Steve Austin was one of the most successful professional wrestlers of his generation. Unfortunately, his success in the ring has not carried over to success on the silver screen. His first movie, The Condemned (2007), was a bust. Damage, a direct-to-DVD release, will do absolutely nothing to change Austin’s luck for the better.
John Brickner (Austin) just got his parole after spending 4 years in prison for choking someone to death (in self-defense). John is finding life on the outside to be just as tough as life was inside prison. He works two low-paying jobs; one is a construction job where the foreman is a bully and the other is at a sleazy bar as a bouncer.
Veronica (Lynda Boyd, Final Destination 2), the wife of the man John killed, meets John one day to tell him that he got his parole because of a letter she wrote to the parole board asking for him to released. There’s a catch!!!! Now, to make it up to her, she wants John to pay for her daughter’s heart transplant surgery, which only costs $250,000!!!!!
At the bar, John meets Frankie (Laura Vandervoort, TV’s Smallville), a waitress, and her friend Reno (Walton Goggins, TV’s The Shield). They have a scheme that could make all of them a boatload of money. Illegal Underground Fighting!!!! Desperate for big money, John reluctantly accepts Frankie and Reno’s offer.
This total letdown of a movie is directed by Jeff King and written by Frank Hannah. Jeff King’s two latest credits include Driven to Kill (2009) and Kill Switch(2008) staring Steven Seagal, “The King of Direct-To-DVD Garbage”! Lets hope that Frank Hannah can recapture the magic he had when he wrote The Cooler as his impressive debut in 2003, when Hunt to Kill comes out sometime in 2010, which will also star Steve Austin.
The whole tone of this King/Hannah action pic is dark and depressing. Everyone is in need of money, a lot of it. If John and Veronica don’t get it, then a little girl will die. If Frankie and Reno don’t get it, they’ll be whacked by some underworld bosses that they have big debts to.
In many scenes, the music is bleak and the lighting is dreary. The sets are often colorless, filled with gloomy grays and hopeless blacks. In one scene, John has to fight a big, fat, heavily tattooed guy surrounded by rabid-dogs in the middle of a rainstorm. Does that sound discouraging or what???
I also find these fighting movies where a supposed underdog has to beat a supposed unbeatable goon to be without any real suspense. You can name about a handful of Jean Claude Van Damme movies where this is true. You know John is going to beat the ultimate fighter dope and when he does, you don’t really care.
What made the first four Rocky movies so exciting was, even though you knew Rocky was going to beat Drago, Clubber Lang, and Appollo Creed, you had back-story about all of these thugs, which built anticipation for when Rocky would eventually beat their heads in. The last guy standing in John’s way of big stacks of cash is just some tall guy, with a ring through his nose, who snorts a lot like a bull. Who cares?
Fight Choreographer Steven McMichael, who had the same position on Kill Switch, must have taken some pointers from Steven Seagal because his fight scenes are dull and unimaginative. McMichael, trained in martial arts, has been credited with revolutionizing fighting styles in the Canadian film industry, but all he gives us this time is simple bare-knuckle brawling.
Walton Goggins did some outstanding work on The Shield, but in this role, his performance was over-the-top and abrasive. Laura Vandervoort is perfect for the “eye-candy” role. Steve Austin really tries to flex his “acting” muscles, but he comes off stiff like a rookie wrestler cutting his first promo.
Steve Austin was very entertaining on Nash Bridges. He combined brawn with wit really well. I truly hope he can land more roles like that in the future because his bad-ass brute roles are getting old, quite quickly.
The stone cold truth is Damage is not a very good movie and that’s the bottom line cause I said so and you will too if you watch it!
Damage is currently available on DVD. Click on the movie screen below to see its trailer.