“Death Warrant” | Movie Review

Grade (C+)Death Warrant (1990) 1

By the time “Death Warrant” was released in late 1990, Jean-Claude Van Damme was on the rise in worldwide popularity. As this action film was one of many that would be released throughout the 1990’s making Van Damme an international action star.

“Death Warrant” is takes place nearly entirely inside the confines of a prison as detective Louis Burke (Van Damme) is sent in posing as a criminal to investigate recent killings that have been occurring inside. Burke’s only contact is his liaison (Gibb) who feeds him current information on the case and new killings as they occur. As Burke struggles to survive in lock-up while investigating the secrets of the prison and its staff, he realizes the corruption goes higher up the ranks than he thought.

“Death Warrant” is by no means an Academy Award worthy film. It does however serve its role as a pure action flick. Sure the choreographed fight sequences are cheesy at time as is the acting by Van Damme, but the movie is short and to the point. It delivers pure 90’s action and has been replayed during weekend afternoons on cable channels for years.I also think it’s one of the better better Van Damme flicks during his run of lead roles.

It’s easily considered a ‘movie for guys who like movies’. The dark scenes inside the prison are entertaining and show some effort in the visual effects. This one reminded me a lot of “Lock Up” starring Stallone and plays out much the same. But Van Damme in the lead is enjoyable regardless, as he faces many dangers inside the prison.

Robert Guillaume was also solid as the fellow inmate Van Damme’s character comes to trust. The story-line is surprisingly enjoyable given the recycled course it proceeds to take. Also the prison setting allowed for many dark and dreary backdrops to some great fight-sequences.

Death Warrant (1990) 3

The cast of characters are solid for the genre of film, and Patrick Kilpatrick in the role of the deadly ‘Sandman’ is definitely a plus. His portrayal of the character took me back to the days when movies had a simpler evil to their villains and to this day he is still (in my opinion) the best thing about this film.

“Death Warrant” is generic in every way and that’s why it’s entertaining every time. You can expect to see all the classic ‘Van Dammage’ being doled out to those who cross him, and you can expect the usual amount of adversity the lead characters in these film often face before the ultimate success.

It may not be something to plan your night around but for a quick watch or to recapture some old Hollywood ass kicking, it’s an amusing and entertaining film.  But then again I was a kid when it first came out so maybe it holds a place with all the other nostalgic 80’s and 90’s action movies of my childhood. Nearly every action star from the time period did a prison film and for that sub-genre this film holds its place as one of the better of those titles.

Time: 89 min

MPAA Rating: R (For Intense Action Violence and Some Language)