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In Hell (2003)
Written by Eric James Virgets and Jorge Alvarez
Directed by Ringo Lam
Runtime 98 min.
4 out of 5

Kyle’s (Jean Claude Van Damme) wife is murdered and, though the culprit is caught, when the case goes to trial, there’s not enough evidence to convict him. Taking matters into his own hands, Kyle kills the man himself right after and is sentenced to life in Krava prison in Russia. Once there, Kyle discovers the crooked warden hosts fighting battles on the grounds and bets with other wardens who bring fighters in from other prisons.

At first content to fight, Kyle makes a name for himself as someone not be messed with, but when a close friend is killed, he decides to lower his hands and fight no longer. Following his example, the other inmates no longer fight as well, and the entire order of the prison is challenged.

But one of the inmates has a secret and in order for the prison to be brought down once and for all, Kyle must step into the ring one last time.

I got to say I was really impressed with this. This was the first Van Damme prison movie I’ve seen since Death Warrant and, frankly, had a blast watching it. This flick has a strong story and isn’t your usual fair of Van Damme merely fighting and winning the “big one” at the end. Instead, it’s the story of one man’s journey to do what’s right inside prison walls and learning when it’s time to walk away.

As for the fighting, though, yeah, much more realistic than other JCVD flicks. Lots more wrestling, arm holds, close toe-to-toe stuff, and, dare I say, didn’t have a single patented Van Damme 360-kick in it. The matches were also pretty much 50-50 in terms of blows exchanged, instead of Van Damme winning all the fights until the final guy, then gets his butt beat for ten minutes, before having a big comeback where he dominates and wins (with that 360-kick). The fights in this flick were more blow-for-blow, with one guy winning after the other guy gets knocked out.

I really enjoyed this, so if you’re in a JCVD mood but also want a good story that sucks you in from the start, In Hell is the way to go.

Recommended.