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.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ambushed (2013)

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As always, when there's a new Dolph flick on Netflix Instant, we need to make it happen here at the DTVC.  Before we did it here though, we featured it on a podcast, hoping to build on the Dolph goodwill we created with Jamie when we looked at Puncture Wounds.  Also, as an action film, this was a great time to get Ty and Brett from Comeuppance Reviews on the pod, long time friends of the site and purveyors of a great site themselves.  Based on the trailers and synopses, this looked like a great DTV Dolph actioner, so based on the trailers and synopses, this couldn't fail, right?

Ambushed is about an extremely unlikable guy named Frank, who's a scam artist who thinks he's cooler and smarter and more interesting than he is.  He decides to steal a bunch of drugs from someone big, Vinnie Jones, and then sell them and make a big score.  Randy the Natural Couture is local detective who wants to lean of Frank to get some cash, and Dolph is a DEA agent who wants to figure out who Frank is and take him down.  They're on a collision course to shaky-cam and Timbaland-rip-off early-2000s double-beated wackiness.

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Wow.  We've seen Dolph bait-and-switches, and we've seen Netflix synopsis bait-and-switches, but never a trailer-synopsis-Dolph bait-and-switch all in one.  I mean, there was no indication anywhere that this would be following the uninteresting tale of an annoying all-American jackass who plays video games while saying things like "that's grimy dude."  Who thought this was a good idea?  Who thought this would be a good movie?  The trailer would have been a good movie.  The synopsis would have been a good movie.  This was bad.  First and foremost, plot gets in the way.  Also, action scenes filled with shaky-cam.  Again, Dolph bait-and-switch, by far the worst we've seen here.  Finally, unlikable hero-- I mean really unlikable.  The character would have been great as the local sleaze-fest that Dolph or Couture goes to for information or who tries to rip off Vinnie Jones and is killed for it, but not as your lead.  This film may have the distinction of being the worst Dolph film we've ever done.

This review comes at an interesting time in sports, because Derek Jeter is retiring and, though the hype surrounding it has been insufferable, it creates an apt comparison with Dolph's DTV career.  One of the many great stats Jeter had was that none of the teams he played on finished below .500.  Yes, a large part of that is due to the Yankees' enormous resources, but still, Jeter was always on a team that won more than it lost.  The same can be said for Dolph I think.  Even when his films were bad, they weren't Red Sox 2012 bad-- until now.  The thing is we can't blame Dolph for that, because he was great in the role he had-- which made this worse, because we wanted more Dolph and less jackass guy, and instead we got more of the latter.  This was a Dolph bait-and-switch in the truest sense of the word, because it is sold almost completely as a Dolph vehicle, and nothing could be further from the truth.

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Again, we've seen bait-and-switches before.  The term was coined originally for Rutger Hauer, because the early-to-mid 2000s were rife with Hauer bait-and-switches, where he would be splashed all over the cover, only to appear for 5 minutes of actual film time.  This wasn't so bad as far as Dolph screen time, but the fact that we also had a plot bait-and-switch from not only the Netflix synopsis but the trailer bait-and-switch, combined with the character they bait-and-switched for, and what we have is the most egregious bait-and-switch of all time.  I guess you can't do a trailer that says "follow jackass Frank as he reminds you of every douchebag jerk you've ever encountered in a casino or nightclub or Starbucks.  You will be astounded by how well this douchebaggery is captured on film, with every shaky cam and not-so-clever screenwipe.  Also, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, and Vinnie Jones all have small parts."

To give you an idea of just how much of a douche this main character is, I made list of things his character either does, or you figure he'd do if given the chance.  I already mentioned when he said "that's grimy dude!"  In that same scene he also said "hey man, this isn't high school", yet proceeds to live his life as if he's still in the social construct of high school.  We all know that guy right, the "this isn't high school" guy who always acts like he's still in high school.  We can assume that he'd also be the "Facebook sucks and is full of losers" guy who uses Facebook all the time and always comments on people's stuff, and the only reason why he hates it is no one likes of comments on his vacuous 5-times-a-day status updates.  Other things he might do: say "I never eat that shit at McDonald's" when he always eats at McDonald's; smokes Parliaments, calls them "P-Funks", and doesn't inhale; calls women "grenades", and also quotes Wedding Crashers when describing his interactions with women; and finally, every decision in his life is a "big decision", and he needs to talk about it incessantly.  Does this sound like the kind of guy you want to base your film around?

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To make matters worse, we get this tool's self-indulgent narration throughout the film, which is like being cornered at a party with him when you go to the drink table to refill you and your wife's beverages and you're like "Jesus Christ I don't care about your fantasy football team and whether or not you should start this guy over that guy!", and really, all you're doing is exchanging this insipid conversation for insipid monologues about how he thinks he's getting over on everyone and has all these great plans. He doesn't, he's a douchebag who is going to start Robert Griffin III on Sunday, call him RGIII, and pound Miller Lites and boneless Buffalo wings while he feigns anger among his "boys" when Griffin throws three picks.  With each bad monologue, I tuned out and looked at the local ShopRite circular.  Deals that week included: pork roll for $1.88, La Yogurt probiotics 10 for $5, CrazyArt crayons 5 for $2, and my favorite, Elio's Pizza for $1.99. Also, I wanted to mention, the guy above is not the main character, he's this guy from an old Coke commercial who said "Yo, it's 'Deluxe' son!", and my buddy and I used to say that all the time as a joke, so I thought it was great to see him in here.  "It's deluxe son!"

If I'm telling you what I read in a circular two months ago, I need to wrap this up.  It was a unanimous "no" across the board, and will go down as the most egregious bait-and-switch and worst Dolph film in the history of the DTVC.  Never seen anything like it.  I want to thank Ty and Brett again for being on the show, remember you can always check them out at Comeuppance Reviews, and you can always check Jamie and I out live every Wednesday from 8-9 EDT at www.mixlr.com/2nd-unit, and can download the podcasts after on Talkshoe at http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/134494 or on iTunes, just type in DTVC Podcast and subscribe.

For the Ambushed episode, right click here and click "save link as". (Beware, there were some technical difficulties with this episode.)

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2497808/

4 comments:

  1. I enjoyed it for what it was. To be fair, I wasn't expecting Dolph to headline the movie. What took me by surprise was how good Couture was (as opposed to his terrible performances in the EXPENDABLES series)
    As for Dolph, like I said, I think he's looking to branch out into serious stuff (in his twilight years) and I think he did pretty well here. Lundgren could have a 5 minute cameo in a 14th century period drama about a dyslexic painter.......And the producers would *still* stick his mug all over the cover (and he'd probably holding a gun) I think you've got to accept that Lundgren isn't in much of a position to headline action movies anymore (DTV or otherwise) and any cred he had with the Expendables franchise, is likely dried up with the disappointing returns on number 3. So I'd expect more and more (blown-up) cameos from him in the future

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    1. For me it's not that they stuck his name up there, it's the fact that even the trailer showed a different movie. I agree that he'll probably do more of these, and I don't mind a bait-and-switch here and there (okay, I hate it, but I can live with it), what was bad here was that we had a trailer that didn't even show the main character that we actually got and set us up to think we were getting Dolph v. Couture. That was bad.

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  2. I gotta say I hated this one too, but I'm not sure if it's worse than Blood Of Redemption... Let's not argue semantics, Dolph has been on a losing streak lately as I haven't been a fan of the last couple. Puncture Wounds was okay I guess, but Legendary, Blood Of Redemption, This, Stash House and Battle Of The Damned I put on my diss list and this is coming from a guy who thoroughly enjoyed Expendables III ! The Tony Jaa, Michael Jai White/ Cary Tagawa and Ron Perlman mix up in the next Dolph Lundgren actioner promises to be epic. -Kenner

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    1. I agree Kenner, Dolph has been on a losing streak, though One in the Chamber and Universal Soldier Day of Reckoning were both good ones. I feel like it's still there for him to do a good one, but man, other than that okay Puncture Wounds, this is an unprecedented rough patch in his DTV career. And while what you say about the next one being promising sounds good, didn't we think Legendary with Scott Adkins was going to be that, and it was so sauteed in wrong sauce it hurt.

      PS
      Sorry about your Lions man. I was rooting for them.

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