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Film / Damage

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Man #1: Are you sorry for your crime?
John: There isn't a day goes by that I don't think about the man. Not the crime. The man. The state can flip a switch and kill a man. You can use a gun from a hundred feet away. Or you can poison a man dead and never look him in his eyes. To take a human life with your own two hands is the most soul-crushing thing a man can do. It changes you in a way I can't really explain.

Damage is a Direct to Video action film directed by Jeff F. King and starring "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Walton Goggins, Laura Vandervoort and Lynda Boyd. It was released in October 5, 2009 in the UK and January 28, 2010 in the US (where it received a brief theatrical run).

John Brickner (Austin) has been paroled from prison after seving a four-and-a-half year sentence for second degree manslaughter, having killed a man named Matthew Reynolds in a fight. Once released, John gets two jobs: one as a construction worker and the other as a bouncer in a bar after saving barmaid Frankie (Vandervoort) from drunk perverts. Frankie's boyfriend Reno Paulsaint (Goggins), is a manager for illegal underground fighters. Impressed with John's fighting skill, Reno wants John to fight for him. John declines Reno's offer, despite the promise of a six figure prize if he makes his way to the top.

John meets up with Matthew's widow Veronica (Boyd) who arranged for John's parole because she needs help raising money for her eight-year-old daughter Sarah's heart transplant, as she is poor and Medicaid does not cover such an operation. The surgery costs $250,000, money that John does not have. After being unjustly fired from his construction job, John decides to take Reno up on his offer and fight for the money needed to save Sarah's life. But Reno has a lot of enemies he owes money to and John finds himself having to clean up Reno's messes along the way, with each one taking him further away from Sarah's new heart.

Not to be confused with Damage, a 1992 Psychological Thriller by Louis Malle.

Tropes in this film:

  • 20 Minutes into the Past: John was convicted in February of 2002 and was released four-and-a-half years later, placing the film in mid-2006. The film was released in late 2009 in the UK and early 2010 in the US.
  • Achilles' Heel: Reno tells John that Yayo has a weak jaw and a few good hits there will take him down. Getting to it in the first place is the real challenge.
  • Accidental Murder: John had gotten into a fight with Matthew Reynolds and strangled him to death. He goes to prison for manslaughter and is paroled two-and-a-half years early. What started the fight or why John resorted to such lengths is never clarified.
  • Affably Evil: Mr. Veltz. He's grateful to John for saving his son-in-law's life and is more than willing to repay him by putting up the money for the fight with Timmons, which would give John enough money to pay for Sarah's surgery. Veltz is also the man who has been sending his thugs to hound Reno for the $150,000 he owes him and once owned Frankie as a plaything that he beat and raped. Upon realizing this, John instead asks Veltz to forgive Reno of his debt, to which Veltz complies.
  • Animal Eyes: Wolfie, by way of contacts (hopefully).
  • The Atoner: John's sole purpose of participating in underground fighting is to save the life of Veronica's daughter, so she might forgive him for his crime.
  • Ax-Crazy: Jaime, as Reno points out. He wants to kill John as payback for John having beaten his brother Yayo.
  • Broken Bird:
    • Veronica. She was voted "least likely to succeed" in high school. Determined to prove them wrong, she went to college, which was a bust. Then she got pregnant out-of-wedlock before marrying Matthew who was, in her words "a real grade-A loser". Now Sarah, her only real accomplishment, is about to die due to her heart problems.
    • Frankie isn't much better. She originally went to nursing school, but decided that she wasn't cut out to work in the medical industry. Young and in need of money, she sold herself to Veltz to be his implied Sex Slave. Even after Reno freed her, her life doesn't improve a whole lot.
  • Bungled Suicide:
    • Veronica slits her wrists in the bathroom after the only clinic willing to perform Sarah's surgery turns them down. She survives thanks to John, Frankie and Reno finding her in time.
    • After taking Veronica to the hospital, John notices scars on Frankie's wrists as well. She later explains that she attempted the same when Reno bought her from Veltz. Not knowing that Reno was trying to free her, she couldn't handle what her life had become any longer and tried to end it all. She was near-dead from blood-loss when she was sent to Reno, but he still freed her and saved her life.
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • Reno and Frankie start off using John for their personal gain, but after a while, they become genuine friends.
    • Veronica starts off being curt to John (not that she doesn't have a good reason) but eventually is able to forgive him, even when it looks like he won't be able to save Sarah.
  • Covered in Scars: John takes quite a beating over the course of the film, acquiring numerous scars as a result.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: John's fight with Jaime. Jaime starts off strong, but John gains the advantage early via a nail gun and kicks the shit out of him. John still loses the fight, as Jaime refuses to stay down and John refuses to kill him, forfeiting the match.
  • Determinator: Jaime. No matter how much punishment John throws at him, he will not stay down and wants a fight to the death. John does not oblige, forfeiting instead.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Despite a lot of ship teasing between John and Frankie, nothing ever happens between them as her heart lies with Reno and John gladly steps aside when he sees this.
  • Finishing Move: John has one: a right hook to the sternum, which always ends the fight. Reno spends the film trying to come up with a name for it, first the "bone-crusher", then he tries to settle with the "damage".
  • Fight Clubbing: John fights in an undergound circuit to raise the money needed for Sarah's heart transplant. The prize money is winner-take-all, and the fights go on until one opponent surrenders or is unable to continue. While fighters cannot start the fight with a weapon in hand, found weapons are legal, with the exception of firearms.
  • Friendless Background: Reno himself admits that he doesn't have any friends aside from Frankie (who he feels is only with him out of obligation), mainly due to his own selfishness and greed. He and John become genuine friends by the end.
  • Healthcare Motivation: Veronica's Medicaid doesn't cover the cost of her daughter's heart transplant, so she gets John paroled from prison to help her come up with the money, as he owes her for killing her husband. This is what prompts John to join the underground fighting circuit.
  • Informed Attribute: Reno tells John that Jaime is tougher than Yayo. While Jaime does fight more aggressively in the beginning, John has the upper hand for most of that fight, while Yayo was much tougher for John to beat.
  • I Was Young and Needed the Money: The reason why Frankie sold herself to Veltz.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Reno is a scumbag, but he helped free Frankie from Veltz and took on a debt she owed him (along with beatings and potential death if he didn't pay) without asking for anything in return. She stays with him on her own accord, but Reno worries that it's purely out of obligation.
    • The Deacon. He's a crotchety old man and in charge of the fighting rings but he becomes something of a mentor for John, telling him the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant to teach him forgiveness, giving him advice on how to make a name for himself in the curcuit and even puts up the $150,000 needed for the fight with Timmons.
  • Mean Boss: Sullivan, John's construction boss, who treats him like dirt because he's an ex-convict and eventually fires him while having a heart attack. John saves his life by performing CPR (and cracking several ribs in the process), but still loses his job.
  • The Medic: Frankie uses her medical training to patch up the wounds of Reno's fighters, including John.
  • Pervy Patdown: A man attempts this on Frankie with a metal detector before the fight with Jaime, she tells him "touch my breasts and I'll kick your teeth in", and he backs off.
  • Scary Black Man: Wolfie and Wendell Timmons. Especially Wolfie, who has Scary Teeth and Animal Eyes.
  • Scary Teeth: Wolfie, as noted above. They're sharpened like fangs and he likes to bite. He bites John in the forearm in their fight, leaving a nasty mark on his arm. John pays him back by knocking out one of his teeth, but it pierces his knuckle in the process.
  • Sentimental Sacrifice: Reno is forced to pawn a set of Cartier cufflinks that once belonged to his father in order to get enough purse money for John to fight. Dewey, the pawnbroker, ends up selling them when presented with a big offer and Reno is super pissed off. Though it turns out that it was John who purchased the cufflinks and gives them back to Reno at the end of the film.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: John is fine with fighting in the underground circuit as long he doesn't have to kill anyone. When Yayo's brother Jaime wants a revenge match, John accepts, not knowing that it's to the death until the last minute. He tries to beat Jaime unconscious and begs Jaime's father and manager Nestor to call off the fight, but when it's clear that neither Nestor nor Jaime are going to stand down, John forfeits and loses all the money he, Reno and Frankie had earned up to that point.
  • Title Drop: Near the end of the film, after John defeats Timmons with his sternum punch, Reno asks John if he can call it the "damage".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: John is fired from his construction job, but it is never clarified if he kept his bouncing job after becoming Reno's fighter, as there's only one scene in the bar of the three celebrating John's win over Yayo and the bartender congratulating John on his win.
  • You Fight Like a Cow:
    • Jaime tells John "My bitch wife hits harder than that!" Said wife, who's in the audience, gives Jaime a "what the fuck?" look.
    • Reno does this to John's second opponent, with fat jokes.