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Wake of Death

After his wife is brutally murdered, an ex-mobster wages war against the Chinese triad and becomes the protector of the adopted daughter of the triad's kingpin.

Genre - Action

Director(s) - Philippe Martinez

Writer(s) - Mick Davis, Laurent Fellous and Philippe Martinez

Cast - Jean-Claude Van Damme, Simon Yam, Valerie Tian and Tony Schiena

Blue Rider's Role - Associate producers and bridge financier

Distributor(s) - Bauer Martinez Studios, MGM, Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment and seven territorial distributors

Release Date - 2004

Synopsis - Jean-Claude Van Damme is Marseille ex-gangster Ben Archer who now lives in L.A. and who has gone straight, so he can spend more time with his family. His wife Cynthia (Lisa King) is an INS agent who specializes in stopping illegal Chinese immigrants. She foolishly brings home troubled Chinese immigrant girl Kim (Valerie Tian), learning too late that she is on the run from her murderous Triad leader dad Sun Quan (Simon Yam) who promptly kills all in sight, including Cynthia. Ben, aided by two of his former gang members, wreaks bloody revenge on the whole Triad.

The film grossed $303,733 in Spain, $294,219 in Mexico and $187,545 in the United Arab Emirates. It had 34,761 paid admissions in France.

Wake of Death was a huge DVD/video hit for Blockbuster Video, doing $10.5 million in rentals.

Release Data:
It played in theatres in France, UAE, Japan, Switzerland and Spain in 2005 and in Mexico in 2006. It appeared on DVD or video in Brazil, Netherlands, Greece, U.S., Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Australia, Finland, Hungary, U.K., Germany and Austria. It premiered on TV in Argentina in 2006 and in Sweden in 2007.

Viewers' Ratings:
More than 64.7% of 3,258 people rating Wake of Death through Feb. 26, 2009 at the Internet Movie Database gave it positive ratings--with 18.9% rating it a perfect 10. The average rating was 6.4 out of 10. The most enthusiastic demographic groups were boys 17 and younger (rating it 8.6 out of 10), women 45 and older (6.7) and people 18-29 (5.9).

At and One nine times more purchasers gave Wake of Death positive ratings than negative ratings.

Critics' Kudos:
David Nussair, Reel Film Reviews: "Wake of Death is Jean-Claude Van Damme's most enjoyable movie in almost ten years. Van Damme is at his best here and Simon Yam turns Sun Quan into an incredibly menacing figure."

T. Rigney, LiveJournal: "As Van Damme gets older, his movies get better. How bizarre!

"Wake of Death, a solid revenge picture that I think ranks with the best of them. Director Philippe Martinez has crafted a touching, highly-effective action picture, one I happen to think would have done well as a theatrical release. The concept of Van Damme as an actor was explored in both Second in Command and In Hell, though the depth he conveys in Wake of Death clearly shows that the man is ripe for a comeback.

"Everyone [in the film] is in fine form, especially Van Damme. Age and addiction have carved lines into the man's face, and it's actually done him a world of good. Sometimes he was just a little TOO boyishly handsome for his own good, a trait I think he was forced to play up in such drivel as Nowhere to Run and Double Impact. As Ben Archer, these signs of a storied past help create a sense that Archer has been places and done things that were more than a little scarring, both mentally and physically. After his wife's death, there's a very touching scene in his home where he drunkenly converses with a framed photograph of his deceased spouse; that could have been totally cheesy, but Jean-Claude actually manages to work it out.

"Which brings me to the action. Oh, boy. The action. Starting with a raid on a Chinatown whorehouse and wrapping with a blistering assault on Sun Quan's base of operations, Wake of Death most definitely delivers the good stuff. And if watching numerous shoot-outs and car chases isn't enough to quench your thirst for blood and guts, behold the film's uber-disturbing torture scene. The bit involving the power drill is beyond uncomfortable and predates Eli Roth's similiar bit in Hostel by roughly two years. That just goes to show that, when you have an emotional attachment to the characters involved, the violence is better for it.

"I'd recommend Wake of Death to just about anyone, including those who can't stand Jean-Claude Van Damme. I honestly think it will open your eyes to the man's more serious work which, thankfully, seems to be what he's aiming for these days."

Arrow in the Head review: "When a ruthless Chinese Triad Kingpin (Yan) comes to America in search of his runaway daughter, he winds up murdering “gangster” Ben Archer’s (Van Damme) wife in the process. What he didn’t bank on is that Ben can drive a car like an F-1 champ, can fight like a bull seeing red, can shoot a gun like Dirty Harry on a 'cranky day' and…he’s freaking pissed off! Revenge is a dish best served Van Dammed?

"Getting my boxing gloves on an advance copy of the final cut of Wake of Death was akin to finding Tara Reid and Sarah Michelle Gellar naked in my bedroom making out, after a hard days of work. Was it worth the wait? Damn straight it was! There are two kinds of JCVD films hitting our shelves these days. The dumb (Derailed - The Order) and the mature (Replicant - In Hell). Thankfully Wake of Death fell in the latter category and fans of the Muscles from Brussels will rejoice in seeing their hero tackling yet another role that showcased his mucho developed acting chops. In fact, I have never seen Jean Claude reach this level of acting before! My good bud said it best after viewing the flick: “He’s ready to star in a Michael Mann movie now”. DAMN VAN DAMME!

"The film’s aura was one of drabness, nihilism and extreme brutality with all of it bathed in Director Martinez’ groovy artsy-cum-MTV polished visual style. This was JCVD at his grittiest, where there was nothing funny about this tale. Although the slew of exciting gunfights, break-neck car/motorbike chases (loved the bikes in mall bit) and the film’s high cruelty quota (a drill in an eyeball…ouch) were all fun times in a round-kick bottle; that’s not what kept me in the game throughout this 'wake'. Ben’s plight and the heart wrenching showcase Van Damme put out to convey it is what hooked me first and foremost. Much like Kill Bill, Man on Fire and the recent Punisher, Wake of Death tackled the universal theme of 'revenge.' But out of all these films Wake of Death is the one where I felt the most pain for the lead character. I saw a dude mourn, lose it and become a violent wreck on an authentic plane. High five, a butt shot and the splits to Van Damme for his poignant, raw and visceral performance. He held the film together like a damn tube of Crazy Glue!

"Jean Claude Van Damme (Ben) was at his utter best here, displaying vulnerability and a rawness that owned me. When he broke down; I felt it. WOW! Simon Yan (Sun Quan) was intense and scary via his economical performance. Tony Schiena (Tony) was endearing and charismatic, and he surprised me with some really nice Van Damme – like kicks. Lisa King (Cynthia) did well.

"Gore: We get bloody slit throats; mucho gun shot wounds to the head and body, a graphic and extended drill torture incident, groovy."

"T&A: We get lots of don’t blink you’ll miss them tit shots and the ladies get a buff Van Damme shirtless and a peek a boo butt shot.

"Philippe Martinez displayed lots flair behind the camera via his use of filters, slow motion, fades and stylish angles. He threaded the fine line that is “action movie”, “MTV” like directing and “artsy movie” quite often. That resulted in an interesting overall vibe.

"Soundtrack: The blues/opera tunes and the touching/exciting score worked for the film Aces!

"I watched this baby with a girl friend, and she bawled her eyes off! When a chick cries at a Van Damme movie it’s doing something right. MR. MARTINEZ ET MR. VAN DAMME...MERCI BEAUCOUP!"

Major Cast and Crew Credits and Awards:
Directed by Philippe Martinez (Citizen Verdict).

Written by Mick Davis (Love in Paris, Modigliani, The Match, The Vampyre Wars); Laurent Fellous (debut)and Philippe Martinez (Citizen Verdict, Musketeers Forever).

Stars Jean-Claude Van Damme (Bloodsport, Narco, In Hell, Timecop, Street Fighter, Universal Soldier, Kickboxer, Sudden Death, Cyborg; nominated for Video Premiere Best Actor Award for Replicant; MTV Movie Award nominations for Hard Target, Nowhere to Run and Double Impact); Valerie Tian (The Santa Clause 2, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Broken Trail) and Tony Schiena (Merchant of Venice, Dot.Kill, The Number One Girl).

Cast includes Phillip Tan (Batman, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Planet of the Apes, Lethal Weapon 4, Tango & Cash, Big Mama's House, Congo, The Three Musketeers); Simon Yam (Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, Bloodfight; six Hong Kong award nominations; won Golden Bauhinia Best Actor Award for PTU; 49 Hong Kong movies); Lisa King (Home Alone 4); Anthony Fridjohn (Red Scorpion, Bravo Two Zero, Ernest Goes to Africa, Cyborg Cop); Danny Keogh (King Solomon's Mines, From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter, Hearts and Minds); Pierre Marais (King Solomon's Mines); Warrick Grier (The Bone Snatcher, Freefall, Pirates of the Plain); Claude Hernandez (debut) and Tom Wu (Batman Begins, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, Shanghai Knights, Belly of the Beast, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Footballers' Wives and The Wisdom of Crocodiles).

Executive Produced by Helmut Breuer (Amelie, Investigating Sex, The Piano Player); Barry Filby (Witness to a Kill, Sumuru, Enemy Unseen); Karinne Behr (Modigliani, I Could Never Be Your Woman, The Flock, Irish Jam, Land of the Blind); Antony Blakey (The Piano Player, Modigliani, Nouvelle-France, My First Wedding); Donald A. Barton (Back in the Day, Karla, Citizen Verdict, Eye of the Dolphin); Paul Fleetum (Modigliani); Stephen Marsden (debut); Douglas W. Miller (The Defender, Out of Season, Modigliani, Ripper 2: Letter from Within) and Juan Montilla Eslava (Crime Spree, Absolon, Partners in Action).

Produced by Stanley Roup (Land of the Blind, Accidents); Philippe Martinez (The Groomsmen, Flawless, I Could Never Be Your Woman, Dot.Kill, House of 9, Modigliani, Land of the Blind, Texas 46)); Stéphanie Martinez (Modigliani, Citizen Verdict) and Alan Latham (I Could Never Be Your Woman, House of 9, Circus, Darkness Falls, Modigliani, The Brylcreem Boys).

Original Music by Guy Farley (Cashback, Knife Edge, Darkness Falls, White Bits, Modigliani).

Cinematography by Emmanuel Kadosh (The Lost City, Modigliani, Land of the Blind, Back to the Promised Land) and Michael Swan (Supernova, Charlie Jade).

Film Editing by Christopher Bell (Cannonball Run: Italy or Bust) and Dedan Ouziel (The Defender).

Production Design by Hans Van der Zanden (Options; art director on Steel Dawn, Guns of Honor and CI5: The New Professionals).

Art Direction by Ernie Seegers (production designer on My Dream of Africa).

Costume Design by Maleen Nokel (debut).

Special Effects Coordinator: Gavin Meadon (Hotel Rwanda, Shark Attack, Bopha, The Last Leprechaun).

Visual Effects Supervisor Frank Wegerhoff (The Patriot, Enemy at the Gates, FeardotCom, 2001: A Space Travesty, Comedian Harmonists, The Frighteners, Dot.Kill).

Producer-director Quote:
Philippe Martinez: "In directing Wake of Death, I tried to give it a film noir flair. The tone of the film and its ambiance were appealing to audiences. What was different was that Van Damme usually plays the clean, perfect hero. Here he played a tough guy gangster-–a bad guy we like. This was a very different, highly complex character for him, and audiences enjoyed the change.

"The film was both a critical and a financial success. It got some really good reviews, did good box office everywhere, sold more than 1.2 million video units in the U.S. and brought in $10.5 million in rentals.

"I was not only producing Wake of Death, but I was also directing it in South Africa. I needed bridge financing fast or we would lose our star. Blue Ricer came up with it quickly.

"Because I was directing, I couldn't travel to sell the film overseas, but I promised Walter [Josten of Blue Rider] that I would sell it from the set. I brought potential distributors to the set and actually sold it to them while directing--between two takes. That allowed me to promptly repay Blue Rider."

Internet Movie Database entry for Wake of Death

Wake of Death trailer (WMP and Real Player) and link to French trailer

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