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A pretty Van Damme good movie
on 8 August 2007
I haven't seen all that many Van Damme movies, but the ones I have seen have all been pretty good (I'm one of the few people that actually liked Second in Command). I had my doubts early on this time around, though, as Van Damme looked like death warmed over, and his character was pretty hard to sympathize with, even for an anti-hero. But you know what? Van Damme himself may be showing some age now, but he is far from washed up. I see Until Death as a transition film of sorts for him; he shows that he can still be a tough guy without relying on elaborate martial arts displays and, more importantly, that he has developed into a decent actor. Anthony Stowe isn't your stereotypical, one-dimensional cop; there's a lot going on with this guy, and Van Damme does a really nice job of revealing both the bad and the good in the character.
Stowe is a NARC on the New Orleans police force, and he's carrying two huge monkeys on his back: a seemingly personal mission to bring down the city's most notorious gangster and a secret addiction to heroin. Obviously, he does not fit the description of a good cop. Watching fellow cops die as a result of his continually futile efforts to catch Callahan (Stephen Rea) doesn't do much for his already abrasive attitude, he has no qualms about roughing up potential criminals, innocents, or fellow cops, he doesn't work well (if at all) with a partner, and the heroin isn't helping his job performance. His personal life is in even more of a shambles, as he has just learned that the wife he has been neglecting is pregnant - with someone else's child. Yep, you'd think life couldn't get much worse than it already is for old Anthony - until the guy he's hunting finds him and leaves him lying in an alley with a bullet in his skull.
Miraculously, Stowe survives the shooting, but it is several months before he emerges from a coma. As his physical rehabilitation progresses, he starts taking steps to rehabilitate his life as well, apologizing and making amends to those he has hurt along the way. Unfortunately, though, the people he cares about the most remain in harm's way as long as Callahan is still out there - and he's really out there, having wiped out any and all criminal competitors and solidified his position as king of the criminal dung heap during Stowe's absence. You know an ultimate showdown between Stowe and Callahan is coming, and the movie does not disappoint, serving up an exciting, action-packed ending.
Van Damme isn't going to win any best actor awards, but he actually does quite a commendable job bringing out the nuances of his character, as Stowe tries to put his life back together again following his grievous injury. Until Death isn't focused entirely on action and more action; there's a really human element here that I wasn't expecting to find. If this film is any indication, Van Damme isn't going to disappear from the cinematic radar any time soon.