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, July 31, 2013

Brother's War (2009)

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After I had reviewed the films that Kevin at MTI Video sent me he asked me if there were any other films in the catalog I was interested in looking at, and this one had been on my radar for sometime before he'd contacted me.  The reason: DTVC Hall of Famer Olivier Gruner.  Anytime a film has a a Hall of Famer, we're all over it.  Let's see how it went.

Brother's War is about a troop of Nazi soldiers fighting the Soviet invasion at the end of World War II.  Tino Struckman plays Capt. Mueller, a Mason who is being hunted by the Nazi's while the troops in his Nazi regiment try to protect him.  That's when he's captured by the Soviets.  At the same time, a British attache, Andrew (played by Hugh Daly), witnesses the Soviets execute the Polish government in exile, and discovers that they plan to take over Germany before the Allies can.  He's also imprisoned, and while he and Mueller are being taken out for execution, they escape, hoping to make it to Allied command to deliver this news.  Will they make it in time?

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I liked what they were trying to do with this one, but at 100 minutes it was a little long, and I think they tried to include too much.  At about the 45-minute mark-- yes, it takes that long to get there-- the guys embark on their mission, and at that point we've gone through so much that we need them to just get there.  If it's going to be another 55 minutes or so of struggle and adventure and commentary about the cruel realities of war, then the beginning needs to be shorter.  The other problem is that Gruner gets bumped off at the 35-minute mark, which means the movie is leaning on people other than its big star.  Finally, we have five writing credits, and it shows.  Elements in the middle feel grafted in.  This wasn't horrible, but it's a war drama, and a slow burning war drama at that, which probably isn't what a lot of people are looking for when they see Olivier Gruner's name on the cover.

What do we do with Mr. Gruner?  Some of these movies he's found himself in lately are so low budget, and he's barely in them, yet is used to sell them.  He deserves better than this.  For over ten years, from 1990 to the early 2000s, he had some real greats, including Nemesis, which is a top ten DTV flick of the 90s.  Is it just that he's been squeezed out by recent additions by bigger names entering into the DTV realm?  Actors that speak English better?  That's too bad though, because he could get after it, and at only 53, I think he can still carry a DTV action film.  Hopefully he'll get those roles again.

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The other name in this film was veteran character actor and horror mainstay Michael Berryman.  He plays a Soviet colonel who is hunting down our heroes.  He doesn't have a big role though after the beginning.  As I mentioned above, Tino Struckman played one of the main characters.  He also co-wrote and produced this.  On his imdb profile, he has gone on to direct his own movies too.  I think a big reason why Gruner didn't have the bigger part is that Struckman wanted himself to be the star, and it looks like a lot of his other films are personal vanity projects.  If they don't have Olivier Gruner or another Hall of Famer I probably won't watch them.  Also, his co-hero, Hugh Daly, was his co-writer on this, so maybe they're buddies outside of filming.  Finally, Haley Karr played Anna, a nurse the guys find while she's being chased down by a group of Russian soldiers looking to rape her.  Her character was the most unevenly written, and it seemed like she was there to provide a level of humanity for our heroes, which was unnecessary because they already had it enough.  Not her fault though that her character was superfluous, and she did as well with it as she could.

The weirdest thing about this film was the idea that I was supposed to root for a Nazi.  Even if he was someone who was banished and hunted by them, he was still wearing a swastika.  Also, Gruner being French and Struckman being Danish made the idea of them playing Nazis weirder, considering both countries were conquered by the Nazis in WWII.  I get what the movie was trying to do, but it still hurt my sensibilities.

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Finally, I want to finish with a personal story based on the film's title.  In college, a buddy of mine tried to hook up with another buddy's sister while said sister was very inebriated, which, as you can imagine, was a very bad situation, and the buddy with the sister wanted to kick the other buddy's ass.  After we'd calmed the buddy with the sister down, this other buddy thought he'd talk it over with him, and in his attempts to patch things up, said "Bros before hoes man", and put out his hand for a shake.  We all (there were about five of us in the room with them) were stunned, and couldn't believe he said that.  Anyway, I told another group of friends in college about this, and the "Bros before hoes" line became this catch-all joke about chauvinism and tools like that friend who would say something like that.  Now, whenever we see something with "Brothers" in the title, we convert it to "Bros before hoes", like "Super Mario Bros Before Hoes", which would make this movie "Bros Before Hoes War".  Just thought I'd share that.

And if I'm scraping the barrel for a seventh paragraph, that should tell you something.  This wasn't that unremarkable though, it just tried to do too much, and wasn't well executed in that sense.  It either needed a shorter beginning or a shorter ending, and with both being long the whole thing didn't work.  Also, I don't know what kind of market there is for a movie like this.  It's not the one for Olivier Gruner action fans, I know that.  Anyway, it's available on DVD from Netflix.  And I want to thank Kevin at MTI Video again for sending me this, and letting us get another Gruner film up.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0932661/

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