Wake of Death


"...Martinez shows the audience that melancholy can exist in an ultra-violent Van Damme B-flick."

- Mighty Peking Man

Wake of Death (2004)

Director: Philippe Martinez

Writer: Philippe Martinez, Laurent Fellous, Mick Davis

Producer: Philippe Martinez

Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Simon Yam, Valerie Tan, Philip Tan, Tony Schiena, Claude Hernandez

Running Time: 91 min.

Plot: Van Damme plays an ex-mobster seeking vengeance against a ruthless Asian gang that murdered his wife.


MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: Archer (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is an ex-mobster who has discovered that his wife has been brutally murdered by a psychotic triad leader named Sun Quan (played by Hong Kong star Simon Yam). With the help of his old school gangster connections, Archer sets out for Sun Quan and kills anybody that stops him from getting revenge.

A year ago was the first time I heard about "Wake of Death." At that time, it was still being directed by Ringo Lam. I'm not sure what happened, but it ended up being directed by some guy named Philippe Martinez; a director who knows how to make a low budget movie look more extravagant. Of course, you can still tell it's low budget, but the tight effort behind the film's production is quite evident (if you watch the extras on the DVD, you'll realize just how ambitious Martinez is about the project).

The film's strongest point is how it portrays emotion to the audience. When Van Damme's character is grieving over his murdered wife, you can feel it. Using mood techniques, sombre music, and Van Damme's exceptional performance, Martinez shows the audience that melancholy can exist in an ultra-violent Van Damme B-flick.

However, Martinez really needs to settle down with the stylized filming. He has a good eye for style, but none of it is original. It's been done a million times in a load of other movies. I'm not a big fan of this so-called "MTV Editing," which lingers throughout the whole film, so I'm obligated to rant a little; or do all filmmakers strive to be Jerry Bruchkeimer wannabes? If I want to see quick cuts, slow-mo shots, contrasting colours, and other overdone "stylish" shit, I'll watch music videos. The overuse of style is definitely the film's weakest point.

The action in "Wake of Death" is a mixed bag: car chases, shoot outs, explosions, brutal torture scenes, and some kicks and punches here and there. Although it has a nice share of well done action, I was hoping for more hand-to-hand fight sequences (I mean, it IS a Van Damme flick, right?). Hell, we don't even get to see Van Damme and Simon Yam go at it (not that Simon Yam can fight, but then again, neither can Van Damme).

"Wake of Death" isn't Van Damme's best film, but it's better than anything in this straight-to-video line-up (and remember, Ringo Lam's "Replicant" and "In Hell" were pretty decent flicks). It has a hip soundtrack (pseudo-Massive Attack type shit, but it's catchy), paces well, and should please anyone looking for some Van Dammage (hehe, I haven't heard that one in years...). One thing's for sure; Van Damme is getting better in the acting department. Hopefully we'll get more movies like this from him, instead of third rate shit like Raven's "Derailed."