Nowhere to Run is essentially a remake of Shane – and I have no problem with that. Shane has been remade many times; such as Pale Rider, with Clint Eastwood, or Malone, with Burt Reynolds. Those of you who have seen Malone – which I think is only six or seven people in the whole world – will possibly say, Malone is not a western. Well, neither is Nowhere to Run – but the premise is the same. That being, a family is being bullied to move off their land by some bigshots who will not take no for an answer. Then a stranger turns up and sides with the family – battling the bigshots. In Shane, the stranger was a gunfighter. In Malone, the stranger was an ex-CIA agent. In Nowhere to Run, the stranger is a felon on the run – but hey, that just gives him extra cred as a bad-ass.
As the film opens, a bus is transporting a group of convicts to another prison. One of the convicts is Sam (jean Claude Van-Damme). Not that it matters, one of the other convicts is played by Sven Ole Thorsen. As the bus winds around the highway, a Firebird races up behind, and then alongside the vehicle. It then moves around, and then cuts across in front of the bus. The driver brakes suddenly, and the bus slides out and begins to roll. Of course, the is all part of an elaborate escape plan. The guards are overpowered, and the convicts run free.
The gentleman behind the wheel of the Firebird is named Billy, who may or may not be Sam’s brother – it is never really spelled out. Anyway, Sam climbs into the Firebird and they race away. However, one of the guards grabs his rifle, aims, and fires. The bullet hits Billy. Billy dies, but Sam is free – and now on the run.
After stocking up with supplies, off the beaten path, Sam sets up camp in the wilderness, beside a lake. He pushes the car into the lake, so it won’t be spotted. However, his wilderness campsite happens to be on the property of a single mother, Clydie Anderson (Rosanna Arquette) – who is struggling to bring up tow small children, Bree and Mookie (Kieran Culkan).
It just so happens, that Clydie’s property is not just the hiding place for a wanted felon, but also sitting smack dab in the middle of a proposed housing development. The man behind the development, Hale (Joss Ackland) tries to reason with Clydie, but she just doesn’t want to sell. But Hale has to make her sell the land. If he doesn’t the deal cannot go through, and he will be out of business. But Hale employs a nasty piece of work, named Dunston (Ted Levine), who will make her leave.
Meanwhile, Sam is running low on supplies. So at night, he starts making nocturnal visits to Clydie’s home to steal a few items to help him out. But during one of his incursions, he is spotted by Mookie (who believes Sam is E.T.). The next day, Mookie tracks Sam back to his tent. Then Mookie’s younger sister, Bree, who was following her brother, also discovers Sam’s campsite. So now we have a bad-ass convict surrounded by kids, and he doesn’t know how to act. His first instinct is to cut and run. But there is still a police dragnet – searching for the escaped prisoners. So against his better judgment he stays.
Then Hale sends Dunston and some goons to scare Clydie off her property. They kill her cattle, and threaten her with baseball bats. But just as they are getting rough, who should appear? Sam. As Sam is played by Jean Claude Van-Damme, he gives the goons a right proper beating.
So you know where all this is going, right? Yeah, it’s predictable, but it is fun, and Van-Damme gives one of the best performances of his career – in a film that, despite its premise, is character driven, rather than action-packed. The ending is a smidge contrived, but by that time I was pretty much won over by this film. I think Nowhere To Run a bloody good flick, and the perfect way to kill ninety or so minutes.