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, May 9, 2013
The Package (2013)
You don't need me to tell you that this one looks like a big deal. Dolph Lundgren and Stone Cold Steve Austin as the leads? Sounds great. Darren Shahlavi and Jerry Trimble in supporting roles? Definitely. Would I be more excited about this if it were made ten years ago? Of course, but let's see how it went anyway.
The Package has Austin as a loan shark enforcer who's sent by his loan shark boss to deliver a package to fellow crime boss Dolph Lundgren. The problem is, other people want the package, and they'll kill Austin for it. Austin wants out, but the problem is his brother, Lochlyn Munro (of Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? fame), owes the loan shark a lot of money, so if Austin cuts and runs, it'll spell trouble for Munro. What a dilemma, huh?
This one started off as a good one with some bad parts, but devolved into a bad one with some good parts, which makes it ultimately a bust for me. The crux of the problem was in the degree to which Austin's character was written as unlikable, and Dolph's was so awesome. When they have their inevitable clash at the end, this creates a major Destro Effect, and no amount of canned, stock triumphant music playing as Austin bests Dolph can overcome the previous 90 minutes of Dolph being so fantastic. Austin's character had his moments, but was pretty much this boring one-note, awe shucks, down-to-earth, blue collar guy, whose bad ass moments weren't always that bad ass. What a waste, because we know from years of WWE work that he's plenty capable of plenty of bad assery and natural charisma, both of which were stymied. The plot twist at the end was a waste as well, not to mention we find out that the guys that want the package from Dolph only want it so they can leverage money from him for it, meaning it's not a big deal if they win-- another bad plot device. We had some great action moments, but we also had some boring non-action ones of Austin talking with his wife that went nowhere, or talking with his boss that also went nowhere. Just give me a good action movie and cut out the rest of the bullshit, that's all I ask for, but it seems too hard to deliver.
Let's start with Dolph, because he's the man in this. Another major flaw in the writing was how much fun Dolph's scenes were, even the ones where he wasn't fighting, which, when juxtaposed with the lifeless ones Austin was stuck with, again made Dolph look that much better. The fight between he and Austin at the end had its moments, but at the same time, was filled with plot convenience theater, because throughout the film we're given Dolph as this superior, well-trained, experienced fighter, yet on two occasions he commits real boneheaded mistakes that allows Austin to get the upper hand. It's almost like the Superman problem, where they made him so powerful, they had to invent kryptonite to make him vulnerable. I guess here they made Dolph so awesome they had to resort to plot convenience theater.
As much as we love Dolph, Austin's character was the key, and I think if we go back to what made him so successful in wrestling, we can see why his character was doomed to fail before Austin even saw the script. Austin revolutionized the WWE by being the first real heel that fans really rooted for. It's one thing to go from heel to hero and back, but with Austin, he was the bad guy, but people were rooting for him anyway. Vince McMahon saw what this meant and went with it, to large success, because Austin became one of the biggest stars ever. What this movie did though, was go in the reverse of what McMahon and Austin did, and decided to keep the hero vanilla and one-note, and ignore everything great that Austin brings to the table, ultimately to the film's detriment. We had one scene in the beginning where he seems great, and that devolves into a scene with his boss that's just bad dialog. Then there was the one with Austin and Trimble, which was one of my favorite scenes in the movie. First we have some great banter between the two-- one of the few moments we see that great side of Austin--, followed by a great fight. We needed more of this. Instead we had a lot of that blah dialog that wasn't Austin, and didn't feel right-- which then made the moments when he had great lines seem out of place with his character. Even the bad assness had its flaws, like when Austin, tied to a chair, headbutts a guy in the nose and kills him. What? You stole that from The Last Boy scout, are you kidding me? Austin is plenty bad ass himself, he doesn't need second-hand bad assery. And don't get me started on the silly scene of Austin running away that was sauteed in wrong sauce.
I'm not sure I understand why Darren Shahlavi doesn't have more parts, and more big parts. Maybe because he's not a big name, but I'd like to see him as the lead in some DTV flicks, or maybe a buddy picture with him and Scott Adkins, just tearing it up. He gets in these things, and gets maybe one good fight scene, and that's it. We haven't seen anything to rival his part in Bloodmoon, but hopefully that will change. Jerry Trimble was a pleasant surprise, because often when we see him in new stuff, he's barely got a cameo, so to see him have a legitimate part with a great fight against Austin was pretty sweet. No amazingness along the lines of Live by the Fist, but very little is.
Finally, in another case of missed opportunities, Monique Ganderton played a member of Shahlavi's gang, and she has this one sweet scene where she throws this guy in a triangle choke, and kills him. Where was that the whole movie? And then she devolves into just "I'm an expert at torture, and I'm going to get close to torturing you Steve Austin without doing it for ten minutes, before you take me out." How could you have had this woman in the movie so long without using her skills, then waste them so casually?
Ugh, I need to stop, or I'll turn this into the worst movie ever. It's not the worst ever, but it's not exactly good either, and not anywhere near as good as it could've been considering the talent we had. I know action movies aren't as easy to write as they seem, and I know things happen throughout the production process that can derail even the best-intentioned movie, but that doesn't change the fact that this was a major disappointment.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1884457/