In 1993, at the peak of his career, Jean-Claude Van Damme first tried a more dramatic role in Nowhere to Run, a movie directed by Robert Harmon.
The actor begins as a simple prisoner who the state transfers to another prison together with other inmates.
An old accomplice helps him free himself, but this friend, unfortunately, dies during the audacious escape.
Nowhere to run, the fugitive from justice finds refuge by camping out in a forest near a small town.
A young widow with two children lives right close in on a small farm that she manages by raising cattle.
Despite economic problems, the woman tries to live quietly, but a group of speculators constantly harasses her.
Their goal is to buy her land as soon as possible, in time to complete a profitable construction project.
One night, to pressure her to give up the property, they even assault her in front of the children.
At that point, the criminal comes out and intervenes to protect her, savagely beating all the men.
In gratitude, the woman welcomes him into her barn and offers to sell him her late husband’s old motorcycle.
The bike is old and needs repairs, so he’ll have time to spend with this family while he fixes it.
In the meantime, speculators decide to strike even harder on the last owners who refuse to sell.
Having the town sheriff in their pocket, the violent ruffians have a free hand to set fires and destroy these farmers’ crops.
For all of them, then this strange fugitive and vigilante will become the last hope to save their homes and their land from injustice.
Fast-paced action with a sweet beating heart
Nowhere to Run is an action drama with a great western feel, which since 1993, many consider a small cult movie.
I admit to being convinced by Jean-Claude Van Damme‘s formula of acting more and kicking less for once.
Honestly, however, what makes the difference is, above all, Robert Harmon, director of the legendary The Hitcher.
Unfortunately, unlike the 1986 film ( forgone 2007 remake), no Rutger Hauer in the lead, so the magic only partially repeat.
However, the blend works, and the rural beauty of the locations almost magically transports us back to another era.
It was once like the old West frontier, where everyone would struggle to defend their own little piece of land.
Far from the chaos and confusion of the metropolis, what could be a small paradise becomes a hell to fight to survive.
All this, once again, always and only for the search of easy money at any cost.
The film follows a previously taken path, offering a recurring theme in the anti-heroes’ adventures.
Among all, we can remember Once Upon a Time in the West by Sergio Leone, where Charles Bronson was a hitman defending the land of the beautiful Claudia Cardinale.
There is no justice for the woman, and ironically a criminal alone willing to give his life to help her.
A sweet love story is born between the two that could give a new father to her two children after so many years of loneliness.
In the end, it leaves the story open with the hope that everyone will find happiness in the future but still gives us no certainty.
When direction adds the final magic ingredient
As mentioned, Robert Harmon‘s talent elevates the quality of something the otherwise just one of many 90’s action movies.
The director turns every shot into a nostalgic postcard western while sculpting tough but human and believable characters.
The narrative timing is excellent, alternating between calm and quiet moments to frantic combat and chase action scenes.
However, we recognize Jean-Claude Van Damme‘s will and tenacity to impose himself to have this role.
The same year the actor finally brought the wondrous John Woo to Hollywood, starring the protagonist in Hard Target.
The Belgian martial actor lost this passion over time, playing the unbeatable fighter role over and over again.
Equally important in the unfolding of the plot is the role of the widow and lonely mother.
The beautiful and talented Rosanna Arquette is playing it, an actress that I think has always been too underrated.
Some of you may remember her with a face full of piercings in Pulp Fiction, where she was the wife of John Travolta‘s drug dealer.
Her character is much sadder and sweeter here, adding the romance the rest of the male cast couldn’t provide.
So in conclusion, I hope I have passed the interest to watch Nowhere to Run, in my opinion, one of the best 1993 action movies.
Not everyone remembers it today, but if you enjoy Jean-Claude Van Damme, you might rediscover him in an unexpected way.