Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Darkness of Man, Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme

There was a time when Interpol was a law enforcement agency, but not the badge-carrying kind. Their red notices facilitated the extradition of international criminals. Sadly, Interpol today is practically a criminal organization that harasses human rights activists at the behest of member states like Russia and China. The romantic image of Interpol agents is woefully out of date, but it is a convenient role for Jean-Claude Van Damme and his Belgian accent to assume. A few years prior, Russell Hatch investigated drug trafficking by Korean and Russian gangs with his DEA counterpart, but he became tragically personally involved in the case. Now, his sole remaining purpose in life is protecting the son of his late lover and key informant in James Cullen Bressack’s Darkness of Man, which releases today on VOD.

Frankly, Hatch should have left the country long ago, but he still mopes around Koreatown, while looking out for Jayden. His mother’s brother and father were high-ranking members of the Korean mob, but she wanted a different life for him. That made her a valuable source for Hatch, who contrary to protocol, fell in love with her. Unfortunately, her family fed her bad information luring Hatch into an ambush and faking her overdose death.

Of course, Hatch survives, but he is merely a hard-drinking shell of his former self, moping around Ktown. However, when Russian enforcers threaten the proprietor of his favorite bodega, Hatch springs into action. Hatch quickly finds himself at war with the Russian mob, even though he understands that suits the Korean mob only too well.

In general, Van Damme’s VOD action movies are a cut above the industry standard. He has also kept in decent shape, so Van Damme’s movies look especially good when compared to the bargain basement vanity projects tubby Steven Seagal has been inflicting on the world. To his credit, Van Damme is also acting his age. Like his character in
The Bouncer, Hatch is an aging, world-weary hardnose. He gets his butt kicked pretty hard sometimes, because he is human—with some mileage.

In fact, Van Damme delivers a rock-solid noir performance throughout
Darkness of Man. Peter Jae is suitably unhinged as Dae Hyun, Jayden’s gangster uncle. Ji Yong Lee plays a crucial but hard to spell-out role as Mr. Kim, the bodega owner. Kristanna Loken also does some of her best VOD work in several years as Hatch’s vet and potential love interest, Dr. Claire.

Somewhat surprisingly, Shannen Doherty and Cynthia Rothrock turn up in small, inconsequential roles, playing Vivian the ”you can’t smoke here” soccer mom and Nurse “we have to report this” Leslie. Hopefully, this means Doherty is on the mend from her widely reported health issues. According to the credits, Eric Roberts plays somebody named “Larry,” but apparently you need to freeze every frame to find that Waldo-like character.

There are some weird plot-holes in
Darkness of Man, but it has a lot of grit and even a bit of style. Clearly, Van Damme cares about his name and rep, because he really does some nice work here. This is a modest film, but it exceeds expectations. Recommended for Van Damme fans (who can hold their heads high), Darkness of Man is now available on VOD.