The  Curator of Schlock #271 by Jeff Shuster

Death Warrant

Bring me a dream, Burke! Bring me a dream!

It’s May and that means it’s Jean-Claude Van Damme Month here at the Museum of Schlock. We’ll be taking a tour of his career from his early classics to his modern marvels. I remember covering Pound of Flesh last year, the one where Van Damme gets one of his kidneys stolen and goes on a mad spree to get it back. Let’s just say I have it on good authority that you’re not going to be getting up and running right after you’ve had a kidney removed. In fact, I’m pretty certain you’ll be laid up in bed, unable to walk for 24 hours. And don’t get me started on that catheter. Do you know what that is and where it’s inserted?

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Tonight’s movie is 1990’s Death Warrant from director Deran Sarafian. Also of note is the screenwriter, David S. Goyer. He would later go on to direct the Dark Knight trilogy. Goyer also directed the brilliant Blade Trinity. I’m kidding, of course. Interesting that this motion picture cost only 6 million to make wake, but made 48 million. Ah, the quaint 1990s before cinematic universes and 200 million dollar budgets. Back when a young man could look at that silver screen and imagine himself in that director’s chair one day. And then we got the pop culture abyss that gave us the  trailer for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie and said young man realized he was better off living in the past.

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Death Warrant begins with a Royal Canadian Mounted Police detective named Louis Burke (Jean-Claude Van Damme) tracking down a serial killer who goes by the nom de plume, The Sandman (Patrick Kilpatrick).  After confronting The Sandman in an abandoned warehouse, Burke plugs him full of holes. In other words, he gives The Sandman a lead shower. In other words, Burke pulls his gun out shoots the psycho serial killer many, many times. Burke did such a good job taking out The Sandman that he’s recruited into the Governor of California’s task force and asked to go undercover in Harrison State Prison, posing as an inmate to discover the reason behind a recent epidemic of murders in the prison.


The prisoners don’t take to kindly Burke upon his arrival even though he was sent there on a fake charge of armed robbery, a respectable crime amoung inmates. Cynthia Gibb plays state attorney Amanda Beckett and poses as Burke’s wife so she can feed him information she gathers on the outside. There’s a point in the movie where she employs the help of a teenage boy who keeps making innapropriate suggestions to her before asking her if she wants to watch Star Trek with him (which is also innapropriate). I think the nerd hacks into some prison database and Beckett figures out the corrupt prison warden is, naturally,  running an organ harvesting operation right out of the prison.


Things go from bad to worse when The Sandman is transferred to Harrison State Prison. He’s fully recovered from all those bullet wounds and ready to deliver some sweet revenge to Detective Burke. He lets all the prisoners know Burke is an undercover cop. They want his blood, as do the corrupt prison guards. The walls are closing in on Burke, but he’ll do some spin kicks, and that will make all the difference. Let’s just you don’t want to be standing in front of an open furnace when Van Damme delivers some sweet chin music to you.

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Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.