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Darkness of Man (2024) Review

Jean-Claude Van Damme has kept a fairly low profile compared to many other 80s action heroes. And that includes such non genre appearances as voice acting in kids films like Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3, Minions: The Rise of Gru as well as a cameo in the French comedy Haters. Darkness of Man sees him return to the DTV action spotlight

As the film opens, Russel Hatch (Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bloodsport, Pound of Flesh) lays in a puddle of his own blood, bleeding out from several bullet wounds. He tells us in voice over that, like every story, this began with a woman. And we go back to Miami two years prior when Hatch was an INTERPOL agent. One of his informants, Esther (Chika Kanamoto, The Man in the High Castle, Enemy Within), had a young son named Jayden (Emerson Min, Black-ish, Always Be My Maybe).

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She asks Hatch to make sure the boy will be safe if anything happened to her. And sure enough, Hatch and his partner Yates (Sticky Fingaz, Blade: The Series, The Fearless One) walk into an ambush and Esther is murdered in her home, her death made to look like an overdose.

Now he lives in a dingy extended stay hotel in a bad part of Los Angeles, drinking himself stupid when he isn’t helping Jayden’s grandfather Mr. Kim (Ji Yong Lee, Dark, Deadly & Dreadful, The Quiz Show Scandal) take care of the increasingly rebellious young man. But the old man has ties to Korean gangs, and when they become embroiled in a turf war with Russian mobster Lazar (Andrey Ivchenko, Freezer, Stranger Things), Jayden is kidnapped, forcing Hatch to go back into action to keep his promise to Esther.

Directed by DTV veteran James Cullen Bressack (Beyond the Law, Survive the Game) who also had a hand in the script along with Van Damme and Alethea Hnatko-Cho, Darkness of Man has a definite darkness about it. Its opening and recurring voiceover establish a neo-noir tone early in the film. Its cast of desperate souls, corrupt cops and other criminals just adds to that tone, creating a bleak atmosphere as the film’s first act unfolds.

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There are also elements of a couple of JCVD’s other films, We Die Young and Dragon Eyes which also dealt with street gangs and at risk youth, mixed into Darkness of Man as well. And the result is an interesting mix of noir crime thriller and action film that is one of the better things he’s done in the past few years.

There’s certainly not as much action as in his films from back in the day, but I don’t think anyone is expecting that. We do get several serviceable fights that, with the help of some editing and the dim lighting typical in a noir, are perfectly acceptable. The violence does get bloody at times with fingers shot off, some intestines poking out of a knife wound, etc, rendered with effects that are a bit bloodier than usual for one of these films.

The fact that Van Damme can actually act helps hold the film together between the various fights and shootouts as well. Actually, the cast of Darkness of Man in general is a cut above many of these films with several familiar faces, including Kristanna Loken (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, BloodRayne), Shannen Doherty (Beverly Hills, 90210, Hot Seat) and Cynthia Rothrock (China O’Brien, New York Ninja). Weston Cage, who failed to impress me in Mojave Diamonds and Assault on VA-33 is actually fairly amusing here in a small role as a Russian goon, and speaking of sons of famous actors, Kris Van Damme, who has been in several of his father’s films, also turns up in a small role.

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There’s a coda that runs along with the credits that felt a bit out of place compared to the film itself, and Hatch’s voice-overs could have been used a bit more sparingly, they get annoying after a while. But that’s the only real issues I had with Darkness of Man.

While not a great film, Darkness of Man is better than many DTV action films, enough so that it should have gotten a theatrical release instead of several the distributor did get booked into multiplexes. The noir aspects are pulled off well and give the plot a bit more depth than usual. There are more action scenes than in many similar films, and they’re executed nicely. It’s also good to see the film’s top billed actor actual star in it, rather than getting top billing for a glorified cameo.

Saban Films will release Darkness of Man to Digital and VOD Platforms on May 21st.

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Our Score

2 thoughts on “Darkness of Man (2024) Review”

  1. Michael Townsend

    I watched the trailer of darkness of man was excited to see Jean claude’s back in action found it to be an awesome trailer and cannot Wait to see the show ! Huge fan!

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