Thursday, September 26, 2013

Film Review: In Hell (2003)

In Hell (Review)
United States/2003
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes 

"...if you like this genre, you've likely seen this film before."

After the murder of his wife and his subsequent revenge, Kyle (Jean-Claude Van Damme) finds himself in one of the hardest, coldest prisons in Russia where the prisoners fight for the wardens' entertainment. Initially reluctant, Kyle eventually unleashes the rage bottled up within...

In Hell is a prison drama with action elements. It doesn’t feature over-the-top fights, rather it focuses on its plot and buildup. The plot has been done before -- it offers very little to those looking for a new experience. Basically, Kyle goes to jail, he's bullied along with the other newbies, he snaps after certain events, and finally begins to fight back. The final act of the film shows some ambition with and offers a glimmer of hope and triumph to an otherwise bleak tale.

Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed the bleak, hopelessness this film delivers throughout as it was effective, but the final acts adds some genuine motivation and triumph. The film starts off bland and sloppy -- offering the same old same old with a rushed feeling. It gets better as it progresses, though. The second half of the film starts to blend some realistic action with it's bleak tones; this, in turn, creates a more effective, impactful, and entertaining prison drama. I enjoyed the action for its pure, realistic, albeit tamed, combat -- well, at least, most of it.

Jean-Claude Van Damme is great in this film -- both as a dramatic and physical actor. The rest of the supporting cast is very good, there is some forced, unnatural dialogue delivery and some weak monologues, but they don't ruin the experience. The fight choreography is great, delivering raw, realistic combat -- other than one or two, there aren't many superfighters in this film. The music was okay, it was ill-fitted during many scenes, though. Also, the audio quality on the Amazon Prime stream was bad -- the bad audio mixing for the source film is also partly responsible.

Overall, In Hell is a good prison drama/martial arts film. It's nothing new, original, or creative, and there are some poor technical aspects, but it offers a great performance from the lead, a meaningful message, realistic fighting and a great final act. But, really, if you like this genre, you've likely seen this film before.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some full male nudity.

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