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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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hero Wanted (2008)

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It's been a while since we've done a Cuba Gooding Jr. film here at the DTVC, and Hero Wanted, because it also stars Ray Liotta, has been on my radar for some time. When it made it to Watch Instantly, I figured I had no more excuses. Besides, Cuba's DTV output is picking up, I need to stay caught up with him!

Hero Wanted is a convoluted tale about a man, CBJ, who is a shell of himself after his wife dies. Then he saves a girl's life from a burning car, and things change. After seeing an innocent woman shot in a bank robbery gone bad, he decides to avenge her shooting by taking out the robbers, one by one. The thing is, how does he know who they are? How is he connected with them?

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This is one of those that got too cute for its own good. It had a semi-decent story, but they decided to go the Lawrence Durrell wannabe route, and give it to us in a series of sections, taken from the beginning, middle, and end, mixed together, until it builds to the resolution. As I'm watching it, I'm thinking, this would've been a lot better without that storytelling gimmick, i.e., had they just started at the beginning and moved in a linear fashion to the denouement. Also, the mystery, the why Cuba Gooding Jr. knew the robbers, was clunky and contrived anyway; and the ending was really weird and drawn out, as if they just didn't know when to stop writing-- it felt like someone who has just put his foot in his mouth, but only makes it worse by not shutting up and instead trying to explain himself. There's nothing wrong with a film being more straightforward. I know with these DTV Film Noir pieces, it's tempting to get all cute with the order in which you deliver us the plot, but sometimes you hurt the final product that way. Beyond that, this was a pretty paint-by-numbers low-budget Noir, with some great actors who give some great performances, but in the end too dependent on a gimmick as opposed to a solid story for its foundation.

Look at Kim Coates trying to shove your head into the world of DTV Mr. Gooding Jr. That's not very nice, is it? At least here you had some great actors to share your space with, enough to make you think you were doing an actual Hollywood movie again, huh? Then we saw the credits, and all the last names in the crew that ended in the letter "V", and realized that there aren't that many Bulgarians in Los Angeles, are there? Kim Coates, you big meanie, leave our Cuba Gooding Jr. alone, and let him have his Oscar winning Hollywood career back!

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Ray Liotta was in this as a cop, not a gangster. I know, crazy, right? He's not in this much, which is kind of too bad. Jean Smart, of Designing Women fame, also starred in this, and it's too bad the two of them didn't have a love scene. I have to think Liotta and Gooding were reassuring each other that things weren't as bad as they seemed career wise, though if you look at their imdb bios, after this came out in 2008, Liotta's had a better go of it, especially with feature films like Date Night and Charlie St. Cloud. Cuba Gooding Jr., on the other hand, moved on from DTV films co-starring with Ray Liotta, to DTV films co-starring with Christian Slater.

The supporting cast after these two is pretty solid. I already mentioned Coates and Smart, plus you had Ben Cross, Tommy Flannigan, Norman Reedus, Christa Campbell, and Paul Sampson, who starred in a film with Carmen Electra, Whacked!, which I reviewed a long time ago. I don't know if the director or screenwriters or producers or whoever didn't trust these actors and actresses to do their jobs adequately, and that's why they chose to go at telling the story in that gimmicky way; but that was a mistake, because they should've trusted these people, and their performances were diminished by that gimmickry.

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One guy I didn't mention in that cast I decided to save for here, is Mr. Todd Jensen. Unlike these other actors-- other than maybe Paul Sampson-- who have made it happen on the big screen, Todd Jensen earned his chops in the DTV ranks, in gems like Cyborg Cop. To see him act opposite Ray Liotta as his police detective partner was great. Sure, Ray Liotta is no David Bradley wearing a fanny pack, but he's close, right?

This is available on Watch Instantly, but I don't know if it's entirely worth it. That's too bad, because a more straightforward telling of the story, plus a less weird and drawn-out ending, and we might have had a real Cuba Gooding Jr. home run here. It's okay, though, we have quite a few more of his DTV oeuvre to get through. I hope your stay at the Hotel DTV has been a good one, Mr. Gooding Jr. I'm afraid you'll be staying with us a little longer though...

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0977214/

9 comments:

  1. It's been quite while since i've seen this one, but I do remember liking it more then you did, I honestly don't remember the ending at all, next to End Game, this Cuba's best DTV film.

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  2. I've got this on a three-pack with End Game and Dirty and have never convinced myself to sit down and watch any of them.

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  3. Thought this a decent revenge thriller up until the ending.

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  4. I quite like the twist, which gave the title of the movie a meaning. Have you seen HARDWIRED yet?

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  5. I have seen Hardwired. I didn't exactly like it, but I did like Kilmer's hair, so that's a plus. Dirty is available with this and about five other CBJ DTV films on Netflix Watch Instantly here in the States, but End Game is only on DVD. I think he has four more DTV movies on Watch Instantly that I still need to see, plus Ticking Clock just came out on DVD, which I'd like to check out, then maybe End Game too.

    The plot twist didn't bug me as much as the ending, and the gimmicky way they told the story. The twist might have been better, actually, had the story been told in a linear fashion, because we would've had more time to see how uncomfortable he was talking to the girl at the bank, which was something that just kind of came out of the blue for me.

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  6. Yes Kilmers hairpiece is one of HARDWIRE's better FX moments. As for ENDGAME, it had a healthy enough budget and a great cast, but was even more confusing than HERO WANTED (without the time lapse effect) and (i think) is a tv movie.

    DIRTY is ok, but nothing great. Out of the four, i probably enjoyed HERO WANTED the most (just for effort alone)

    Haven't seen TICKING CLOCK yet

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  7. According to imdb, End Game was supposed to be released in the US theatrically in 2005, but that was delayed, and they settled on the 2006 DTV release instead. Considering the film was shot in early 2005, and when you look at what else CGJ did in that time frame, you can see where his career went off the rails, because that one was nixed, and then Shadowboxer (directed by Lee Daniels of Precious fame) and Dirty were given very limited theatrical releases, essentially making them DTV as well; and then he does Norbit and Daddy Day Camp on the big screen, along with American Gangster, which was ultimately lost in the shuffle-- in four short years, from 2003's Radio to 2007's American Gangster, he went from Oscar winning movie star to DTV lead.

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  8. Ticking Clock was good. Also keep this one on the radar;
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1630564/

    Looks like fun.

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  9. Yeah, Sacrifice looks good, with Christian Slater and Kim Coates. It's in my "Saved" queue, along with Hit List, one he did with Cole Hauser that hasn;t come out yet either. Ticking Clock is in my queue right now, listed as "Very Long Wait", but I'm hoping it'll make its way onto Watch Instantly, like most of the rest of CBJ's DTV output. We'll see.

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