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STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes
- Plays in Most DVD Players
- Contains Motion Photography of People Doing Stuff
“Remember Stone Cold Steve Austin? No, not the bionic dude from TV. The wrestler! No, not Mickey Rourke. Yeah, bald head. Beard. We’ve got a multi-picture deal says he can act. Stop laughing.”
Directed by: Jeff King. Written by: Frank Hannah. Starring: Steve Austin, Walton Goggins, Laura Vandervoort, Lisa Boyd.
Steve Austin plays a just-released-on-parole murderer who feels he owes a debt to the woman who’s life he shattered by killing her husband. His debt is payed by fisting a lot of dudes. Probably should have used the word “punching” there.
Stone Cold Steve Austin has just been released from prison two-and-a-half years early to be placed on parole. He’s seen They Live, so he goes and gets a job working at a construction site. He gets fired from his job after punching his bosses’ heart attack and making it go away and never come back. He gets another job as a bouncer in a bar owned by biker/hobo/Fabio after saving a waitress from unwanted yuppie advances. The waitress tips off her amateur fight promoter boyfriend that Stone Cold Steve Austin is working at her bar, and he begins to book him fights to get him the money to pay off the medical expenses of the little girl of the widow of the guy he murdered five years ago. Damage is basically John QFC. Never before has the world of non-insured families in need and the world of bareknuckled boxing been this intimately entwined.
That’s basically the story of Damage, the first film from Nasser Media starring Stone Cold Steve Austin. It’s a flick that, probably smartly, uses a very flimsy and malleable plot to fill the gaps between scenes of Austin beating the everliving hell out of other 40+ year olds in stereotypical underground fighting arenas. Really, it feels like you’re watching someone play through Def Jam Vendetta with a slow white guy while his wife keeps flipping back to a Lifetime movie.
I think that may make it sound better than it is.
Not that the flick is in any way bad, per se. It’s just a very obvious and very standard action flick. Despite the fact that the film’s producers cast Stone Cold Steve Austin in the lead role, they crafted a story that requires a man to show regret, compassion, friendship, and anger. Austin manages this by staring blankly at everyone he meets. While I understand that this is essentially a movie written around violent fight scenes, it begs the question why this story?
Exacerbating the confusion is the film’s central plot point: The widow of the man Stone Cold killed, Veronica, petitioned for his release so she could essentially force him to pony up $250,000 for her sick daughter’s heart transplant. Her reasoning? Stone Cold wrote her from jail expressing his sorrow and told her “if there’s anything I can do to help,” to let him know. Apparently asking a man fresh out of prison with no direct means of employment to somehow come up with a quarter of a million dollars is her idea of a favor. Sure, she can say he owes her for the death of her husband, but it turns out later that Stone Cold acted in self defense, and that she didn’t really love her husband anyway. So, maybe an out of court bargain would have been smarter than letting an innocent man serve 65% of his sentence and acting like letting him out early is a gift.
Yeah, I am looking for logic in a movie where two men fight on a tugboat surrounded by rottweilers.
The film is given a breath of life by Walton Goggins, who plays Stone Cold’s fight promoter, Reno. He throws himself into a very by-the-books role and comes out looking pretty stellar. I’m not that familiar with Goggins’ work, and this turn in an otherwise silly movie has made me into a fan. The man has charisma. He also gets to dress like a pimp. Laura Vandervoort plays Reno’s girlfriend/ Stone Cold’s after-match nurse. She is very pretty. That’s all the script lets her be.
I am quite sure I am being a little too hard on Damage. The movie is interesting enough, aside from having weak connective tissue outside of the fight scenes (which are filmed admirably enough, but have less impact and reality than watching a WWE main event) and a tremendously contradictive character in Veronica. Stone Cold looks appropriately big and mean when he is beating on people, and inappropriately big and bored when he’s not. I’m not ready to count him out as an actor yet – he was quite charismatic in his days as the main draw in the WWE – but I don’t think he’ll quite amount to even The Rock’s less than enviable film career.
Damage is an above average bad movie. You won’t hate yourself for watching it and on the plus side you get to see fairly violent and bloody fights, an attractive female lead, and Walton Goggins dressed like a pimp.
I got a screener copy that looks pretty much like the real deal being offered in stores. And the deal is that there is a movie for you to watch, and an option to rewatch the trailers that play before the menu in case you’re confused. Apparently, either Fox Home Entertainment doesn’t want Steve Austin to talk about his first non-WWE films appearance, or they don’t want internet critics hearing it.
On the DVD front itself, the film is of decent image quality. The film doesn’t take up all of a single layer disc, and despite that the colors look pretty sharp upconverted, but the image itself is very soft with not a lot of depth. Still, for a more or less low budget faux-indie flick it’s at least lit well and doesn’t expose its lo-fi roots. Sets are decorated well, and it feels like a full production with limited shooting environments.
I can’t say that Stone Cold has a future as an actor. He is very good at alternately looking angry and stoic, so if that’s your character, call him up. To be fair, this movie is a completely serviceable and in no way bad b-flick that is helped much more by the presence of Walton Goggins as the not-exactly-janky-promoter than it is from Stone Cold’s numerous action scenes.
Despite the storyline inconsistencies with the Veronica character, the plot moves along nicely and manages to never drag, while simultaneously never actually taking off. If you should find yourself faced with watching Damage, don’t get too worried. You won’t feel like one of Steve Austin’s sparring partners after the credits come up.