Death Warrant is the first movie sold by David S. Goyer, way before he wrote Kickboxer 2, Demonic Toys, Pet Sematary 2, Dark City, the three Blade films (he directed Blade: Trinity), Ghost Rider, the Christopher Nolan Batman films, Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman and the upcoming Terminator: Dark Fate. It’s directed by Deran Sarafian, who directed To Die For, a 1989 vampire rental favorite, as well as episodes of House and Lost. He also directed another rental favorite, Claudio Fragasso’s (Monster Dog, Shocking Dark, Rats: Night of Terror) apoc-romp Interzone that stars Bruce Abbott (Re-Animator).
Detective Louis Burke (Jean-Claude Van Damme) of the Quebec Royal Canadian Mounted Police has come to Los Angeles to confront the man who killed his partner — Christian “The Sandman ” Naylor. After finding bodies hanging from the ceiling, he’s able to defeat his enemy, shooting him multiple times in the chest.
More than a year later, Burke joins a task force to solve a series of murders inside California’s Harrison State Prison. Burke will pose as an inmate while attorney Amanda Beckett (Cynthia Gibb, Jack’s Back) acts as his wife in the undercover sting.
Burke soon becomes friends with his cellmate Konefke (George Jenesky, who played Francis “Psycho” Soyer in Stripes before changing his name to Conrad Dunne) and an older clerk named Hawkins (Robert Guillaume!). Despite saving the two men multiple times, they refuse to speak about the murders. In fact, no one wants to talk.
Luckily, with the help of a teenage hacker (Joshua John Miller, who would later write The Final Girls), they discover that human organs are being sent out of the prison. That’s when Burke learns that the Sandman is still alive inside the prison.
While Beckett attends a party hosted by the state attorney general Tom Vogler (George Dickerson, Blue Velvet), she plans on telling him that her boss is behind everything. At the last minute, she finds out that he’s behind it all — his wife needed a liver transplant and even all his money and power couldn’t get her one. So he used the prison as a way to murder healthy prisoners and harvest their organs and kept making money from it after she got better.
Sandman has been sent to the prison to kill Burke and shut it all down. During a riot, Hawkins is injured but saved by Priest, but seconds later, Sandman kills the younger man. Finally, we get a big battle in a boiler room between Burke and Sandman that has all manner of craziness — burning against the metal door, kicking the bad guy in the flames and having him walk out and keep fighting and finally a bolt going through the Sandman’s head to kill him.
There’s also some conjugal romance between our hero cops, if you’re coming here for some tender moments. I think not. I think you’re coming for Van Damme kicking a serial killer into a furnace.