Death Warrant (1990)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 11-Feb-2004

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 88:55
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Deran Sarafian

Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme
Robert Guillaume
Cynthia Gibb
George Dickerson
Art LaFleur
Patrick Kilpatrick
Joshua John Miller
Hank Stone
Conrad Dunn
Jack Bannon
Abdul Salaam El Razzac
Armin Shimerman
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Gary Chang

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.93:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   Death Warrant is an honest B grade action vehicle starring Jean Claude Van Damme. Released in 1990, the film was moderately successful and paved the way for more mainstream success with the likes of Timecop, Universal Soldier, Sudden Death, Double Impact and Hard Target. It is this period in Van Damme's career, 1990-1995, that I have no shame in admitting to being a fan of. Yes the `Muscles From Brussels' has a limited acting range, and the scripts for some of these films were workmanlike at best, but for this reviewer these action films knew their limitations and played to their strengths. I have come to appreciate these types of films more and more these days as they lack the pretentiousness and self-referential stylings so commonplace in the action genre today. Instead, they delivered what they promised, 90 minutes of solid, bone-crunching fun.

    Van Damme plays Louis Burke, a Canadian Police Officer who goes undercover as an inmate in Harrison Penitentiary. Several inmates have been brutally killed under suspicious circumstances and the evidence points to a conspiracy involving high level prison officials. Burke must solve the murders before he becomes the next victim.

    Director Deran Sarafian (Terminal Velocity) delivers a well made action thriller that avoids tedium by including several rousing fight scenes and a decent storyline. Sure the film piles up the `Prison Film' clichés, but for the most part these inclusions are welcome. We all know the clichés I'm referring too. The reformed long serving con with the heart of gold, the brutal head guard who loathes the hero, and the corrupt Warden who will stop at nothing to hide his dirty secret. All these clichés enriched the atmosphere of this low budget exploitation no-brainer and ultimately gave the story a sense of fun not always found in some of its big budget brethren.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The best thing that can be said about Death Warrant's transfer is that it is slightly better than VHS.

    The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The problems begin with the transfer's sharpness levels. The image is soft from the opening frame to the end credits. There is a slight edge enhancement problem present throughout, but thankfully no aliasing nasties. Shadow detail levels are poor with background images barely detectable at times. There is consistent grain throughout the film with slight low level noise interference during any dark image.

    Colours are natural if slightly washed out.

    There are occasional film artefacts during the transfer, but that is the least of the disc's problems.

    The only reason this transfer is acceptable is because of the low purchase price, and the fact that my memory of the transfer on the old VHS version recalls it as twice as bad.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The film has been given five 2.0 Dolby Digital surround tracks. The tracks are in English, German, French, Spanish and Italian.

    Dialogue is audible at all times with no audio sync issues to complain of.

    The film's music by Mark Isham is fairly nondescript, but ultimately does its job and supports the on-screen events without becoming intrusive.

    Surround channel usage was minimal at best. The only consistent sound occupying the rear channels was the film's score. Directional sound effects were absent, with the majority of sound occupying the front speakers.

    The subwoofer lacked consistent bass, causing the overall track to sound weak. Reverberation levels were definitely wanting for an action film.


Theatrical Trailer

    The film's theatrical trailer in anamorphic widescreen. Of note: The music used for the trailer was that of the sci-fi cult favourite Lifeforce.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    All versions of the DVD available worldwide appear essentially the same.


    Death Warrant is a decent action time waster, and one of the better early Van Damme efforts. There are several decent action scenes, and the plot is reasonable. The disc has a poor transfer with acceptable audio. There are no extras. Overall for a budget title it just scrapes through.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Greg Morfoot (if interested here is my bio)
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayLG 76cm Widescreen Flatron Television. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony HT-K215. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony HT-K215
Speakers fronts-paradigm titans, centre &rear Sony - radio parts subbie

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE