"Death Warrant" is strictly for Van Damme fans, a fairly preposterous prison epic with the Belgian kickboxing hero playing an undercover Royal Canadian Mountie!

Would I lie to you?

He's asked to take on a dangerous assignment — what else? — by posing as a convicted armed robber and entering Harrison Penitentiary to discover why inmates are being mysteriously killed off.

A young attorney — played by Cynthia Gibb, who looks like she should still be in high school — is assigned to pose as his wife, and she will naturally be sexually harassed by the sadistic prison guards when she comes to visit.

Once inside, Van Damme befriends a lifer (Robert Guillaume, who tries futilely to lend some much-needed class to the proceedings) who is at first reluctant but eventually helps him unravel the mystery.

The mystery itself is a real hoot. It seems prisoners are being murdered for their "vital organs" — black market hearts, spleens and livers being shipped to South America for impatient transplant patients.


All of this is, of course, nothing more than an excuse to get Van Damme into fights with fellow inmates and ultimately a showdown with the killer who wouldn't die.

The film's opening sequence has Van Damme shooting — supposedly to death — "the Sandman," a vicious serial killer. But toward the end of the film we find he didn't die after all, and now — surprise, surprise — he's being transferred to Harrison. The climactic duel to the death has "Sandman" rising up several time after poor Van Damme thinks he's finally done him in. But ultimately our hero prevails.

As ludicrous as it is, "Death Warrant" is still a cut above most of Van Damme's movies. That won't mean much to general audiences, but fans of the martial arts star will no doubt eat it up.

It is rated R, of course, for the requisite violence, profanity, sex, nudity and drug use.