Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
My AV System
- Preamp, Processor or Receiver
- Yamaha TRS-5830 Atmos Receiver
- Other Amp
- Peavy IPR 3000 for subs
- Universal / Blu-ray / CD Player
- Sony ubx800 4K UHD Player
- Front Speakers
- Cheap Thrills Mains
- Center Channel Speaker
- Cheap Thrills Center
- Surround Speakers
- Volt 10 Surrounds
- Surround Back Speakers
- Volt 10 Reach Surrounds
- Rear Height Speakers
- Volt 6 Overheads
- 2x Marty subs (full size with SI 18's)
- Video Display Device
- JVC RS-46 Projector
- Draper Cineperm M1300 119 inch Static Screen
We Die Young
Being a massive die hard Van Damme film, I have been eagerly waiting for We Die Young as it was supposed to be one of his better films to date. I’m not ashamed to say I grew up watching Van Damme ever since I was a 10 year old boy, rewatching VHS tapes of Bloodsport and Universal Soldier till they literally fell apart from use. While not everything Van Damme does is gold (especially after he went DTV), he’s one of three actors that I collect EVERYTHING they do, no matter how bad, due to how much I enjoy his screen presence. We Die Young is actually one of the few recent films of his that was shot here in the U.S.A. instead of some place like Romania or Bulgaria, and it also happened to get a limited theatrical release during January before coming to Blu-ray, DVD and VOD this week. This one may not be the pinnacle of his career (I still say that’s the early 90s for him), but We Die Young is a massive step up from his regular action fare, and gives more depth and maturity to his character (as well as a unique twist that I’ll mention later in the review) than seen in a lot of his works.
In the slums of Washington DC the underground is ruled by the single most vile and violent gang to have ever been introduced to the United States, the infamous MS-13. Lucas (Elijah Rodriguez) is a 14 year old drug runner for Rincon (David Castaneda), the leader of the MS-13 cell in DC. Lucas knows his fate is sealed with the gang, but he wants to make sure that his younger brother, Miguel (Nicholas Sean Johnny) doesn’t fall into the same life that he fell into. Busting his hump daily to provide, Lucas realizes that it’s all just a sham when, against his will, Lucas is inducted into MS-13 to act as a drug boy at the ripe young age of 10 years old. Entrusted with the biggest drug run of his life, Lucas defies Rincon and decides to grab Miguel and make a run for it.
Simultaneously we see a beaten down veteran named Daniel (Jean Claude Van Damme) who buys pain pills off of Lucas due to the V.A. cutting his dose down (an all too common thing in today’s panic about the “opioid crisis”), while helping out the local repair shop to make ends meet. A meek and humble man, Daniel comes into Lucas and Miguel’s life when he catches them running from the MS-13 gang members. Jumping into overdrive the ex Marine does what he can to save the lives of the two young boys, putting his own life on the line and bringing out his own military skills to make sure the gang doesn’t keep their hooks in the children.
While Van Damme is great, the movie really revolves around Lucas and the head of MS-13, Rincon himself. The tale is really an urban gang story with a Van Damme twist, so be aware that this is more thuggish and brutal than many of his normal films. They really toned down the REAL brutality of MS-13 (they hint at it, but try not to put it all out on screen), as the real stuff those guys do is beyond brutal. Putting that on screen would be akin to a SAW movie almost. Something they also attribute to Rincon. He’s supposed to be the biggest, baddest MS-13 member on the East Coast, but they soften him up enough so that he’s relatable, which turns out to be one of the poorer choices in the film. Lucas and Miguel are perfectly relatable as kids, but Rincon is too romanticized, even in his most brutal gangster form, to really be believable as an MS-13 member. It’s not a wild thing, but it is enough to let you know that this is Hollywood at work here.
Rated R for Violence, Language and Some Drug Material
• Storyboard to Screen Comparison
• One the Set of We Die Young
• We Die Young theatrical trailer
• Lionsgate Previews
We Die Young is an interesting character drama (with some brutal action scenes) for Van Damme, but this really shines due to Elijah Rodriguez. It’s his story with Van Damme playing second fiddle, and the movie is a lot better than I anticipated. There’s some choppy action scenes, but the battles are brutal, the message simple and the to the point, and Van Damme plays one of the more unique roles in his recent history. I really liked where they went with the story (although the toning down of MS-13 leader Rincon was a bit out of place) and the Lionsgate Blu-ray is very solid in the technical specs department. The extras are a bit slim, but this is still a very solid watch if you’re a Van Damme film, and even a very decent watch for fans of urban dramas.
Starring: Jean Claude Van Damme, Elijah Rodriguez, David Castaneda, Nicholas Sean Johnny, Charlie MacGechan, Joana Metrass, Kerry Bennett, Jim Caesar
Directed by: Lior Geller
Written by: Lior Geller
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 9th, 2019
Recommendation: Very Solid Watch.