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Nowhere to Run

Directed by Robert Harmon. Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Rosanna Arquette, Kieran Culkin, Ted Levine, Joss Ackland.

REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., Jan. 22, 1993

A surprisingly serviceable take on the western Shane, this one has escaped con Van Damme hooking up with innocent mother of two (Arquette) just as the evil developer tries to drive her from her farm. It's a not very imaginative riff on the classic -- mysterious stranger comes to the aid of poor farmers whose land an evil magnate wants for his empire -- even down to the fact that the most interesting performances are turned in by the actors playing the hired-killer psycho (Jack Palance and Ted Levine, respectively). Nowhere to Run is Van Damme's attempt to convince us that he's a serious actor. His best ally is director Harmon, who carefully drafts the whole film as a vehicle for Van Damme's limited acting talents. The film works, but it works as a mindless action adventure. Crafting Van Damme's character as a strong, silent type was the only way to go but he just doesn't emanate much in the way of either passion, intelligence or poetry (Alan Ladd had all three). The film is driven by Van Damme's martial arts abilities and the action sequences, not by character nor story. Harmon's directing holds the film together but the plot is riddled with inconsistencies and is basically stupid. Previously responsible for The Hitcher, a disturbingly cold-blooded exercise but still a powerful cinematic vehicle, Harmon still doesn't show enough humanity to be considered anything more than a stylish director. But he is a damned stylish one, who keeps the film interesting and the action sequences effective. If you don't expect much (and the developer vs. land owner plot is ridiculous) you may be surprised at what's here.
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