A.W.O.L - Absent Without Leave
Dir: Sheldon Lettich
Star: Jean Claude Van Damme, Brian Thompson, Deborah Rennard, Harrison Page
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1990
Format: DVD R2

Legionairre Lyon Gaultier (Van Damme), learns that his brother is critically ill in a hospital in Los Angeles after he is set ablaze by rival drug dealers. Denied his request for leave to see his dying brother, Lyon is left with no alternative but to go A.W.O.L. from his base in North Africa, stowing away on a ship to the US. Arriving in New York, penniless and needing funds, he turns his hand to a spot of street fighting to earn some quick cash. Lyon soon gets drawn into the seedy underworld of bare knuckle fighting and with the help of his "manager" Joshua (Harrison Page) and "the Lady" (Deborah Rennard) (dodgy fight promoter and generally rather unscrupulous), Lyon hopes to earn enough money to help his now destitute sister in law and niece. Unfortunately, the Foreign Legion aren't that eager to give up one of their own and have despatched two of their more heavy handed Kepi wearing brutes to apprehend the wayward legionairre by any means necessary. Can Lyon evade capture long enough to take care of his family.....

Yet another of the typical, overly sentimental, cheesy Van Damme fight flicks. The story is almost identical to all of his other similar offerings. The fight scenes are unchallenging and again virtually identical to every other one of his films. Admittedly, Karate isn't a particuarly versatile martial art anyway, so once you have seen one Van Damme movie you have pretty much seen them all to be honest. The combat itself is dull and fails to grab the audience, leaving some terribly unfulfilled opportunities. You expect with the way that the film sets itself up that you will get a cool revenge flick, as the narked off legionairre hunts down the druggie scum who killed his brother...... but no. Instead you get that silly over reaching exposition about street fighting as Lyon romantically pursues his brother's widow.

Acting wise, Van Damme is his usual wooden and vacuous self, once again exhibiting the acting range and versatility of a house brick. The dialogue is also quite poor and ultimately...... dull. The characters go nowhere and do nothing, often seeming little more than set dressing. Deborah Rennard hams it up in a maniacal laughing / strutting simpleton with heaving chest way, accompanied by the lumbering Brian Thompson as her assistant Russell. Thompson should really have been involved with some combat scenes and certainly had a better filled out role, as he has more presence on screen than the main cast. Admittedly, none of them can actually act, but at least Thompson has a proven action background and the physicality to carry it off. Nice to have the grimacing bulk that is Voyo Goric appear here as another nasty military officer, but his career highlight must have been as Sgt Yushin, the Russian torturer in Rambo .

The dreadful screenplay by Lettich and Van Damme is flawed and full of holes, but strangely an improvement upon previous movies, such as Cyborg. This is by no means the worst of the bunch but it is still a Van Damme no brain action flick. Unengaging, clumsy, cheesy and corny as hell populated by caricature bad guys, nauseatingly over sentimental clap trap, executed amidst crude B-Movie set pieces. The fights are the usual fare of rigid Karate moves and stances executed with the usual impractical balletic jump kicking shenanigins a la Van Damme. This is not a film for real martial artists or enthusiasts, with so much Hong Kong / Hollywood action fusion available, this is going to dissappoint, even if you do only watch it for nostalgic sentimentality.

Even by Jean Claude Van Damme's "standards" A.W.O.L. simply reeks of mediocrity. The bare knuckle street fighting story has been handled much better before and since. This action by numbers direction leaves a woefully predictable film, tedious for the most part, and vomit inducingly cheesy the rest. But what do you expect from the Sheldon Lettich, he did write another Van Damme crap fest entitled Double Impact and if that wasn't bad enough, he also wrote Rambo 3, need I say more.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Picture 4.3 Fullscreen Aargh! - Grainy fullscreen presentation
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 oh, this is bad, almost terrible
Dreary static menu
Selected biographies
Verdict Oh this is a pretty poor release. The picture quality is grainy and grotty, to match a soundtrack which is full of over the top and ridiculous sound effects. Funny but tragic at the same time.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home