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.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ring of Death (2008)

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I didn't do my homework on this one, didn't see that it was a TV movie. In the past I have made exceptions for TV movies, usually only if they have a Hall of Famer or future Hall of Famer, in particular The Asylum flicks that have been popping up on SyFy lately before their actual DVD release. For Ring of Death though, I had no idea until I looked it up on imdb tonight for the review that it was made for SpikeTV, which, in the past has been good about airing great DTV flicks, so maybe I shouldn't be such a stickler. I don't know.

Ring of Death has Johnny Messner as a disgraced cop or something who takes an undercover gig investigating a state prison where the warden, Stacey Keach, is running an underground fight ring. If Messner does this, he not only gets a job with the FBI, but his kid goes to college. Sounds like a good trade off, no?

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Even though it was kind of lackluster, I'm not sure I would've been so hard on it if it wasn't so dependent on bad jumpcut editing. One scene in the prison yard was so bad, my eyes hurt. I'm not kidding. It wasn't just jumpcuts, the camera was really shaky too. Seriously dude, just sit still for Christ's sake! It was like sitting next to a dude in college with Shaky Leg Syndrome, only worse, because I was trying to focus on a picture. What the reliance on gimmicky crap like that tells me is: "we don't think our movie is good enough. We think our actors suck, our fight choreography is crap, and our ability to shoot a movie is one step above kids making a short on YouTube." And the reality is, that is a total disrespect to the actors, fight choreographer, and everyone else involved with making the film-- but hey, if that's what you want me to think, who am I to argue?

The biggest thing we as an audience have to buy right away is, can Johnny Messner carry a film like this as the action lead? I don't know. The way it stood, with the way much of his character was written, and the way he looked, it was bad punchfighting movie, and in that sense, the whole thing was a turn off. On the other hand, he wasn't a total miss. I was trying to think where I'd see him fit though. Could he do something along the lines of the Michael Dudikoff role, like say Bounty Hunters? I could see that.

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Stacey Keach was fantastic as the baddie. Equal parts evil dude and dandy. The accent was hilarious. His performance was one of the things most wasted by the gimmicky editing, though to be fair, in a good chunk of his scenes, they went with the close-up still shot. Keach was one of the few things that made this movie for me, and almost saved it from itself.

This movie had perhaps the worst chase scene in the history of movies. Our hero, in his plan to get himself incarcerated, strikes a police officer and steals his car, right in front of the police station. Two cars pursue him in what is a definite low-speed chase, but with constant jumpcuts and shaky camera work making us think a high-speed chase is going on in front of us. I've seen more excitement from car commercials. I mean really, do they think we're that stupid that we can't see that? Total lack of respect for the audience there.

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Do you recognize this guy? Jonathan Chase, the guy who ate the Gingerbread Man in The Gingerdead Man. Here he played what was a very mean-spirited part, a kid who was caught dealing drugs and is sent to state prison, is way too fragile, and ends up shanked by some baddies that want to send a message to our hero. Too bad, because we know from The Gingerdead Man that he has loads of talent, and could've done more if he had been given more.

This is a pass for me, even though you had a great performance by Stacey Keach as the baddie. Too punchfight-y, and too gimmicky with the bad edits and shaky cam, essentially telling me the movie isn't worth my time anyway. Next time I'll do my homework and stay away when I see the word "TV" next to the release date on imdb.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1229764/

6 comments:

  1. Nice review!

    This should have been better! Totally agree about the shaky-cam. You couldn't enjoy the punchfighting or Stacy Keach.

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  2. Thanks, and yeah, exactly, Keach was that good, and the punchfighting wasn't as bad as we've seen, but we couldn't enjoy any of it.

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  3. Good review. I will say that yeah, I'm also sad that Keach has fallen so far. He is such an amazing actor that it saddens me to see him doing stuff like this.

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  4. I think this has always been Keach's career though, to do these kinds of flicks and big budget or critically acclaimed ones at the same time. For instance, this came out in 2008, which was the same year W. came out, so he's in a bad made for SpikeTV prison punchfighting flick, and a critically acclaimed Oliver Stone biopic on the life of George W. Bush. He has nearly 200 acting credits to his name, and I think part of that is just taking any roles that look good to him, and here I bet he looked at the script and thought "I can have fun with this", not knowing he'd be diluted by bad MTV edits.

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  5. I guess it was just a matter of time before we disagree on a film. You see, I liked this. I really hate the shaky-cam, but I can tolerate it in a film like this. It really bothered me on Bourne-films and the latest Bond-film (I don't care what people say - I think Craig is the worst Bond ever and Quantum of Solace the worst Bond-movie ever), though.

    This one had violence and tits and I think Johnny Messner was a good lead. I also liked him in the short-lived (for a good reason, though) TV-show "Killer Instinct".

    But anyway, my point is this: Don't rule out every TV-film from this company. They've done films like Sharpshooter, Finish Line, Crash and Burn and Depth Charge. All are above-average in my book. All have good production values, none of them seem like TV-movies and especially Depth Charge is a fun "Die Hard in a submarine"-film with Jason Gedrick as the hero and Eric F'n Roberts as the villain.

    Incidentally, I thought we'd disagree on Lethal, also. And I guess we kinda do. But i realized that, for some weird reason, I confused Lethal with Latin Dragon, which I thought was pretty darn good.

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  6. Yeah, I had trouble with Latin Dragon as well. That was my tenth ever review, and I just looked at it for the first time in over four years-- a lot of typos!

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