Blu-ray: A.W.O.L. (1990)
Made in 1990, Van Damme was already a name well known to fans of fight cinema, with such incredible action templates already under his black belt like Bloodsport, No Retreat, No Surrender and Kickboxer. A.W.O.L. came out when JVCD was at the ripe age of 30 and at his physical and technical peak. Shot by writer/director Sheldon Lettich (who went on to helm another of JCVD’s classics Double Impact) JCVD gets a chance to actually try acting in this story of revenge, violence, stereotypes and leather waistcoats.
JCVD plays Lyon; a legionnaire who flees his post in the foreign legion when he receives a message from his sister-in-law in LA after his brother is immolated! Lyon absconds in typical Van Damme fashion, roundhouse kicking anything that comes in his way and boards a ship to the USA. Landing on the mean streets of NYC with all its illegal street fighting and thankfully, helpful tramps. To get to LA however he needs quick cash and so is entered into a high class fight tournament run by a Brigitte Nielsen wannabe and Hollywood uber thug Brian Thompson. The film should now become a desperate battle to reach LA to avenge his kin….it doesn’t. Lyon is groomed into fighting more and more by our sultry female antagonist who Lyon also fails to have sex with. He is taken to LA to fight and seems to completely lose his way and the whole point of going AWOL from the army in the first place! The story now becomes about Lyon’s personal struggle to….ahh who gives a shit.
Honestly, viewing this film again for the first time since VHS I do wonder how it is appreciated as one of JCVD’s best, the fights are very ‘PG’ and the plot is weak. However, as a part of his early cannon you can enjoy this as a sort of vintage snapshot of what passed as an essential action film. Thank god for Hard Target which came a few years later.
The picture and sound on this disc are as expected. This is the best A.W.O.L will ever look and sound.
Review by Ramrod (co-host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by 101 Films.