When an action movie opens with a chase scene that involves a) cars crashing into a fruit stall and b) its hero running the wrong way up a traffic-jammed street, you pretty much know you're about to enter The Primate Zone. Practically Neanderthal in its refusal to evolve the genre, In Hell is a wilfully hokey chest-beater, low on surprises, hefty on the cruelty but big on guilty pleasures.
Having killed the man who murderlised his wife, Jean-Claude Van Damme's grunting anti-hero gets banged up in the shit and slop of a corrupt Russian prison. Happily, the sadistic warden keeps the boredom at bay by having his inmates slap each other brainless in a series of ferocious, Ultimate Fighting-style yard brawls.
Corrupt guards, institutional buggery... There's even a snotting-a-grolly-in-the-prison-food scene. Yet, as far as alpha-male melodramas go, director Ringo Lam exalts the clichés and keeps things pacey. As for Van Damme, he may well wear an accent straight from the ambassador's reception, but here he's practically monosyllabic: no wisecracks, no doing-the-splits, just spare brooding and grimbo presence. Best seen drunk.