Tuesday, 5 October 2010
Directed by: Jeff King
Written by: Frank Hannah
Starring: Steve Austin, Walton Goggins Donnelly Rhodes, Laura Vandervoort
Big bad wrestler Steve Austin has been carving out a little niche for himself in the world of action cinema with supporting roles in the likes of The Longest Yard and The Expendables and headlining the rather decent The Condemned. He's also started headlining some staight-to-DVD action titles the first of which is the very watchable Damage. On the surface, it's a run of the mill story about ex-con Brickner (Austin) being released from prison and trying to hold down a job in regular society. But having been put away for killing a man, holding down a job isn't easy and so Birckner puts his fists to good use by taking part in underground fighting. So far, so predictable and to be honest the film doesn't really surprise in its journey of redemption, the narrative reaching a predictable destination. But it's the journey that Damage takes to get to this destination and the surprisingly level of care given to character that makes it so enjoyable. Plus there are many brutal fight scenes along the way to help proceedings progress nicely
While on the surface a fight film, Damage is much more about the small surrogate family that Brickner forms with his fight promoter Reno (Goggins) and his lady friend/post fight nurse Frankie (Vandervoot). All three are trying to escape troubled pasts, and the not exactly plain sailing present, and form a bond that sees them looking out for another as they attempt to make enough money to leave their pasts and debts behind. With a surprisingly character based script from the writer of The Cooler (an awesome flick one should see if one hasn't already!), Damage takes its time to let us get to know these three troubled but likable characters. Austin is good as the strong, silent Brickner with Goggins and Vandervroot adding quality support. Despite each of their character's flaws the actors make us care for them and make it enjoyable to spend time in their company.
Austin also gets to take part in some brutal fight scenes which pepper the film. Decidedly non-flashy and free of intricate or showy choreography the fights are basic but brutal, going for a more realistic take on men knocking the hell out of one another. Maybe shot and cut a little too quick, the fights scenes manage to balance out the character and story development nicely, Damage having a distinctive 1990s fight film vibe about it.
With decent production values and a professional sheen to it Damage, despite a certain predictability, actually feels like a fresh and new fight film, is better than a lot of what the likes of Snipes, Van Damme and Seagal have been putting out in recent years and shows Austin may have a decent career in action cinema ahead of him.