The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Announcement

Hi everyone, it's been a while since I checked the page, and I wanted to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, it appears a dubious site has claimed the old url, meaning any link in any review that goes to the old mattmovieguy url is corrupt. I'm in the process of trying to remove them all, but it's a lot! It's best not to click on any link without hovering over it first to make sure it doesn't have mattmovieguy in the url.

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Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.

--Matt

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Until Death (2007)

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This is the most recent effort from The Muscles from Brussels. I think I keep giving him a chance in the hopes that he'll eventually come back to that 1990s form that won us all over. His last five films or so, with the exception of Wake of Death, have all been truly uninspired and difficult to watch. Yet, as long as he keeps making them, I'll probably keep watching them, just to see if he's good again.

Until Death has Van Damme as a low-life cop who's addicted to heroin and losing his wife to another man. He does some really shitty things to the people around him, and it's starting to catch up. Stephen Rea (V for Vendetta, The Crying Game) is his former partner. Van Damme ratted him out for being a drug dealer, and now he's on a crime spree to try and take over the city (New Orleans) and become its greatest crime lord. Only Van Damme stands in his way, so he sets up a hit on him. Van Damme survives, but is left in a coma. When he comes out, he tries to make himself a better man. Slowly-- and I mean slowly-- he regains the love of his wife, his job on the force, the respect of those he wronged, and finally, vanquishes Rea.

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This film plays out like a more violent and dirtier Lifetime crime drama than it does a Van Damme film. Replace him with Valerie Bertinelli, and I think you're all set. That being said, this wasn't all bad. There were some great shoot-outs, including in the end when Van Damme goes after Rea who has his wife. If the spurts of great action weren't separated by such long periods of exposition and inactivity, you might have had something here.

Van Damme does a great job playing an asshole. Looking over his movie history, I think he's really only played a baddie once or twice, Black Eagle being perhaps the best. (I'm not sure you count Replicant, because he plays both a good guy and a bad guy in that one.) I think this is a good look for him, and I'd like to see him do it more often. I'm sure if he was a baddie, he'd have to have it in the contract that he couldn't be beaten in a fair fight, just to assuage his ego. I'm good with that. Maybe whoever the hero is could drop an anvil on his head or something.

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As the real bad guy, Steven Rea did an excellent job. He's not as one-dimensional a baddie as say a Bruce Payne, but the subtle nuance he brings to the job is a pleasant change of pace from the norm. I've often wondered how these sophisticated British actors feel doing a bad action movie with a guy like Van Damme, but I guess they grin and bear it and think of cute vanity plates for the new sports car they'll buy with the money they earned. I could almost see Rea doing it in this one when he had a gun to Van Damme's wife's head: "GDHLPME"!

One thing we know about Van Damme is how much he feels he has to show his audience how well he does with the ladies. As such, it was to no one's surprise that he eventually wins his wife back after he wakes from his coma. Also to no one's surprise was when he redeems a bad pre-coma sexual performance with a hooker by satisfying his estranged wife later on. I think out of every action hero, Van Damme's the one who insists the most on demonstrating his manhood through his on-screen prowess with the ladies. I've yet to view one of his films with anyone, guy or girl, who really gives a shit. It might have to do with the Pride film he did very early on in his career, but he needs to get over that. It's the New Millennium, baby, you gotta be more open minded.

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Van Damme had some hilarious faces in this. When he was banging the hooker in the back room of a bar was one. Then there was the one he had when some guys duct taped him to a work-out bench and almost used a power drill on him. Even better was when he was being operated on after getting shot in the head. One of my personal favorites was when he shot some heroin, and a transvestite visited his car while he was high. There was something very Fellini-esque about that one.

I don't know what to tell people about this one. If you like Van Damme, you may find some redeeming qualities. It's another in his attempt to distance himself from the straight-up action films he did earlier in his career, and though it's not so bad, it's not anywhere as good as the stuff he did back then. The long periods of inactivity when the film thought it had a plot it needed to explain to us made for a pretty boring hour-and-a-half, and the action scenes that were solid just made me wonder why they couldn't do that for the entire movie. At this point I'm hoping his next film, The Shepherd, is good, but I'm not too optimistic.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0783598/

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