JCVD’s mystery/thriller written by david s. goyer.

Death Warrant was directed by Deran Serafian (Terminal Velocity) and written by David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy). It’s a story about a recognized police officer named Louis Burke (JCVD), who gains access to a vicious and crooked prison as an undercover Detective to investigate the sudden deaths that have been occurring. Burke finds the corruption that ensues is connected to his own life of putting past criminals behind bars. Though this film has its share of action, Van Damme steered away from full-blown martial arts and entered the genres of mystery and suspense. 

Patrick Kilpatrick and Jean-Claude Van Damme in a scene from Death Warrant, 1990. MGM.

Death Warrant possesses intense sequences that cross the borderline of horror. This film separates itself from the rest of JCVD’s filmography because of its studiously calculated screenplay by David S. Goyer, creating painstaking scenes written meticulously with blood-curdling suspense through a haunting villain called ‘The Sandman’ (Patrick Kilpatrick). After several years of prior investigation, Burke captured The Sandman and sent him to prison, only to find the notorious madman is being transferred to the penitentiary Burke infiltrated as an undercover Detective. The Sandman’s arrival blows Burke’s cover, which could have detrimental consequences once inmates and guards discover his identity.

Jean-Claude Van Damme in a scene from Death Warrant, 1990. MGM.

Burke uses his skills to continue his investigation in discovering the verities behind the horrible deaths that have reoccurred. He seeks to unravel the conspiracies involved with the guards led by the infamous Warden, DeGraf (Art LaFleur). Ultimately, it’s the villain that makes Death Warrant remarkable. The intensity of the final sequence between Burke versus The Sandman is hauntingly elevated to horrifying degrees by screenwriter David S. Goyer. The Sandman is painted as a supervillain who’s capable of catapulting Louis Burke with his bare hands over a railway.

Jean-Claude Van Damme and Cynthia Gibb in a scene from Death Warrant, 1990. MGM.

JCVD’s bold and fierce expressions add tremendous weight to his arsenal of martial arts techniques. He lands leaping reverse kicks and roundhouses, in conjunction with a variety of jabs and hooks that satisfy the embedded warriors inside the souls of humanity. These techniques are amazing feats to witness. The distinct skills being displayed by the legendary actor/director and martial artist – Jean-Claude Van Damme – are from the upper echelons of fighting. David Goyer’s script is compact with fierce scenes written in a plot that hits every beat resulting in one intense motion picture.

MGM, 1990.

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