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, December 15, 2011
Expect to Die (1997)
Because we currently have one more Jeff Wincott tag than we do David Bradley tags, we're doing this review of Expect to Die in order to even things up. It's directed and stars Jalal Merhi, and has DTVC favorite Evan Lurie, aka one of the coolest guys ever. Bradley and Lurie? Even Merhi can't screw this up, can he?
Expect to Die has Bradley as a genius computer programmer that has created the ultimate in virtual reality technology-- so ultimate it's deadly! It's a game called Expect to Die, and it can literally kill you! Merhi and Lurie are two NYPD by way of Toronto detectives that are investigating Bradley and his game after some 3 1/2 floppy game discs come up in an underground trade among gangsters and mobsters for some illegal weapons. Now Merhi and Lurie are in this twisted video game maker's sights. Can they make it out alive?
This movie could've been pretty good, and it did have it's moments, but I couldn't help feeling that Merhi was making this to stroke his own ego. Exhibit A, love scene with him in his tighty whities. Exhibit B, virtual reality boot camp where he does knuckle push-ups and climbs a rope. Exhibit C, Evan Lurie only has one fight-- which he's awesome in, of course-- and then he's killed off; Bradley displays absolutely no martial arts, including in his one scene at the end with Merhi. I guess what I'm saying with the last example is that Merhi didn't want anyone's superior martial arts skills upstaging him. The ending was so silly, between Merhi playing in a game where his girlfriend, whom he's saving, constantly calls him "warlord", to the poorly done shootout between Bradley and Merhi, to the even more poorly choreographed fight scene. What started off as a great deal with some great action, devolved into a Merhi self-aggrandizement fest.
I like Bradley as a baddie though. I wish he had more meat he could sink his teeth into though. His dialogue was especially silly. "Gameplayer, expect to die." I do like the idea of him tranqing people and waking them up in his virtual reality game, yet they can't get out of it by just pulling off all the gear. Then he cuts their head off with an ax that has a number pad on it. Not sure what the number pad was for, maybe so he can calculate the tip? yeah, this movie was that all over the place. The only consistency was how much Merhi wanted us to know how cool he is.
If you don't love Evan Lurie you don't love yourself, that's what I always say. Like Bradley who we never see as a bad guy, we often don't see Lurie as a good guy-- though he was a good guy in his best role ever, American Kickboxer 2. Here he's Merhi's partner, so assigned after Merhi's original partner is injured in a firefight. We get some hint though that Merhi and Lurie have a past too, because Lurie asks him multiple times if he's all right with them working together again. What this past is we can only guess. Anyway, Lurie gets one fight scene, and he absolutely kills it, before his character is killed himself. He needed to be here for the whole thing. He and Merhi needed to be fighting their way through Bradley's game together, not Merhi doing whatever silly crap he was doing at the end of that movie.
The mob boss in this is played by a guy that looks like a cross between Kelsey Grammer and a pork roast. He's just like a meatier beefier Frasier. He also has a meatier, beefier personality. According to imdb, he's had a bunch of small parts in other Merhi films, so this was his first look at the big time. And then that was it, his days as an actor playing the beefier Kelsey Grammer were over.
Check out the Mad magazine. It was on the table while Merhi was dialing the phone at the police station aka strip mall office park. When I was younger I used to get Mad all the time. I was probably too young to get most of the jokes, but the ones I did get were funny enough. Then there was Cracked, the poor man's version of Mad. Remember that? Though I didn't watch Mad TV much, I remember a few great sketches: Terminator 3, where Arnold goes back in time to protect Jesus, and the OJ Interviews outakes were two of my favorites.
You can get this on DVD or VHS from Amazon (for some reason, they top bill Catherine Archer, who imdb lists in the credits as "woman in the bar"), but I wouldn't do it unless you're a total completist and you've added a lot better flicks to your collection. I only did it for this review, so I guess if you have a review site that might be another reason. It's got some names, it has some solid action and some silly moments, but overall it's Merhi showing us how he beds a woman in his tighty whities and how well he can do knuckle push-ups.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0193924/