Kill’em All is the latest Jean-Claude Van Damme film to hit Blu-Ray and VOD yesterday, and since we here at The Crimson Screen Collectibles are huge fans of JCVD, we thought we’d review the film.
Kill’em All is directed by Peter Malota. You may not know the director’s name, but any fan of Van Damme’s films has seen Peter before; he’s been in several JCVD’s movies: Nowhere to Run, Universal Soldier, The Quest, and The Order. But most people will remember him as the cowboy boot, spur-wearing bad guy from Double Impact – his scene with Alex (JCVD) where he’s jumping in and out of the shadows is one of the best scenes in Double Impact.
Going into the movie, I was interested in Peter’s direction as this was his very first time at the helm of a film. My mind was running the gambit on how this film was going to turn out: good, bad, or…worse?
I had been following the film’s production since it was announced and was eager to see it (as I am with all of JCVD’s films) and was hoping for the best. The released stills for the movie looked good. The cast was impressive with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Peter Stormare, and Maria Conchita Alonzo headlining. And then I got to see the trailer and was blown away. My first reaction was “Wow! This is going to be a kick ass Van Damme movie”.
Peter’s direction had won me over with just the trailer to his first film. I was sold!
And to my delight, I got even more than just a kick ass Van Damme movie, I got a really good, well-thought out action/thriller from the first time director.
The story follow’s Philip (Jean-Claude Van Damme) in the moments after a shootout leaves him wounded and with a concussion. He, along with several other gunshot victims, have been rushed to a local hospital E.R. for treatment where he meets nurse Suzanne (Autumn Reeser) who treats Philip’s injuries. Soon, a gang of men storm the hospital looking to kill Philip. Now, Philip and Suzanne must fight for their lives against an army of well-trained killers.
What I liked about Kill’em All was that it wasn’t a straight forward action movie, as most of them tend to be, moving from A to B to C. It was more of an action/thriller with mystery and intrigue wrapped around a story that unfolds complexly before us. Most of the story is told from Suzanne’s perspective as she is being interviewed, after the events in the hospital, by two F.B.I. agents – Peter Stormare and Maria Conchita Alonzo, both who suspect Suzanne may be somehow connected to Philip since she survived. Is Suzanne telling the truth? Or was she just a helpless victim caught up in this mess by happenstance? You won’t know till the very end.
The scenes with Peter Stormare and Maria Conchita Alonzo as the F.B.I. agents interviewing Suzanne are really well done. Tight. Tense. Funny. Both are giving fine performances and really makes us, the viewers, second guess if Suzanne’s story is true or not.
I thought this part of the film was handled well by Director Malota. He really leaves you guessing until the final moments of the film. Just when I thought they were going one way with the truth, they turned it around on me. And then, when I thought it was going that way, they turned it on me again. When the final scene came, and the truth was exposed, I actually chuckled because I did not see it coming. Well done!
The plot jumps around a lot, but not to the point where it’s hard to follow, allowing for the story to unfold from not only Suzanne’s point of view, but also the F.B.Is. By giving these different point of view narrative, it allowed time to develop the characters and explain a bit of their backstory and actions in the movie, without bogging the run time down. I did like that each bad guy was given some history (at least how deadly they were) so when they went up against JCVD, (who is injured throughout the film) we know he’s in for a real fight.
And boy does JCVD do a lot of fighting in this movie! And it was fun to see JCVD doing what JCVD does best…kicking bad guy butt. I could not wait until he and Daniel Bernhardt (who actually took over for JCVD in the Bloodsport sequels) had their big fight at the end, and I was not disappointed with the result. It was fun seeing these two exceptional martial artist go at it in a movie and giving it their all. Both of them still have what it takes to put a good fight scene on film and are in tip-top shape.
That brings me to the action set pieces in Kill’em All. Malota knows how to shoot an action scene well. He knows that he has real martial artist on set and he can pull the camera out far enough to show what they are capable of; he allows them to show off their skills without cutting every second. The film was not overly edited, like a lot of modern action films tend to do (to hide stunt doubles) and it was easy to follow the action and where the characters were in the frame.
Everyone was fantastic in their rolls. Jean-Claude Van Damme was great at the mysterious Philip – you never knew if you could fully trust him or not, which Van Damme nailed with his quiet and very restrained performance. Daniel Bernhardt was perfectly cast opposite JCVD for the films top baddie and with his martial arts skills going up against Van Damme’s it was a treat to watch. Autumn Reeser as Suzanne really stood out to me, she was a funny, smart-assed, intelligent, take no prisoners woman and there were several times in the film where I laughed out loud at some of her retorts to Peter Stormare’s Agent Holman – I really hope to see more from her in the future.
I do wish we would’ve seen more of Kris Van Damme (JCVD’s son). He, like his father, is very skilled in martial arts, and when he throws a kick it’s very impressive on screen, just like his daddies, and is very good in the action scenes that he’s in. I’ve been seeing Kris in JCVD’s movies for a while now and keep wondering when he’s going to get his own movie. He’s handsome, has a lot of charm and charisma, and could easily hold his own in an action movie. Hopefully we’ll get one starring him soon.
If there is one problem with the film, it is the budget. You can tell they were working on a smaller budget for the film, and some of that does show from time to time. But it doesn’t really matter since the complex story is so engaging you can’t help but want to see what’s going to happen next, and how it is all going to unfold.
I want to end with this: if this is Peter Malota’s first film as director, I cannot wait to see what he does next – he truly has an eye for directing action/thrillers and I hope this opens up a huge door for him to helm other action movies. He had his hands full with this movie, balancing a complex plot, decent character development, and action scenes; he pulled it off effortlessly in the final product.
As for the Blu-Ray releasing of the film, I was a little disappointed that it did not have any extra content like a behind the scenes featurette or commentary – that would have been nice and added a lot to the releasing. That is my biggest complaint about the Blu-Ray releasing, but it has nothing to do with the film itself.
Kill’em All is a great action/thriller that any JCVD fan should add to their collection.
Pick up your copy of Kill’em All here at www.thecrimsonscreencollectibles.com
9 out of 10 stars.