Damage Jeff King

Damage Jeff King
Most people are familiar with the idiom "never judge a book by its cover," which is one of those guidelines that most people preach but don't practice. In the case of Damage, I really tried not to judge the film by its cover, which features "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in a wife-beater making a constipated face and holding chains, with the title spattered in blood and the tagline "Bring the Pain" somewhere around his crotch. Unfortunately, the quality of the contents within live up to the surface presentation, differing only in thematic veins and a lack of bare boobs ― something sure to alienate the target audience. As is the status quo for these straight-to-DVD movies featuring retired wrestlers, Austin plays an ex-convict seeking redemption (the other option is a psychologically damaged soldier), only to face his ghosts and confront a sticky moral quandary. Here, atonement comes in the form of Veronica (Lynda Boyd), the widow of the man that John Brickner (Austin) was sent to prison for killing, and her sick daughter in need of a heart transplant. Because they lack medical insurance, they need $250,000 for the surgery, which leads John into the world of underground fighting, with the sketchy Reno (Walton Goggins) and the mysterious Frankie (Smallville's Laura Vandervoort). The resulting fights, laden with nail guns, attack dogs and lead pipes, fill the void of King's television direction and Frank Hannah's (The Cooler) meandering, predictable script. What does surprise, however, is the kitschy Christian subtext of original sin and debt transference, which is somewhat ironic given Austin's famous quote following his defeat of the Born-again Jake "the Snake" Roberts at the 1996 King of the Ring. He mocked bible thumping, citing John 3:16 and spinning his own variation: "Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass." And indeed, it seems the whooping of ass is Stone Cold's strong suit, as acting certainly isn't something for which he has an affinity. Included with the DVD is a 15-minute "making of," wherein everyone talks about the originality of the project. I guess I was the only one watching late night TMN in the '90s. (E1)