Nowhere to Run

Robert Harmon, USA, 1993, 94 min.

In honor of LCD’s birthday I am writing a review of a film by one of his favorite stars. In Nowhere to Run, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Sam, a man on the run from the law who is trying to forget his past.

It’s written by Joe Esterhaus who, if nothing else, is able to deliver over-the-top entertainment. And it also stars Rosanna Arquette as Clydie, a woman who lives alone with her two kids on a farm in the middle of nowhere.

After the initial action sequence of Sam’s escape from a police bus, the film slows down a bit. Sam, now a fugitive, hides out in a tent in the woods. But it’s not much later that he wanders onto Clydie’s farm, entranced by the idyllic and happy home-life he sees through her windows. Or maybe he was just there to watch her strip naked and shower.

We soon learn that Clydie’s farm is the last parcel of land that an evil developer needs to complete a major project. But of course, Clydie doesn’t want to sell. Sam learns this because he has the habit of sneaking into Clydie’s house to steal salt. While doing that, he befriends Clydie’s son, Mike (Keiran Culkin), who has Daddy issues. Soon Mike and his sister are hanging out at Sam’s campsite and cooking for him while Sam bathes naked in the lake.

One day the evil developer sends some thugs over to kill Clydie’s cows and bash her windows. Sam happens to be there at the right time and roundly puts them in their place. Thus he befriends Clydie and gets to sleep in her barn, use her shower, and wear her ex-husband’s old clothes. Soon they are chummy enough for Sam to watch Clydie and her daughter discuss the size of his penis over dinner.

So things proceed in this manner. Sam slowly becomes more attached to the family and the evil developer becomes more and more aggressive in his tactics to get Clydie to sell.

The film is solid if unsurprising. You can predict everything that happens but there are some great sequences. A neighboring farm is set on fire and we watch as the fire spreads to the propane tanks. Then we get a great shot: The POV of Sam as his eyes go from the flaming propane tanks, to the water tower next to it, and then to a nearby bulldozer. You can guess what happens next. The scene ends with a silent, wide-eyed “Wow!” by little Mike.

It all builds to the climax. Sam gets in a motorcycle chase where we get to see him do a surprise motorcycle mount! (Going from casually relaxing on the ground in a crouching position, and then leaping up onto the bike and driving away in one glorious motion).  Then he has the final confrontation with the head of the bad guy’s posse, played by Ted “Buffalo Bill” Levine! I won’t ruin the rest, but it involves a horse kick to the face, death by flaming curtains, someone being punched through a wall, and a pitchfork fight.

Van Damme is very one-note in this film, but it’s a good note. He does exactly what he needs to do to make the film entertaining, even if it involves saying the corny dialog with a straight face. I don’t know what LCD’s opinions are of this Van Damme vehicle, but my guess is that it falls smack-dab in the middle of his famous Vandammeter. But whatever the case, it’s a lot of fun. I can see why he likes these movies.

This film wins the award “Best Action Movie Dialog” for this exchange after the prison bus accident:

Cop: “What’s broken, your arm or your leg?”

Sam: “Your face!” *Punch!*

Happy Birthday LCD.

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