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] I'd love to check out what you got.



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.

Second, it appears since my last trip to the blog, Photobucket has decided to charge for third party hosting, meaning none of my images are appearing anymore. That's simply an aesthetic issue, but still annoying.

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


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Power Elite (2002)


I got hooked up with a Dutch DVD rip of both this and it's companion piece: SWAT: Warhead One. I was excited to get some more Olivier Gruner up, but not so excited to watch this, because I'd heard bad things and was a little leery. We have seen some great so-bad-it's-good efforts from Cine Excel before though, so there was a little hope.

Power Elite is not the great sociological work by C. Wright Mills, the eponymous term coined from which this film derives it's name (and a work and sociologist I was very familiar with in my undergrad days), but rather a cheap Cine Excel flick starring Olivier Gruner as... I don't know what, a Navy SEAL, an Air Force pilot, maybe a mix of both. Anyway, his old buddy, Cine Excel mainstay Mel Novak, becomes President, and is subsequently kidnapped by American separatists, and now it's up to Gruner to rescue him in time for him to sign an anti-chemical weapons treaty.


This is unabashedly bad, and while it makes for a fun bad movie, I wouldn't suggest tackling it alone. Lots of bad file footage, lots of bad CGIs, lots of flashback padding, all to stretch a wafer thin plot out as long as they could to make 42 minutes of movie 80 minutes. There are some nice spots where Gruner gets after it, but those are ruined by the constant slo-mo-- I'm assuming another ploy to stretch the movie out-- and often he does more take downs and holds than he does kicks and punches. This movie also does the classic two endings maneuver, where we think we're home and dry, but look at the meter and find out we're only 60 minutes in, and know that we still have some pain to endure. I don't even know if I'd say so-bad-it's-good here, more like if you have a TV show where you and some robot puppets make fun of movies, this might be worth a go.

This has to be a low point for Gruner, and I wonder if he had something to do with it not being released in America. If you look around the time period of this film all the way to the present, he has many more films that either weren't released in the US, or not released yet period. How did that happen? Is it that once Van Damme got into the DTV game, there was less need for the poor man's Van Damme? I don't know, it's not like Van Damme is pumping out tons of films. Just a string of bad luck then? Probably, but it's a pretty bad string. Hopefully his supporting part in the new Albert Pyun flick Tales of an Ancient Empire will raise his stock here in the States.


Mel Novak has a long, rich history in Cine Excel films. He's right up there with Gerald Okamura as far as that goes. Is casting him as the President a reward for all that loyalty? I don't know, he still has to be kidnapped, which can't be that fun. As far as Presidents we've seen go, poor Mel has some heavy duty competition. We're talking about guys like Roy Scheider, Rutger Hauer, Ronny Cox, and Jerry Springer.

One thing this movie didn't have was a lot of Power Elite. I won't get into C. Wright Mills and what his book was all about, in part because it'll probably bore you, and in part because it's been almost ten years since I was in undergrad, so I'm a little rusty on discussing that kind of thing anyway; but the basic idea is that you have some very powerful interests, major corporations and major military powers in particular, and they have the ability to manipulate the world to their benefit, with little regard to how that affects us little people. There were no people pulling the strings here, no intrigue, no behind the scenes decisions with grave implications. Why it was called Power Elite then is beyond me.


Finally, we have another McDonald's sighting in this file footage of an NYC protest that was padding out the film. I want to say it's Times Square, but I've never been there so I don't know for sure. I gotta say, it couldn't have come in a better movie, because I was scraping the barrel here for stuff to talk about. I'd like to tag all the movies that have McDonald's sightings in them, but the problem is I don't remember them all, so it would be hard to back track.

For my Region 2 readers, this is available, and the Dutch DVD rip is in English. I'm just not so sure you need to make the effort; and for my Region 1 readers, you definitely aren't missing anything. Some movies aren't released in the States for a reason, and it's probably better that I let them stay unreleased.

For more info:


  1. Great write-up! Heard this was pretty awful. Love the Mcdonald's pic.

  2. Yeah, this was rough, but I was lucky enough to get that McDonald's cameo!