Swelter (2013) – By Duane L. Martin

When a group of criminals robs a Vegas casino of ten million dollars, things go just fine until one of them gets shot in the head and ends up wandering off with the cash while the others all get picked up by the police.  Now ten years later, Bishop, the one who wandered off with the cash is the sheriff of a small town and he has no memory of his previous life.  The down doctor fixed him up and he’s dating a local woman from the town, but the others have just escaped from prison and now they want their money, leading to a showdown between Bishop and the rest of the gang that will leave more than a few people dead.

If you ever wanted to know how to totally waste Jean-Claude Van Damme in a film, Swelter would be a prime example of just how to do that.  He’s one of the two senior members of the gang, but he feels more like a side character than anything else.  Most of the focus is put on the younger members, the other senior member and Bishop.  On top of that, they apparently didn’t know what to do with the character, because he seems to have no problem killing cops, yet when it comes to hurting women, he just can’t bring himself to do it, and he tries to stop it from happening when he sees it.  He also talks about how ten years of their lives were wasted and seems to want out of the whole thing, but he goes along with it just the same.  Then, as if all of that wasn’t bad enough, he ends up dead in about the lamest way possible.  No grand fight scene or anything like that.  Just a quick stab in the gut with a knife that wasn’t even all that long and killed him way faster than it realistically should have.

So yeah, that irritated me.  I was looking forward to seeing him in this film, and he was mostly just wasted.  He should have been given the role of the sheriff in my opinion, and Lennie James who played the sheriff should have had his role instead.  That would have worked out much better both from both a performance and a story standpoint.

Now you may infer from what I just said that I didn’t like this movie, but that’s not the case.  I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either.  It was ok, but most of the problems with it revolve around the story.  The cast was great, as was the production quality.  Unfortunately that’ll only carry you so far.

So what was the big problem?  Well first off, the only one in the film I actually cared about was Stillman (Van Damme’s character), and he was one of the bad guys.  Well him and the girl who ran the bar, who was both gorgeous and likeable.  Aside from those two, if the rest of the characters all fell off the face of the planet, I wouldn’t have cared in the least.  There were a variety of characters I should have cared about as a viewer, but I just didn’t, and when there’s no one to really care much about in a film it takes away from the immersive experience a viewer should get from a well written, well made film.

As I said, from a production standpoint the film was just fine, and I was really happy to see Tracey Walter included as a side character in the cast.  If you don’t know who he is, look him up on IMDB.  You’ll recognize him instantly, because he’s got a list of credits a mile and a half long and you couldn’t watch much of anything back in the 80s especially without seeing his face somewhere.  He played Conan’s sidekick Malak in Conan the Destroyer as well if that helps you place him.  He didn’t have much of a role in this film, but it was great to see him.

Just a side note here, but one thing I’m trying really hard to understand is why Daniele Favilli’s character Kane was left off of the cover art and the promo images completely.  He was the fifth member of the gang and he was actually the most dynamic character out of all of them, yet for some inexplicable reason he’s been left out of all the images.  I mean, he did an awesome job in the film of playing someone you could really hate, and out of all of the characters, he’s the one you’ll probably end up having the strongest feeling toward.  Anyway, I just wanted to mention him here and to compliment him on a great performance since he seems to have been slighted a bit.

For special features, this new release from Well Go USA includes interviews, the film’s trailer and an available French language track.

I didn’t come into this film with any preconceived notions.  After watching it, I was left with the opinion that it was just ok.  Not bad, but not something I’d go out of my way to watch again, so I suppose we’ll just leave it at that.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Well Go USA website here.