After a chain of unfortunate features that were screened last years, The Bouncer, Black Water, and Kickboxer: Retaliation, Jean-Claude Van Damme makes his way back to the big screen with We Die Young; is it another low-budget feature that feeds off the star’s former glory, or is it offering more?
We Die Young follows fourteen-year-old Lucas (Elijah Rodriguez) who, trying to provide for his younger brother Miguel (Nicholas Sean Johnny), works for the strongest gang in Washington, led by fearsome drug lord, Rincon (David Castañeda). The more Lucas becomes successful within the gang, the more Miguel wants to take after him, which urges Lucas to pull him out of the scene, even if it’s at the cost of angering Rincon. Now that the whole gang is after them, the boys get help from a war veteran (Jean-Claude Van Damme), who had lost his voice while on duty.
Avoiding the trap of relying on Van Damme’s former glory, the feature, instead, delves into the harsh life of crime, showing how far one can go in order to survive. Without any sugarcoating, We Die Young serves a series of realistically brutal scenes, including the’ induction rituals’ scene. The action dose was also in proportion to the plotline, as well as the characters’ progression. However, the feature falters at the very end, with a series of unconvincing actions from the supporting characters, including Rincon.
For the acting, Elijah Rodriguez does an outstanding job with a plausibly subtle performance that foretells future success for the young actor. Nicholas Sean Johnny also plays his part very well, being able to build a screen bond with Rodriguez. The most powerful and memorable performance in the feature, however, happens to be David Castañeda’s, as he captivated audiences, by steering away from cliché drug lords. Jean-Claude Van Damme has a silent role, which is, of course, a challenging task, but for an action-based role, Van Damme did very well.
We Die Young proves that low-budget features are not necessarily bad. In fact, it’s a lovely surprise for all Van Damme fans in town,