Over the last few years Jean Claude Van Damme has been making a comeback, but in a different way. While he still brings the action as a leading man he has taken on more ensemble type roles with Expendables 2, Welcome to the Jungle and Enemies Closer. Now he is at it again with Swelter that also stars Lennie James, Grant Bowler, and Alfred Molina, but does it bring the action expected or will it melt under the heat?
Swelter follows a group of men who robbed $100 million from a Vegas 10 years ago, but not all of them managed to get away. Now one of them is making a living as a small town sheriff with no memory of his criminal past, but when his old crew rolls into town looking for the loot, the perfect getaway threatens to turn into a nightmare of greed, revenge, and retribution. This is one of the few films featuring someone like Van Damme that doesn’t try to convince you that he is the lead star which is a good thing because he isn’t. Make no mistake he has a big role more than just a glorified cameo, but he is part of the ensemble. The story has a bit of a Tarantino feel to it with a modern western twist that works on some levels and struggles on others. There is a decent amount of action here, complete with a few old west shoot outs, but nothing too over the top. This film plays more like a tale of revenge than an action flick which is why it may lose some people expecting more. Van Damme has a couple of fights, but nothing like fans are used to. His feet remain firmly planted on the ground as a more silent badass that just does enough to get the job done and clearly wants to move on from this life. The rest of the group all bring their own clichéd characters to life causing chaos wherever they go. The story is pretty clear initially, but there are a couple of moments that don’t make much sense regarding Lennie James’ loss memory and suddenly remembering. In addition there is some strange choices in the way they filmed the opening robbery sequence that made it come off hard to see and just annoying.
Despite its flaws the film delivers a pretty decent little crime revenge modern day western worth checking out. It’s not one of the stronger films in this new direction of Van Damme, but is an evolution to his new path and he works great in it. This film is worth a rental especially if you are a fan of anyone involved, just let it play out for what it is instead of your expectations with the involvement of Van Damme and check it out when it hits stores on August 12th.