Covering cinema from the highest of the highbrow to the lowest of the low-grade.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
On DVD/Blu-ray: TRANSIT (2012) and DRAGON EYES (2012)
TRANSIT (US - 2012)
Released in just a handful of theaters, TRANSIT is the kind of tight, fast-moving, action-packed B-movie that would've become a word-of-mouth rental hit back in the heyday of the video store. In a gritty performance, Jim Caviezel plays a seemingly average every-dad on a road trip with wife Elisabeth Rohm, foul-mouthed teenage son Sterling Knight, and younger son Jake Cherry. There's tension early on, and it turns out Dad just got paroled after serving 18 months for real estate fraud, and he's putting forth every effort to rebuild his life. Meanwhile, James Frain, girlfriend Diora Baird, hotheaded partner Harold Perrineau and getaway driver Ryan Donowho have stolen $4 million in an armored car heist and, spotting Caviezel's SUV parked at a truck stop, Frain hastily hatches a plan to stash the money bag on the SUV's roof rack in order to bypass an upcoming roadblock, with the intention of catching up with Caviezel further down the road. Misunderstandings and various mishaps abound (fleeing Frain, Caviezel gets pulled over for reckless driving and, trying to convince the bullheaded cop that he was being chased, gets himself arrested, thereby violating his parole; and Rohm finds the bag of money and assumes her ex-con husband has stolen it from Frain), and it soon becomes a blood-soaked battle on the lonely bayou backroads between Caviezel, who just wants to protect his family, and the criminals, who only want their money. With its cast of familiar TV faces, TRANSIT plays a lot like a TV movie with gratuitous F-bombs and is fairly solid entertainment, except for the idea of Donowho's rumbling muscle car somehow being able to sneak up on people. Director Antonio Negret relies a bit too much on shaky-cam action scenes and there's one really dodgy bit of CGI splatter, but TRANSIT dives right into the story, relentlessly plows along, doesn't overstay its welcome, and accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. And it gets a lot of mileage out of a committed cast, none of whom (particularly Caviezel and Frain) seem to be aware that they're in a junk movie and quite admirably give it everything they've got. (R, 88 mins)
DRAGON EYES (US - 2012)
A dreary, D-grade YOJIMBO/A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS update that plays like a Master P rapsploitation holdover from 1998, DRAGON EYES stars MMA fighter Cung Le as Hong, an ex-con who gets involved in a war involving two rival gangs and some corrupt cops all under the rule of ruthless police chief/crime boss Victor Swan, aka Mr. V (a hammy Peter Weller). Between Tim Tori's bland, predictable script (is there any way this won't end with a showdown at an abandoned factory?), John Hyams' (son of the great Peter Hyams) pointlessly convoluted non-linear/back-and-forth direction, and the dull Le's utter lack of charisma, almost nothing works in DRAGON EYES. Weller seems to be enjoying himself, and with his close-cropped white hair and his aged face, he looks eerily like Lee Marvin in some shots. Jean-Claude Van Damme is prominently displayed in the poster art, but he's basically relegated to guest star status in flashbacks as Hong's prison cellmate Tiano. It's Tiano who, of course, teaches Hong the ways of martial arts philosophy and fighting. Van Damme and the Hyams family go way back (Peter directed him in TIMECOP, SUDDEN DEATH, and the upcoming ENEMIES CLOSER, and he worked with John on the last UNIVERSAL SOLDIER entry), so he obviously enjoys working with them, and he even brought along his son Kristopher Van Varenberg to co-star as one of the corrupt cops, but JCVD is wasted in a nothing supporting role here. A flashback to Tiano's past (so, a flashback-within-a-flashback, then?) just feels like padding to give Van Damme something to do. He's got less than ten minutes of screen time in this, and it's unfortunate this actually got a limited theatrical release, doing nothing to convince those out of the loop that Van Damme has made a lot of above-average straight-to-DVD films over the last decade that, unlike DRAGON EYES, are worth checking out. (R, 91 mins)