Director: Lior Geller
Writers: Lior Geller (screenplay), Lior Geller (story)
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, David Castañeda, Elijah Rodriguez
“When Rincon started doing his Shakespeare, you knew some poor bastard’s about to get smoked.”
“We Die Young” is not a typical Jean-Claude Van Damme film, where he can show off his trained body. In fact, in this film, the number of times Van Damme is demonstrating his fighting techniques, is almost nil. So don’t expect any splits. Actually, it’s kind of understandable because “The muscles of Brussels” isn’t the youngest anymore. And I can imagine that such efforts are no longer evident.
There’s one advantage. JcvD concentrates more on the acting part than on the more action-rich part. Films such as “Bloodsport” and “Kickboxer” from the 80s were immensely popular. And I admit that I also look back on that with pleasure. Unfortunately, this successful period was followed by a period with fewer successful films. Such as “Alien Uprising” (probably to please his daughter), “Dragon Eyes” and “Welcome to the Jungle“. After the umpteenth crap movie, my decision was made. Best I avoid JcvD films. Until recently. I couldn’t resist watching “The Bouncer” and was pleasantly surprised. Let me quote myself for a moment: “Just when you think that an icon such as Jean-Claude Van Damme is becoming a caricature of himself and in danger of sinking into oblivion, he surprises you with such a part as in this film. The “Muscles from Brussels” got under my skin with his integer and sensitive acting. ” I couldn’t have said it better.
Naturally, I gave “We die young” a chance. Solely to verify whether he could maintain the same level. And I readily admit that he has wonderfully succeeded in convincing me once again. This time he’s not a bouncer of nightclubs in a Brussels neighborhood, but a retired Afghanistan war veteran. A military past that has left traces in the form of PTSD and a set of damaged vocal cords. The latter issue also ensures that you won’t hear any sound out of Van Damme’s mouth. Daniel (Jean-Claude Van Damme) somehow ended up in a slum near Washington D.C. where Latinos (Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13) are in control. A run-down neighborhood where drug addiction is the source of income for this fully tattooed gang members.
Next to JcvD also David Castañeda left an impression. His performance as the gang leader and kingpin Rincon is quite impressive. Not only because of his threatening attitude, cruelty, and determination with which he leads his drug gang. But also because he also shows his soft side as guardian of Lucas (Elijah Rodriguez) and Miguel (Nicholas Sean Johnny). And as the protective brother of his physically disabled sister Gabriela (Robyn Cara). The whole story revolves around Lucas who works for Rincon as a drug courier and preferably doesn’t want his younger brother to end up to be part of this gang. When a very important transaction goes wrong, also thanks to the interference of right-hand man Jester (Charlie MacGechan), it’s the start of a nerve-racking and rather action-rich part.
Again, don’t expect a typical Van Damme movie. In the end, it’s a rather gloomy film that shows how destructive and dangerous it is to live in a neighborhood controlled by drug gangs. Survival is more the right word because every mistake made, will be punished ruthlessly. This film shows the futureless life of young people there. The title is therefore applicable. Not many can enjoy a long and healthy life in these slums. Of course, you can ask a few questions about “We die young“. Why the hell has Daniel moved there? Was he looking for anonymity? Is he trying to forget about the past? What with his family? Or is he simply alone in this world? Forgotten by those who knew him? Or is it a convenient solution such that he can easily get the painkillers. Those that help him to get rid of delusions and visions? And what about his military skills? Because when it comes to defending, he looks like a klutz. All in all, “We die young” is a must see if you want to see Van Damme again. A fastpaced gangsta film that never bores.