme has a gritty edge of almost sepia to it. Unfortunately, the imagery in the film becomes repetitive so fast that eventually it sinks to becoming just a lot of poorly lit shots. What little action there is ends up suffering as a result of this because the already conventional choreography ends up being shot from a series of angles with little to illuminate what is going on. It's not worth attempting to figure it out because if you're not gonna try and engage yourself with what is apparently occurring within the story then the action scenes should be no more compelling, but those are the assets to the film that viewers have come here to see. And in the rare occasion in which they get to witness them unfold, seeing them actually happen still manages to be a problem because they are poorly lit. Attempts to give viewers more of a chance to comprehend what is happening through the use of slow motion does not elevate the quality of them any further, rather dragging them on for longer than they need to be and reassuring viewers of the limitations that come with Death Warrant's low budget. I would say that limitation is a word synonymous with a film like Death Warrant, but you cannot use it to excuse the fact that nobody saw fit to make Jean-Claude Van Damme get into more fights and less conversations since that is common sense which does not need to be purchased. Apparently, they still couldn't afford it this time.
Since the film is a star vehicle for Jean-Claude Van Damme, its success can entirely be predicated on the basis of how it utilizes its star. Unfortunately, it simply does not.
Jean-Claude Van Damme is firmly rooted in generic territory and delivers as such. It's no question that the man is not a groundbreaking actor who did not really develop to the point of his potential until the 1990's, and the thin nature of the screenplay in Death Warrant condemns him to playing another poorly conceived character. However, Death Warrant is an even lesser example of what he can deliver. As I said, the film fails to deliver anything close to a decent amount of action sequences and as a result leaves Jean-Claude Van Damme with little to do. His monotonous delivery of ill-conceived dialogue has brief moments of flair thanks to his over-the-top melodramatic nature in some scenes which does bring in a mild sense of comedic value and serves as a nice contrast to the ridiculously serious nature of the rest of the film, but they are incredibly sporadic and do not reflect anything stronger in the rest of his performance. It's clear that he still has the potential to kick ass because he packs some strong punches and flexible kicks during the minimal action scenes, but his fighting skills and attractive physical qualities are made to play second fiddle to just how much he can drag the dreary screenplay on for. The answer is clearly not that far, and that's the distance of success that he ends up taking his performance too in Death Warrant. Jean-Claude Van Damme is simply a marketing tool who is underappreciated for what he can actually do in Death Warrant, and so the production wastes his time as much as it wastes ours.

So as Death Warrant's overly serious nature, minimal production values and thin screenplay are overshadowed by a distinctive lack of action sequences, it delivers all the bad elements of Jean-Claude Van Damme B-movies without any of the good ones.
September 8, 2015
I always wondered why I didn't really remember this movie and that's because it's Jean Claude Van-Garbage. His Top 5 will always be: Bloodsport, Universal Soldier, Kickboxer, Cyborg, and Hard Target or maybe Lionheart. The rest of his movies are practically unwatchable.
½ March 24, 2015
"Not One Of His Best Movies"

**** 1/4

If You're Going Into This Movie Hoping For A Plot That's Mysterious & Interesting Then This Is Not The Movie For You; Doesn't Have Much Of That. The Plot Is Only Put In Place To Establish The Seating For The Action Scenes That Jcvd Fans Want To See Like The Good Guy Crescent Kicking The Bad Guys In The Face, Working His Way Up To The Final Showdown With The Head Honcho Bad Guy That Is Sure To Entertain...
(If You're A Fan Of Martial Arts Action Movies)
To Make A Long Story Short This Is One Of Jcvd's Brainless Martial Art Films. Go Into It To See Just That & It Is As Entertaining As Hell. Not One Of His Best Movies But Because He Was Young In The Business I Understand Why He Had To Take What He Could Get His Hands On.


I Give This Film A B- (Bright) **** 1/4
½ January 9, 2015
Always the most hilarious premises - "Canadian Mountie Louis Burke is assigned to a bizarre case where prison inmates are being murdered." Sandman was actually a pretty cool villain.
Super Reviewer
December 29, 2006
Prison movie with van damme and pretty okey , a bit fighting as usual
½ December 7, 2014
Its a Van Damme film, and to watch and criticize it expecting something else is a mistake.
Louis Burke receives a crazy request to go undercover into a jail. Why does he accept? was it because of the girl? or his crime fighting passion? We don't know, since there is no background story. As expected, he fights his way through the prison. Decent story, mediocre acting and good quality action scenes make this a slightly above average 90's action flick.
½ November 8, 2014
Somewhat cliched but a solid action movie overall.
½ September 26, 2014
Was für eine bekloppte Geschichte ist das denn? Sicherlich ist die Story realistisch und könnte auch wahr sein. Aber die Dialoge und die Umsetzung ist nicht gerade professionell!
Van Damme hält ich ein bisschen zurück mit den Fights. Obwohl man weiss, dass er es besser kann! Am besten gefällt mir Patrick Kilpatrick als Oberpsychopath: Der hat noch einen Augenmerk! Auch wenn man den Film schnell vergessen wird, diese Zeile bleibt in Erinnerung: "Ich bin der Sandman!!!"
August 19, 2014
Cool Van Damme movie.
January 30, 2010
Typical Cannon Films production, but instead of Charles Bronson or Chuck Norris, they've got Jean Claude Van Damme as the cop.
June 16, 2013
There is nothing terribly standout about this offering from Van Damme. There really isn't any of the accidental comedy that is often present in his films, nor was the plot ridiculous enough. It was just a stock standard actioner - with Benson as his sidekick.
August 23, 2013
'Bring me a dream Burke, bring me a dream.' Nah only death Mr Sandman.
I enjoyed this one, Van Damme is on his lonesome do battle with a gang killing prisoners for their body parts to be sold on. The support cast are good especially Robert Guillaume as Hawkins, the fight scenes needed to be longer and grittier they do lack punch but overall it entertains it just missed that opportunity to become a classic martial art movie it needed someone like Sammo Hung in there choreographing.
½ August 17, 2013
Jean-Claude Van Damme does prison drama! While ridiculous and poorly acted, the film holds itself together through enough cheesy moments to keep it fun. It's no masterpiece, but you will get your fill of Van Damme's cheesiness if you watch it. Only B-movie fanatics need apply.
½ July 6, 2013
Van Damme is in a prison where he spins around and kicks dudes in the face for ninety minutes. It also has TV's Benson.
July 5, 2013
Van Damme goes under cover in this movie as a prisoner to see what happened to his friend that dies in a prison. Basically that is the story line and the rest is just action but for an early movie it is actually dealing with a real life issue that faces us still today with organ trafficking.
Check this out its not a bad Van Damme Flick.
May 29, 2013
lock up vs van damme!
June 8, 2008
Even thought it has the most unbelievable plot, its still good and has some suspense and great action sequences. I think the real reason why this movie works is because the villains are so grand, and JCVD is not a superhero. He's a detective with some fighting skills, but that won't be enough to save him from a prison full of nasties. The Sandman is a memorable villain and final fight, for one of the better JCVD movies.
March 26, 2013
Van Damme offers his same type usual karate/kickboxing style to beat the baddies up, but this time he does it in prison, which we all know how it ends, I wouldn't spoil anything, but I think you can already guess. Its Tolerable no doubt, I enjoy a few van Damme Movies but Death warrant drifts from excitment. The story lacks, fights scenes are good but overall I'm wishing Van Damme for once concentrates on his acting rather then his fighting and also a change of character, His skills are impressive yes, but he has other skills hidden, i sense there is talent on behalf of himself. Death warrant adds to yet a typical Van Damme movie. but not an enjoyable one.
½ February 3, 2013
I don't think I can launch a serious defense of this one. It's pure formula from beginning to end. Van Damme is usually not much of an actor and he's even less of one here. Robert Guillaume offers some solid support, but really, most of the actors in this aren't a whole lot better than Van Damme. But I like this one, and I like it because it manages to execute the formula well without veering off into extraneous nonsense and without taking itself too seriously. It's solid entertainment if you like this kind of thing.
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