Directed by Robert Harmon (probably best known for The Hitcher) in 1993, Nowhere To Run was released right at the peak of Van Damme mania but it failed to really set the box office on fire. Revisiting the movie for the first time in some years, it seems obvious that the reason for that was that the action scenes are a little more spaced out than the other films JCVD had made around this time - but the film is still pretty decent by its own accord.
Van Damme plays a prisoner named Sam Gillen who, while on a prison transport bus, is busted out by his former partner in crime who is, unfortunately, shot dead in the ensuing escape by an officer with a scope on his rifle. Sam manages to find the money that was left for him and basically goes on the lam, hiding out in a small camp he makes for himself at the edge of a lake somewhere out west. What he doesn't know, but soon learns, is that the land he's on is owned by a woman named Clydie Anderson (Rosanna Arquette), a widow and mother to two young children, Mookie (Kieran Culkin) and Bree (Tiffany Taubman).
Sam is eventually found out by the Andersons and while Clydie is initially put off by his presence, he soon proves his worth by beating the snot out of some guys who show up to make trouble for them on behalf of a greedy land developer named Franklin Hale (Joss Ackland). See, Clydie's property is smack dab in the middle of a bunch of land he wants to build on, so he's going to do whatever it takes to get her out of there. Since she won't sell to him, he starts getting into the rough stuff, hiring an ex-cop named Mr. Dunston (Ted Levine) to take care of her once and for all. As Sam and Clydie grow closer and he becomes a sort of surrogate father to her kids, Dunston and his thugs close in on them, willing to do whatever it takes to make sure Hale gets what he wants.
Nowhere To Run isn't the fastest paced movie Van Damme ever made nor is it the most original. In fact, it's downright predictable in spots and it deals quite heavily in one cliché after the next. That said, it's still a worthwhile watch for Van Damme fans, primarily because once it gets moving, the finale winds up paying off really nicely. On top of that, Van Damme is actually pretty convincing in the lead role, and yes, this includes the more emotional aspects and dramatic aspects of the story being told here. His chemistry with Arquette is noticeably better than with many of the other female co-stars he'd been cast alongside up to this point in his career and as unlikely as it seems, his on-screen relationship with the kids in the movie is also quite believable. It's in this film that Van Damme starts to develop some legitimate acting chops and while it would be a while before he'd prove he was more than just a well built flexible guy who could kick people in the face really well, it's interesting to see the seeds sewn here.
So while this film is heavier on drama than most of his other work, most of the requisite Van Dammeisms are here - a love scene, his naked ass in center frame, some tough talking dialogue, a few corny one liners, and eventually a good amount of bone crushing violence. The movie delivers pretty much what you'd expect from a mid-nineties Van Damme movie and throws in some cool vintage Triumph motorcycle stunts to boot - it just takes a bit longer than usual to get them to us.
Nowhere To Run looks good and occasionally great in this 1.85.1 widescreen AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer from Image. The movie has always been a little bit on the soft side, anyone who has seen it before will remember that, so you can't expect each and every shot in the film to have remarkable detail but overall this is definitely a marked improvement over the DVD release. Skin tones look nice and lifelike and detail is noticeably improved, particularly in close up shots and shots with a lot of texture to them. Colors are reproduced nicely and have a very natural look to them as do skin tones. Black levels aren't reference quality and can sometimes look a bit more like really dark grey, but this isn't a constant problem, rather an occasional one. Grain can be more apparent than some might want it to be but it's not to the point of detriment and there are no problems with heavy print damage to complain about.
The only audio option is an English language Linear PCM 2.0 Stereo track with optional subtitles provided in English and Spanish. It would have been nice to get a 5.1 mix here but that didn't happen - thankfully the 2.0 track is up to par and sounds quite good. There's plenty of left/right channel separation and a solid low end to ensure gun shots and motorcycles sound appropriately boomy. Dialogue stays clean and clear and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. This isn't demo material by any stretch but the movie sounds quite good regardless.
There are no extra on this disc, only a static menu and chapter selection.
Nowhere To Run is far from Van Damme's best film but it is nevertheless and entertaining movie and a fun time killer. The action scenes don't come quite as quickly as some might want but the last twenty minutes or so redeem the movie with a pretty impressive finale and some great stunt work. Image's Blu-ray is completely barebones, which is a shame, but the transfer and lossless audio upgrade will make fans happy. Recommended for those who like the movie, a solid rental for everyone else.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.