A tight-lipped stranger shows up in a New Orleans ghetto and sets about cleaning up the streets in this low-key action movie.
The story opens boldly for an action flick, with our hero, Tiano, lying in a bloody heap moaning that he has failed in what he set out to do. Usually, action films boast a hero who is nigh invulnerable and makes quips while removing an opponent’s spleen. Not here.
Next, we are treated to a flashback where he gets the snot kicked out of him by another prisoner. Just as you are about to write this action effort off, out pops Jean-Claude van Damme as an older prisoner who steps in and beats up the bad guy. Now that he is about 60, he does it in an economic fashion with a few less kicks (though they are still high enough to reach the thug’s jaw).
Now we meet Tiano (version 3.0) as he enters a bad neighborhood, rents a cheap room and proceeds to throttle four drug dealers who mess with his ride. These guys work for Dash, the local drug honcho, and he isn’t very forgiving. He also appears to like getting drunk in seedy bars, so his management skills are questionable, unless he’s working for Fannie Mae. Meanwhile, a rival drug dealer named Antoine hears about the fight and wants to hire Tiano.
The two gangs meet to discuss what happens next, but their powwow is interrupted by local cop, Mr. V. He doesn’t care who runs the drug trade, just as long as he gets his cut. He also enjoys micro-managing and decides to hire Tiano to run an operation that includes both gangs.
Now, Tiano reveals his true intentions. He makes both gangs move to the edge of the neighborhood so he can concentrate on cleaning it up. He also takes away their guns, which leaves the gang open to a takeover by rival Russian mobsters. Mr. V has no problems with the takeover, but he makes sure that the first order of business for the new regime is to take out Tiano. They fail.
Tiano now has the perfect situation. He recruits the two rival gangs to take on the Russians while the corrupt cops are on site and the resulting bloodbath may be nasty, but it takes out everybody and leaves the streets a lot cleaner, if you don’t count the enormous pools of blood generated by this plan. Then again, isn’t there an expression about omelets that would fit here?
There is a plan within a plan at work here, and we soon learn why Tiano has gone to all of this trouble. It is a sobering lesson in taking responsibility when you take a life. Van Damme’s character is a big part of that lesson and his back story is also good and makes clear why he put his own life on the line to save a fellow convict.
This is great material and it all comes together under the direction of John Hyams. He is a second generation filmmaker. His dad, Peter, is a director who makes excellent genre films like “Capricorn One” and “Sudden Death,” also featuring Mr. Van Damme.
Jean-Claude is pretty good here in all of the flashbacks to Tiano’s prison stint. Their scenes play like the training sequences from a martial arts movie, with van Damme doing the teaching and Tiano catching a beating. Tiano handles the fights well and takes damage beautifully, probably because he is played by MMA Champion named Cung Lee. the corrupt cop may be a cliché but casting an actor like Peter Weller(Robocop) means that he will at least ,be interesting.
The best thing about this film are the fights . Thanks to three editors each one looks different and the whole film rocks a brownish tint that makes it look like they only film scenes between 6 and 8 pm.
All in all a good effort , and probably the 100th action film to be adapted from Akira Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo.” If you like this version you might also like a few of the other remakes of this classic which include Sergio Leone’s “A Fistful of Dollars” and Walter Hill’s “Last Man Standing.”
Best line: “Stand like a man. Get kicked like a man.”
2012, rated R.