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.

Top Ten DTV Films of the Oughts

Over on my Tumblr account, Matt, Movie Guy, I wrote my top ten theatrical films of the 2000s, and let's just say it was a somewhat labor intensive process. A lot of time invested in seeing the films, a lot of work explaining why I picked a film I picked. It was one of those things that I was stoked about doing when I first decided to do it, but when it was finally written I was just glad to get it over with. Not true about this list. This was fun to do from the very beginning, and I wonder if it was even worth it bothering with the theatrical list, when this is what I do.

10. The Da Vinci Treasure (2006)

Can you believe The Asylum made my top ten? Who'd'a thunk it, but The Da Vinci Treasure was a great time. Sure, it was ridiculous with its anthropologists who were extremely wealthy and were experts in hand-to-hand combat, but that's what made it so great. While most of The Asylum's self-styled "mockumentaries" are complete crap, this was the one beautiful exception. If C. Thomas Howell could do more of these and less War of the Worlds and War of the Worlds 2, he might punch his ticket into the DTVC Hall of Fame.

9. Blood and Bone (2009)

Our number nine pick was a late entry at the end of the year starring Michael Jai White, Blood and Bone. Though he may have been completely wasted in The Dark Knight, his true talent shone through in this Lionheart remake. The fight scenes were uncompromising, and White played a hero reminiscent of the old Steven Seagal, before Seagal's act became silly. I can't wait to see Black Dynamite when that comes out on video too, but right now we've got this gem, and it's was worth it.

8. Out for a Kill (2003)

Speaking of Seagal, here he is at number 8. You're probably wondering, "why is a sack-of-asscrack actioner with a title that's just a combination of two of Seagal's older films in your top ten?" One reason, and one reason only: Seagal decapitates an old Chinese man by throwing a samurai sword from a second story window to the street below where the man was trying to escape in his car. It was the most memorable scene of the decade for me, and as such, garnered this film a spot in my top ten.

7. Shepherd: Border Patrol (2008)

While the oughts were great for Seagal and Dolph, they left a little to be desired for the star of our number seven film, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Unlike the other two, he seemed to be fighting his fate as a DTV action star. With Shepherd: Border Patrol, though he seemed to have it figured out. This was vintage Muscles from Brussels, none of that trying to challenge himself or do a role we wouldn't normally think of him in; none of that Conservative rah-rah propaganda crap either. This was straight ahead action. Let's hope it's a sign of things to come, especially with the new Universal Soldier film coming out on February 2.

6. Pistol Whipped (2008)

For our number 6 film, we go back to Seagal, in what many would see as by far his best and perhaps the best DTV film of the decade. I almost see it that way too, especially since it had what I see as the best shootout of the decade, taking place at a cemetery at the end of the film. He has The Keeper coming out in two weeks, and then two more slated for release in 2010, but as far as I can tell, nothing he's done since this has even come close in quality. We need less reality star, and more DTV action star!

5. Command Performance (2009)

I know you've been waiting for a Dolph Lundgren flick, so here it is. I think many would put Command Performance as their number one of the decade as well. Released on his 52nd birthday, this more than earned its spot as one the greatest action films of the decade, and when you couple it with Direct Contact, it points to great things for Dolph in the future. I didn't like the Van Damme-ish element of young women telling him how hot he is, nor did I like that instead of being former special forces or something, his ability to fight came from running with a motorcycle gang; but after that, the action was amazing, and in the end, that's all that counts. Plus his drumsticks sticking out of the back of his jeans, stored between his buttcheeks.

4. The Foreigner (2003)

So if numbers 5 and 6 were films most people have as their number ones, what do I have in store for numbers 4 through 1? To start with, I have a Steven Seagal film in The Foreigner that I know some didn't care for (in particular my buddy at Moves in the Attic). For me it was this amazing combination of classic Film Noir, Le Samouraï, and vintage Steven Seagal. That's a winning combination in my book. I loved the cinematography, the sets, and most of all, the action.

3. Baller Blockin' (2001)

This has to be the one that all everyone is looking at saying "what?" You're well within your right to be concerned, but trust me, this is plenty deserving of it's spot as the only non Dolph or Seagal film in the top 6. If you have any questions about Baller Blockin's place on this list, check out the Interrogation Scene on YouTube. The rest of the film's 70 minutes or so live up to that-- some might say silliness, but I prefer, in the immortal words of Billy Ocean, "Simply... awesome..."ness of it.... Also fascinating how Lil' Wayne started the decade in this, and ended the decade as one of the best selling rappers ever.

2. Direct Contact (2009)

2009 was definitely the Year of the Dolph, because this is his second film of that year in the top five of my best of the decade. The only small complaint I might have had was wanting a little more Michael Paré, but his death scene at the end more than made up for it. Couple this with a spot-on Dolph performance, and you have a surefire winner. While Seagal may have made a great challenge to Dolph's title as greatest DTV action star, Dolph finished out the decade strong and let all comers know that he's here to stay.

1. Russian Specialist aka The Mechanik (2005)

Did you expect anyone other than the Babe Ruth of the DTVC to take the number one spot? The Defender, co-starring Jerry Springer, might have been his directorial debut, but this was right around the same time, and though I may have been a little tough on him for his annoying constant use of fade-outs, his use of action was nothing short of stellar. The Russian Specialist was the type of film that made me start this blog to begin with, and I can't think of any film from the first decade of the 2000s that did it any better. Watch this and know what good DTV action is all about.

So that's that. I'd say the two major conclusions I'd draw from this list are these: first, horror, sci-fi, and comedy are all conspicuously absent. The truth is, action would be conspicuously absent as well, if not for some great films at the end of the decade that got back to DTV's roots. DTV horror had some bright spots, but for the most part DTV horror filmmakers were too focused on emulating the brutality of a Saw or Hostel, and less about the fun and over the top goriness of an Evil Dead or a great slasher film like an old Friday the 13th. Sci-fi had some good ones too, but nothing that stood out enough to make the top ten. In comedy, Pucked almost made it, but most were just crass, poorly made, 80s party movie clones that weren't at all funny.

The second conclusion is DTV as a whole was no where close to its Golden Age of the 1980s and 90s. I think there are a lot of factors, but probably the biggest is how many DTV directors are trying too hard to be "good". Stop taking yourself so seriously. I think Dolph has always embraced the need to have fun and make fun movies, and that's what makes him great. Hopefully the end of this decade will be a harbinger of things to come for the next, and more DTV movie makers will take Lundgren's lead.