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, January 20, 2012
Road of No Return (2009)
I came across this one while doing a search of Michael Madsen on Netflix Watch Instantly. It also had DTVC Hall of Famer David Carradine, which made it even more of a draw. I was a little nervous though, because I've seen these ones with guys like this in them before, and seen them go horribly wrong. Let's hope this one didn't.
Road of No Return is about four hit men that are brought together by Madsen and Carradine as part of a secret extra-judicial mission to assassinate drug kingpins. When one of the four does a little research to find out who the guys are that hired them, Carradine gets scared and calls in the cleaners to deal with the whole thing. As if things couldn't get any more difficult for our quartet, during one of their hits they save two very young girls that were about to be sold into white slavery. Now they have to save themselves and protect the kids.
Okay, we get it, you're ironic. No no, really, we get it. The hit man's mom coming to clean the hit men's house? Get it, ironic. The Chinese Christian missionaries that interrupt one of the hits. Yep, pretty ironic. There's a point though where so much irony makes it not ironic, it makes it contrived, and that's what this was. Throw in some lame sentimentality, and some really serious elements that didn't blend at all with the quirky ironic ones, and you've got a 90 minute pain fest.
One thing about this one though was that the scenes with Carradine and Madsen were great, and Carradine especially. Usually seeing Carradine on the cover of a flick from 2009 means he's in it for like five minutes, and while he's nowhere near the star that the cover shot and top billing will have you believe, he is something of a main baddie, and as such, had his screen time. He does this kind of movie well. He can handle the scenes that are a little too talky, and make fun material that was increasingly becoming more and more contrived. This film came out the year he passed away, and a quick check of his imdb bio shows that he still has three more posthumous projects on the way, on top of the seven that came out from 2010 on. Just shows you how much he worked, right up to the end-- and why he's a DTVC Hall of Famer.
Madsen, though still pretty good, wasn't quite what Carradine was. I don't want to say he mailed this one in, but maybe that he was too comfortable. He's probably seen this material so many times, and seen it better so many times, that he played down to what he was given. I still enjoyed seeing Madsen on screen, and he still elevated the material, but this wasn't what he was in something like Final Combination.
I think a big part in pulling off irony is in making it not seem contrived, and we already mentioned that this film killed that possibility by loading up on it so much. This might as well have been a hipster with his beard and scarf waiting in line to get the new iPhone while reblogging memes on Tumblr with his old one, that's how ironic this was. Another big part of it though is the actors have to pull it off, and that didn't really happen either. We had this one dude that was playing like a white supremacist, and it felt like he was so uncomfortable playing that part, that the idea so abhorred him, that he went so over the top, which made it even worse and harder to watch. Then when he finds out (as we expected, it being ironic and all) that his ethnic background isn't entirely white, the reaction is even harder to watch. Why even have crap like this in the movie when it isn't going to work?
I don't really have a seventh paragraph for this one, so I guess I'll mention the other cliche convention it fell on, the "we'll start with the end first, then go to the beginning" device, which in this case actually gives away some of the movie. When we see only one girl, but later she's introduced with another, we know that other will bite it soon because we have to get back down to just one. And killing off little girls gives the film a mean-spirited feel that, again, betrays the quirky ironic tone the film is leaning so heavily on.
All right, this is enough. You know I didn't like this, and you don't need me to tell you anymore why. Don't let the Madsen and Carradine fool you. Both have tons on Watch Instantly to look at (though for some reason Netflix is only showing me two for Carradine, when I know he has more than that-- they need to get their shit together over there!). This is your run of the mill "hit men in ironic situations" yawnfest.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1298716/