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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Supreme Champion (2010)

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I had been waiting for this one to come to Netflix on DVD for a while, but it was stuck in the old "Saved" queue. Then it found its way on Watch Instantly, but I kept pushing it back for other things. Anyway, now we're here, finally making it happen. Let's see if it was worth the wait.

Supreme Champion has UFC fighter Stephan "American Psycho" Bonnar (though on the cover he looks like Nate "The Rock" Quarry) as a cage fighter/Iraq War hero whose ex-girlfriend comes to him for help. Turns out she's got a gambling addiction, she's into casino owner Daniel Bernhardt for a lot of dough, and he essentially owns her and she doesn't want to be owned by him anymore. Bernhardt has his own idea on how he'd like to settle her debt: he wants Bonnar to fight in his underground illegal cage fighting tournament. Bonnar agrees, only to find out Bernhardt isn't ready to play fair. Now he needs to use all of his fighting skills if he wants to get himself and his girlfriend out alive.

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Sounds formulaic, huh? Sounds like you've seen this one tons of times before, right? Maybe, but I don't know if you've seen it this bad. It's like a Skin-a-max flick in terms of quality, from the film stock and special effects, to the forced and un-proofread dialogue, to the failed attempts to salvage said dialogue with acting that didn't quite cut it. Problem here: unlike a Skin-a-max flick, there's no soft core porn; and unlike a great bad action flick, there isn't enough action, and what there is isn't always carried out effectively. I'm not saying you can't do paint-by-numbers-- and this was as paint-by-numbers as it gets, between the forced to fight paradigm to its devolution into a most dangerous game paradigm-- but it can't be paint-by-numbers with no substance too.

I think the fatal flaw was in not allowing Bonnar's unique combination of great martial arts skills and naturally off-beat personality to flourish. First off, the script was so harsh that all the jokes lost any punch they might have had; and Bonnar's delivery sounded more like a guy who was over-thinking his lines than a guy who in real life could pull lines like that off with ease. Then they made his character more serious than off-beat and funny, which he had no ability to pull off. Finally, there weren't enough fight scenes, which is where Bonner could really show off what he can do, and the ones we got weren't always that great. For a first timer, his role and this movie had too much crap going on; he needed things simplified and streamlined. Give us the guy we enjoyed on the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter.

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Then we have Daniel Bernhardt as the villain. How did he end up here? Is the career really that bad? Was he wondering how he ended up here too? Was he mentally firing his agent as he recited this atrocious dialogue? I mean, this is a far cry away from one of his best, battling in Ben Franklin's Dark Kumite in Bloodsport 4-- it's closer to one of his worst, fighting dinosaurs and Robert Z'Dar in Future War--, but to be fair, he acquits himself well, even if this is pretty rough stuff. It's hard to see him like this, I want to reach through the screen and give him a hug. I have to assume Chuck Norris no longer returns his phone calls.

This movie had an opportunity to take a great detour from the run-of-the-mill forced to fight paradigm, and I was disappointed that it didn't go there. Essentially, they could've removed the "forced" part from it. Why not just have him there of his own volition to fight to pay off his ex's debt? The intrigue could be either in Bernhardt or the other competitors messing with him, or maybe the ex set him up and didn't want to be rescued, but just duped Bonnar so she could help out Bernhardt. For once I'd like to see someone try something new with these retreaded ideas.

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The man to blame here is right above, one Mr. Ted Fox. He was the writer, producer, director, and actor. This was his Citizen Kane. I don't know if this was a rush job, something that was his baby that he had to change a lot and sacrifice a lot of to get it on the shelves, whatever it is, it didn't have a professional look to it. The thing is, when you look at Fox's resume as a producer, he's got some bigger projects to his name, including the flick Setup with Bruce Willis. I have to think this is one he'd like to have back.

So even though this is available on Watch Instantly, I'm not sure it's worth it. You've seen it before, and you've seen it done better before. Even the Daniel Bernhardt or Stephan Bonnar factor isn't enough.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1283546/

10 comments:

  1. You've had a string of duds lately Matt. I just don't get what is so difficult about making a bad action film entertaining these days.

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  2. Oh, I know, and it doesn't look good for tomorrow either. Cross your fingers for Friday, I'll be watching the movie for that one tomorrow.

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  3. I'd recommend you check out Body Armour with Til Schweiger and Chazz Palminteri if you want to see a good DTV film, not sure if it's on watch instantly or not.

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  4. This just shows us how old we're getting. Daniel Bernhardt 15 years ago was the Van Damme rip off in Bloodsport sequels, Perfect Target and uh hmm I know there was more. But he was also in Matrix Reloaded as well. In anycase he is no longer the fighter who is coaxed into underground competitions but rather the guy who sets it all up. He's kind of like the new David Carradine.

    Meanwhile as for Chuck Norris, he just stopped making movies after his work with Daniel Bernhardt (which stunk on ice) I mean sure he's in Expendables II but being that he's 70, he's clearly in Brett Favre mode and Expendables II is his 09 season.

    Meanwhile I see the rest of our action guys from the 80s in Tom Brady mode, which they've got some gas in the tank but their days are numbered on the gridiron.

    As for Bernhardt, he became like Don The Dragon Wilson, Olivier Gruner and Lorenzo Lamas in that they started to take on supporting roles more as Van Damme, Seagal, Snipes, Lundgren and Norris took the STDVD work.

    As for Michael Dudikoff, he would I think be with the guys up there but I honestly think he is enjoying married life. I looked at his website and all he talks about is how much he loves his wife and kids and doing theater work. I guess he took Guile's advice, in that he went home to become a family man.

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  5. Poor Daniel Bernhardt! He can never catch a break. He needs a good movie right now...also another weak modern-day punchfighter...it is hard to top the 90s output when Matthias Hues was the villain in just about all of them. Haha.

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  6. Sheesh! I'm right there with you. Such a wasted opportunity. I miss the action days from 20 years ago where they could make them very cheap, but looked good and were generally entertaining.

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  7. Bernhardt was also very good in True Vengeance.

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  8. Agreed robotGEEK, they don't make 'em like they used to, and like Ty said, it helped that they all had Matthias Hues, but I also think this one would've been bad in any era, it was just sauteed in wrong sauce.

    And that brings us to Mr. Kenner, putting our man Daniel Bernhardt in the proper perspective. I was thinking about what you said, about guys like Van Damme and Seagal bumping someone like Bernhardt out of the market, and I'm not so sure, mostly because Van Damme didn't make that many DTV flicks, and I think some of them were made specifically for Van Damme. There are some though that you could make the case that Bernhardt would've done had Van Damme not been available.

    It's possible that those earlier Bernhardt flicks didn't move the units people expected, that coming in on the Bloodsport franchise didn't bring the success it should've, and Bernhardt couldn't get starring roles anymore. He did have the success of being cast in the Mortal Kombat TV show, but even that's not that big considering cable TV wasn't what it is now back then. Hopefully he'll be able to bounce back though, especially with the bigger names getting older and slowing down.

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  9. I think Bernhardt could have a decent career, like Kenner says, being the new David Carradine. He's got the right looking face and could maybe pull one or two good punches and kicks every movie.

    I never thought he had the right spark to play a hero - like say Gary Daniels does.

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  10. Yeah, I don't know, there's definitely something about him that doesn't seem to translate, though he did have a decent run in the 90s. Maybe he needs to transition to a bad guy-- though in better movies than this one!

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