Our film follows multiple characters who become connected. Starting with a war veteran named Daniel (Jean Claude Van Damme). Daniel is new to the neighbourhood and requires drugs, which help him deal with his wounds from fighting wars in the past. He is also unable to speak due to his injuries. Daniel can communicate with others by using his mobile phone device.
Delivering the drugs regularly to Daniel, a young teenager named Lucas (Elijah Rodriguez). Lucas works for one of the most dangerous street gangs in the city. But things change with Lucas when his little brother begins to express interest in going down the same path as Lucas, working for dangerous and violent gangs. Naturally, this is not the type of life Lucas wants for his little brother, and he will do anything to protect him.
The world of We Die Young is extremely gritty. While it might seem fitting, viewers, please be warned. Some elements in this film might be too much for a viewer to find enjoyment. I am referring to the general content of the world of gangs and how the film tries to push its limits to try and be realistic. Young Children getting into fights or even seeing an animal get brutally murdered are just some examples of what I am referring to.
Performances are generally enjoyable, particularly from Van Damme and Elijah Rodriguez. Jean Claude Van Damme is also tackling a different and unexpected role. A wounded man who later feels called to protect the young boys is something we’ve yet to see from the actor in his career. The film is at its strongest point when Van Damme shares the screen with the young characters he interacts with. If you are hoping to see some Van Damme roundhouse kicks and hard punches, you will also be disappointed as this film is more focused on telling a dramatic story and rather an action-packed one.
The filming style of “We Die Young” is possibly some of the worst I have seen in some time. Trying to enjoy a scene with a camera style that consistently moved all over the place was not only distracting me but at one point, I was tempted to stop the film as it made me feel unwell. This filming style might be appealing and appropriate for some, but it was too much for me.
Overall, Jean Claude Van Damme tackles a role that I feel is completely different and unexpected. While performances are positive in this gritty story, the filming style of We Die Young was almost unbearable. Perhaps this was done to build tension and give a realistic look at violent gangs. But as a film, this was the biggest weakness for me. The story sounds great on paper, but on screen, I also felt disconnected at times, which would occur intermittently throughout the film’s duration.