Austin has a Lion Heart
On paper everything about "Damage" says it should be a bad movie with a storyline which sees Steve Austin playing an ex con who for reasons enters the world of underground fighting. That gives us a variety of fight scenes from a ring surrounded by cars to one in an empty swimming pool all of which are familiar to this type of movie as are the various characters from those who become friends to the various other fighters. Yet whilst "Damage" doesn't break any new ground it is a very watchable movie with nice action, quirky characters and whilst Steve Austin may be the star the attractive Laura Vandervoort is who keeps you watching.
Having been paroled after serving time for manslaughter John Brickner (Steve Austin) comes to the attention of Reno Paulsaint (Walton Goggins) when having intervened to stop a bunch of drunk guys hassling pretty waitress Frankie (Laura Vandervoort) he gets a job as a bouncer. Reno is a man who owes a lot of money thanks to his involvement in the underground fighting scene something which John is not interested in as he wants to go straight. But then he learns that the wife of the man he killed is the reason he got parole because she wants him to raise the money in order to pay for her sick daughter to have a heart transplant it leads John to approach Reno and Frankie to enter the world of underground fighting.
So here we have a man who has done time for murder, the wife of the man he murdered wants him to raise $250,000 to save her daughter and as he feels guilty and has a big heart agrees. With the exception of a couple of character elements including the past of the beautiful Frankie and why she is loyal to Reno that is the only originality in "Damage". That means the rest of the movie delivers the familiar set up of underground fighting and we get to witness big John Brickner become a hero as he participates in various fights.
Now this should mean that "Damage" is just another so-so movie but there is something which makes it feel more than just recycling old ideas. And the reason for that is surprisingly not the action which in truth despite copious amounts of fake blood felt quite tame. Nope the reason is that we have a trio of characters who whilst each familiar are easy to warm to with big John being a good guy who is fighting not out of want but out of need, it makes him a guy we can like. But we also have the relationship between Reno and Frankie who as we discover Reno saved Frankie's life which means whilst he is a dodgy gambler there is a good guy there. And of course Frankie who to be honest just exudes kindness as she takes care of John's cuts and bruises.
None of this makes "Damage" anything more than a familiar movie but it is one which works and so does the acting. Steve Austin doesn't have to do much as John but what he has to do outside of the fight scenes is just enough to establish his character whilst Walton Goggins does a nice job of making Reno shifty and quirky. But in truth is is Laura Vandervoort as Frankie who keeps on grabbing your attention because firstly she is beautiful but as already mentioned she also exudes kindness and that makes her even more attractive.
What this all boils down to is that "Damage" is by no means an original movie and for a fight movie it is not the most brutal but thanks to well written if familiar characters and some nice performances it is entertaining and much better than you probably expect.