Having already reviewed my favorite Van Damme films – namely Timecop (1994) and Sudden Death (1995) – I figured I’d give some of his other films another try. This time, it’s Nowhere to Run, his action drama co-starring Rosanna Arquette and Kieran Culkin.
While Van Damme has shown time and again he’s good at the action sequences, dramas have drawn him up a bit short. Nowhere to Run is a good example. He’s in his element fighting off the bad guys in various rounds of fisticuffs, but when he’s trying to go for the more dramatic sequences, he just can’t seem to emote. Apparently, just naming the character he’s thinking about is supposed to convey some deep meaning, especially while he’s in profile. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
Thankfully, his co-stars do most of the work for him, with Rosanna Arquette playing the female falling for him, and Kiernan doing his best to turn Van Damme into a father figure. Joss Ackland is rather exotic as a ruthless land developer and seems slightly miscast. Ted Levine finally steps into the light to play a bad guy with decent ferocity, and manages to hide his trademark guttural voice at the same time.
Nowhere to Run is a Van Damme vehicle, and fans get the expected doses of butt-kicking they are looking for. It’s also much more dramatic than the typical Van Damme flick, with more pauses between action than expected. Unfortunately, director Robert Harmon apparently isn’t the one to bring out Van Damme’s softer side, and fans will find themselves getting a bit bored in between fight sequences. Sure, Rosanna and especially Kieran do their best trying to pull Van Damme out of his hard outer shell, but their efforts tend to focus more of the viewer’s attention on Van Damme’s stilted responses, rather than the other way around.
Then there’s the occasional “let’s speed things up” feeling to the film, giving it a jerky stop-and-jump pace. It’s as if the director suddenly realized how much time was passing and needed to speed things up to the next part of the film. This is especially true in the climactic final sequence which seems to suddenly pop up out of nowhere – even to the point where Ted Levine screams “I’m sick of you, I’m sick of this town” to his boss Ackland, despite seeming perfectly content, even nonchalant, the last time the viewers saw him.
While there are longer pauses than expected between butt-kickings, viewers expect those sequences to make up for it. Unfortunately, they don’t. Sure, it’s still fun to watch Van Damme knock around his foes. But, with less-than-thrilling fight sequences – none of which feature his trademark full split or, in fact, very much kicking at all – the viewer will be disappointed by the lack of originality in those brawls.
While Nowhere to Run can be applauded for trying to bring viewers a different Van Damme persona (complete with feelings!) and choosing a good supporting cast to help this effort along, it’s director just doesn’t seem to have the experience to pull it off. Sure, there are moments where Nowhere to Run shines – mostly involving Kieran’s frankly open adoration of Van Damme as father figure. As for the rest, including the so-so action sequences, there’s nothing to make this film memorable in any way.