Directed by Ernie Barbarash (the man who directed Cube: Zero) and written by Chad and Evan Law (who also did uncredited script work on the recent Dolph Lundgren movie, One In The Chamber), 2012's 6 Bullets stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as a mercenary named Samson Gaul. When we meet him, he's working deep undercover on a mission to save a young boy from some slave traffickers. He saves the boy but two young girls die in the process, and at the behest of his friend Inspector Kvitko (Steve Nicolson) - the only honest cop he knows - he retires to leave the police work to the police.
Some time later, an MMA fighter named Andrew Fayden (Joe Flanigan) shows up with his wife Monica (Anna-Louise Plowman) and twelve year old daughter Becky (Charlotte Beaumont) in tow. Shortly after the Fayden's arrive at their hotel, Becky goes missing and it doesn't take them long to figure out that she's been kidnapped. They talk to a man at the American embassy named Selwyn Gaul (Kristopher Van Varenberg - Van Damme's real life son) who recommends they talk to his father, Samson, who now lives a peaceful life as a butcher. Of course, they approach him and he initially resists, telling them instead to go to the police but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that he'll soon change his mind. When he does just that, he and Becky's parents cleverly track her down to an abandoned soviet era prison and decide to bring the right to the kidnappers. Unfortunately for Becky, things are more complicated than that and this plot runs all the way up to a high ranking internal security officer named Stelu (Louis Dempsey) who plans to use the young woman to cut a deal with a Middle Eastern man who has a thing for blonde American virgins.
While 6 Bullets (a title that has absolutely nothing to do with movie at all) is about twenty minutes longer than it probably needed to be, it atones for that by remaining reasonably entertaining throughout. Those expecting much in the way of creativity or originality might walk away disappointed, as this borrows a bit from movies like Taken and, well, whatever 'bad ass retires and comes out of retirement to help people' film you'd care to name but there's definitely some fun to be had here for the action movie fan. There are moments where the film's modest budget definitely shines through (the shot showing the aftermath of the explosions Gaul cases in the opening scene being the most obvious one) but Van Damme is decent enough here to carry the picture.
Which leads to the performances. Van Damme's fans will dig what he does here. It's nothing he hasn't done before but he does it well, occasionally brooding over his past but lighting up in the action scenes and showing off some impressive moves while taking on all comers. He doesn't have a whole lot of chemistry with Flanigan and Plowman, in fact that don't have a whole lot of chemistry with one another, but once they grab a handful of weapons and head out to take Becky back, it doesn't matter. We can even look past the fact that Flanigan's character says he's never used a gun before but turns out to be an instant marksman when it comes time to fight. Young Charlotte Beaumont is decent enough in her part but the film never really calls for her to be as terrified as you'd expect someone in her situation to be, so we're maybe not as sympathetic as a story like this would hope, but she does fine with the material she's been given here.
Ultimately the movie more or less deals almost entirely in clichés but it'll give Van Damme fans what they want, even if there are a few stretches where JCVD isn't really on camera that much. The fight choreography and shoot out scenes are done well even if the movie does depend too heavily no close up shaky cam shots. There are no surprises here at all, but this is a completely serviceable popcorn film, fun to watch and it won't make you think - good escapism, really, no more and no less.
6 Bullets arrives on DVD in a nice looking 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that keeps the director's gritty aesthetic in check. Color reproduction is fine, though the film isn't the most colorful looking picture you're ever going to see given that much of it takes place inside an aging prison, while black levels remain strong and stable throughout. There aren't any problems with compression artifacts or edge enhancement issues and the image is clean and perfectly satisfactory from start to finish.
An English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track provides ample boom for the action scenes while still managing to deliver perfectly audible dialogue. The levels are well balanced and there are no problems with hiss or distortion to complain about at all. Bass response has some good kick to it and the effects and score are both punchy enough to work. An optional French language track is also included in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and optional subtitles are offered in English, English SDH and French.
Aside from a few promo spots for other Sony releases and the standard menu and chapter stops that you'd expect to find on a DVD, this disc is completely barebones.
6 Bullets really doesn't bring anything new at all to the action movie genre but it does what it does quite well, offering some decent suspense, some solid fight scenes, a couple of good shoot outs and just enough style. This isn't Van Damme's best, it's not even the best of his recent DTV outings, but it is entertaining and recommended for fans, and if Sony's disc is barebones, at least it looks and sounds quite good.
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.