I don’t expect this film will appeal to any but the biggest Van Damme fans; even many of them will be disappointed. If you’re a Van Damme fan, you might not be looking for the most original of story ideas. What you want is good solid action and some sweet action f/x. This film simply doesn’t deliver the goods on any level. The action is too sparse for anyone looking for an adrenaline rush. The dialogue is entirely lame; I mean, does anyone talk like that? To be fair, it is possible the script is an English translation of a French work. The most unforgivable problem here, however, is the over- the-top-stylish cinematography. The angles and slow pans are a complete distraction from what little substance there is. Philippe Martinez is trying so hard to achieve a 70’s film noir feel that he ignores all of the basic rules of pacing. Even for a direct-to-DVD release, this one is a complete waste of your time.
Ben Archer (Van Damme) is a mob enforcer. His wife, an INS social worker, takes in a Chinese youth who is wanted by an Asian drug cartel. When the drug lords kill his wife and capture his son, Archer goes on a one man vendetta.
The film is presented with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. There is little or no separation of tracks. Forget about any clever use of surrounds. Most of the time the rear channels are a supplement to the mains, containing pretty much the same material only mixed lower. The dialogue does come through when the actors aren’t speaking in subdued tones totally out of character with the action. Again, style over substance. Even the loud car chase didn’t seem to excite my sub. Most of the sound occupies the mid ranges with very little excursions into anything dynamic.
Wake of Death is presented in a center boxed aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The picture is often soft and usually too dark with little contrast. Details are easily lost. At times color will be brightened for a specific object like the red Chinese lamps. The transfer is clean and does not contain any surface scars or marks. There is a bad case of shimmer evident throughout. Again, it is hard to decipher what is intended as style here and what is just bad cinematography.
There is a ten minute talk with Philippe Martinez intercut with scenes from the film. It’s obvious he is so caught up in style here that he doesn’t even notice the film’s many flaws. The video quality of the feature is extremely poor.
I guess I’ve become a little jaded, but how many times can we watch the same plot over and over again? Tough guy finds his brutally murdered family and goes after revenge. It’s not original, and hiding the lack of substance with tiresome angles and clichéd dialogue isn’t going to attract more viewers. I found the film incredibly slow. If you’re looking for a sleep aid, this one’s for you. Otherwise I’d say “I think there’s a problem here”.