Of all the 80s and 90s action heroes that are still active but whose movies generally end up straight to DVD Jean-Claude van Damme is by far the most interesting to follow. While others like Lundgren and Seagal stick to what they know best, Van Damme takes chances. From voice-work for Kung Fu Panda 2 to the semi-fictional JCVD. When Van Damme makes a movie nowadays the characters have troubled pasts or have to deal with horrific events that scar them mentally. Though he’s still miles away from delivering Oscar-worthy material, he has come a long way from a martial artist turned action star with a thick accent and inability to act. 6 Bullets, a title that has got nothing to do with the actual plot, stars Van Damme as an ex-legionnaire whose main talent is retrieving kidnapped children. When he saves a young boy in the opening sequence four others girls die a horrific death when the captors hide them while the building is on fire. Plagued by the memories of these girls Van Damme’s character becomes a butcher with an alcohol problem leading a secluded life, until the mother and father of a 14 year old kidnapped girl come to him for help.
Comparisons to Taken, starring Liam Neeson are quickly made, but despite some similarities 6 Bullets is a relatively original story though nothing ground breaking. As a Van Damme vehicle it’s certainly one of the man’s better movies and certainly notches above anything a certain pony-tailed Aikido master produces nowadays. Van Damme’s Samson Gaul is partially a one man army who takes out a room full of muscle without any problem, on the other hand he’s amazed by the horrific things he has seen and feels he’s to blame for. Van Damme’s weathered face and now droopy eyes help sell the character as well as some convincing acting by the man.
This being a Straight to Video movie it’s always clear not a whole lot of money went into this production. The movie is set in Eastern Europe where basically all low budget action movies are filmed nowadays just because it’s cheaper. Though most of these action movies have a grim and bleak look because countries like Russia don’t always have a lot of sunshine, 6 Bullets looks like it has been filmed in a more southern country because it’s filled with saturated colors; a welcome change. The location also means that the majority of the cast consists of locals, since the movie is actually set in an Eastern European country this makes sense, that they all speak English doesn’t. Among the actors are Van Damme’s son and daughter, who both have a habit of popping up in their dad’s movies since a couple of years now.
The couple who loses their daughter are played by Joe Flanigan and Anna-Louise Plowman the latter who generally should have portrayed a weepy mother but actually becomes pretty bad-ass at the last part of the movie.
I was pleasantly surprised by this movie, as it was way better, or should I say enjoyable, than previous movies Universal Soldier: Regeneration and Dragon Eyes. This is not the type of movie that will win any awards but it is an fun action movie, despite it being too long and the final ambush of the villain’s lair feeling somewhat clumsy. But scenes in which a drunk Van Damme takes on a a group of Russian mobsters in a meat locker all make up for it.
With a bigger budget which would have allowed for some more expensive casting-choices this could have been a fairly decent theatrical release, but for a direct to video release this could have been a whole lot worse. With a comedic role coming up in “Welcome to the Jungle” Jean-Claude will keep me interested in his career even though yet another installment in the Universal Soldier franchise starring him and Lundgren has just been released.