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.

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Announcement

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.

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

--Matt

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Mark (2012)

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My girlfriend and I were talking about my blog last week, and she asked if I ever did low-budget religious movies.  She's not religious herself, but said she likes to fall asleep to them.  Off the top of my head the only one I could remember doing was the Dolph Lundgren flick Final Inquiry, which was a religious film that I wasn't expecting to be religious.  Beyond that, I had trouble thinking of anyone in our neck of the blogosphere that ever did religious films.  I know The Deadly Dolls House of Horror Nonsense once covered Left Behind, but that was about it.  In fact, many of my fellow low-budget movie bloggers explicitly said they wouldn't do movies like this because they weren't their thing.  That was my stance too, more so because I didn't want the trouble that comes from reviewing a religious movie: people get their dander up and like to pick fights, and that's the last thing I need to deal with.  On the other hand, as I was talking about it with my girlfriend, I was reminded that DTVC Hall of Famer Gary Daniels had three religious films in the can that he shot in Thailand recently, and I was on the fence about looking at them.  Well, now we're going to try this one, and we'll see how it goes.  In this review I'm going to do my best to be respectful to everyone's beliefs, and also look at the film on its merits beyond its religious content, especially Daniels's performance.  Let's see how it went.

The Mark is about mercenary Craig Sheffer, a former army man who fought in Afghanistan, and a nonbeliever.  He's injected with a microchip against his will, and the company he works for sends him and Eric Roberts to Berlin for the G20 summit in order to show the chip off.  There's another guy though who wants that chip, and he hires mercenary Gary Daniels and his team to hijack the plane and get Sheffer.  Next thing you know there's explosions at 30,000 feet and then The Rapture happens and all hell breaks loose-- no pun intended.

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I didn't care for this much.  First off, there was a fair amount of proselytizing.  I'm not complaining about that specifically, because I'm the one who came to this religious movie, it's not like the people who made it knocked on my door; but it did interrupt the flow of the film.  It was often inserted inorganically, which threw off the rhythm, especially in the early going.  Also, from a writing standpoint, we had some plot convenience theater, especially with Daniels's character who is knocked out when The Rapture happens, then is completely ignored until the very end of the movie.  I thought he was one of the chosen ones he was so absent.  Speaking of The Rapture, it was a good ending point for the film, but we still had 36 minutes of the film spinning its wheels before we got to the credits.  It was annoying, especially the whole thing with Sheffer trying to get into the cockpit.  We knew he was going to get in there, they only prolonged it to pad the film.  Finally, the special effects were Asylum bad, but with The Asylum, we know their films are meant to be fun and campy.  This movie was serious, so the bad special effects came off as crass and hokey.  For most of my audience who isn't religious-- and I think even for those who are-- there isn't much here beyond your classic unevenly written plane hijacking yarn; but because it has that massive religious element, I'd say it's a skip for anyone not interested in hearing that.

Gary Daniels though was really good here.  I was looking him up to see if he was born again or something, and the best I could find is that he's making films in Thailand right now, and that's where these were shot, so either the paycheck or the role enticed him.  I can see how the role though would've done it for him, because this isn't a bad baddie, and he makes the most of it.  He said in an interview I read that he's always looking for parts that do something for his career, and if I were a DTV film maker I'd cast him as a baddie in my next actioner, for sure.  Of course, I'd rather have him as the lead, but I think he's proven here more than any of the other baddie roles I've seen him in that he's not just a one-note hero.

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Eric Roberts is in this as well, playing the devious corporate dude.  He chews up all kinds of scenery, and really takes the substandard dialog and makes it into something fun.  I noticed that he has more of these religious films to his credit than Daniels does, but I'm not sure that he's overly religious either.  I mean, it could just be that he's done more movies period.  His character doesn't get as much to do though until near the end, and it devolves into cliched villain stuff that Sheffer counters in cliched hero fashion.  I liked though that Roberts took this one-note and made the most of him.  He just seems to have fun being an actor, and playing villains at that.

We're seeing some more Craig Sheffer here.  Like Daniels and Roberts, I couldn't figure out if Sheffer was religious like this too, but unlike Daniels and Roberts who get to be baddies, Sheffer's character finds religion towards the end of the film, so if he doesn't believe this stuff, it might be a tougher bridge to cross.  I guess that's the challenge of being an actor.  Compared to his hero in Battledogs, the one in The Mark lacks the charisma that carried that other film.  I think The Asylum is better at writing heroes in their films because they write from a tradition of lantern-jawed 50s and 60s mensch-types in their modern send-ups of those films, and they've had time to hone their craft to make those guys more fun; this is definitely a much less polished hero written here, not always likable, walking around with a scowl on his face like he's a dad waiting in a long line at the Home Depot on a Saturday in late July.  The hero is the key in any film to make it work, and he has to be written well for that to happen.

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Finally, I do want to touch on the theme of this movie quickly, and discuss how I think it might have been delivered better to the audience, both religious and non-religious.  It's that whole "the world is ending, and only the believers will be saved" idea, but because it's tied directly to modern events, and is set in modern times, it plays like a man with a placard around his neck bothering people in Times Square.  I think if the film were set like 50 years into the future, where the writers could have the freedom to create a total dystopian world for us to despise, and then introduce this same story with Sheffer and the microchip and The Rapture, it would have played better.  Still, the religious messages in either story, the one I'm proposing or the one we got, would have to be introduced to us organically, because, like we got here, when they don't feel natural, it throws off the pacing.

This is available on Netflix.  I'd like to say watch it for the great Gary Daniels, but the movie had a lot of flaws, and for my readers who aren't religious, those flaws will only be exacerbated by the film's religious bent.  I guess what I'd say is, if a high proselytizing content is problematic for you, I'd stay away.  Otherwise give it a look, you might have fun.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2058710/

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