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.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Born to Raise Hell (2010)
I've been waiting to sink my teeth into this dirty SOB for sometime now, and like the dude at the table whose order was screwed up, I waited impatiently as our buddies over at Explosive Action and Straight to DVD Heaven-- taking advantage of the fact that this was released in the UK well before we got it over here-- enjoyed their meal, paid their bill, tipped their waitresses, and were already out the door before the cook even fired mine off. Those Brits and Aussies with their Region 2 DVDs have all the fun.
Born to Raise Hell has DTVC Hall of Famer Steven Seagal as an international DEA agent working in Bucharest named Samuel Axel (Foley?). Somehow he's put in the path of evil drug dealing and lady raping and killing baddie Darren Shahlavi. Having trouble getting Shahlavi, he twists the arm of a local Russian mobster, and despite the fact that this guy deals enough coke to make Scarface jealous, and has one of his lady's cut off Shahlavi's girl's ears with a pair of garden shears, somehow this guy is all right in Seagal's book because both he and Seagal want to take down Shahlavi. Add bad MTV video effects and edits, then end scene.
You know what? This one was close-- rather, it should've been there, and other than the silly effects, getting onto the hour mark, I thought it was going to get there. But with those silly effects, I knew they were trying to cover up some major short comings, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and boy did it ever. In a sad and muddled attempt to take what was otherwise silly and try to make it dark, we have the ear cutting off scene. Really? And then, to have a guy do this, only for him to team up with Seagal and get away with everything else he's done, wow. This had so much potential too. It had some of the better Seagal fight scenes I've seen in his newer stuff, and for the first 60 minutes, the story was pretty sweet too-- if Seagal as an international DEA agent named Sam Axel is your idea of sweet, and it's definitely mine. It just feels like these modern DTV flicks don't know when enough is enough. It's like they go to the butcher shop, buy a $30 steak, then throw it in the deep fryer. Dude, just poor a little salt on it, and toss it on the grill. If it worked in the 80s and 90s, it works now.
I mean it when I say this was some of Seagal's better recent stuff. He did some great ass kicking, and they actually didn't over edit it, which was refreshing. (No idea why they over edited so many other scenes-- steak in the deep fryer again.) The guy just turned 60 a few weeks ago, which is insane, but for him to be nearing that age and do a film with some of his better fight scenes, shows that he could be doing this for a little while longer, which is fine with us. Here's to hoping he's solid in his next flick too.
The one big role Darren Shahlavi has had was in a DTVC favorite, Bloodmoon, also starring Gary Daniels. He plays a baddie here, and he was pretty sweet as well. The problem was, they made him into a Russian with a bad accent. Why? The guy is of Persian ancestry, why not let him use his natural English accent, and have his character be called "The Persian"? That's the problem with these movies, they think they're so cool, but they aren't, not even close. Instead of worrying about how you can graft in a scene of a chick getting her ears cut off with gardening sheers in order to make it fake dark, why not try going back to the traditions these films came from and making something we can enjoy. Also, Shahlavi is a great martial artist, and he barely gets any scenes to showcase that. Huh? I can understand if Seagal is getting up there in age and you don't want the one with him at the end to be too knock-down-drag-'em-out, but there are plenty of Romanians out there you could throw in his path for a few scenes, I don't know, maybe have some dudes start trouble at his club. Please, help me out, throw me a bone for Christ's sake.
Is it just me, or is there an abundance of hot women in Romania in short skirts and big black boots. This movie has all kinds too, hot women as drug mules, hot women serving drinks, hot women assassins, hot women drinking beer naked while watching guys play video games. Probably the prettiest one is the one who meets a bad end at the hands of Darren Shahlavi early in the film. Her rape and murder was one of the few scenes where the MTV edits actually made sense. That's a spot where you want to distort the image and take some of the edge off, while at the same time show us how evil Shahlavi is. When you have a good scene, where your cinematographer actually got you a good shot, is where you want to put a lid on that shit. Seriously, we all have these nice TVs and Blu-Ray players so we can actually see the movie. Again, steak in the deep fryer.
Silly bands at the stash pad? They look like it, don't they? "Seriously Sal, you brought Silly Bands to wrap the cash with? You moron!" "Hey, Vic, whatcha problem, huh? My kids love them shits. It was dark this mornin' when you came and got me. I musta grabbed the wrong thing. It was an honest mistake..." An honest mistake, which is more than I can say for this movie.
For the first hour, other than that bad MTV edit crap, which does die down some as the film goes on, this wasn't a bad flick. But it threw the steak in the deep fryer, and the whole thing turned into a muddled mess from there. Is a 90 minute solid DTV actioner without silly bad music video edits and without a chick getting her ears cut off too much to ask for? Apparently it is in 2011.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1528718/