I distinctly remember seeing Judd Nelson in Relentless when it (briefly) played movie theaters in 1989. I vaguely remember it being fairly generic but not entirely unwatchable -- but never in a hundred years would I have guessed that that flick would yield not one, not two, but three whole sequels! Granted, they were all cheap and cheesy direct-to-video sequels, but hey, who knew the title Relentless had such a strong cachet in the video market??
I sure didn't, which explains how I never got around to seeing any of the sequels. (Before last night, that is.) Far as I can tell, the only connective tissue between all four Relentless movies is actor Leo Rossi, who plays police detective Sam Dietz in all four flicks. Oh, and Sam specializes in serial killers, which is all the premise you need if you're going to churn out a bunch of low-budget semi-sequels.
Having never seen Dead On: Relentless 2, you'll have to forgive me if I mangle the finer intricacies of the series as a whole. I'll have to start fresh with Relentless 3:
It's about a serial killer (William Forsythe) who kills women until the beleaguered cop (Leo Rossi) wises up and stops the madman. This is a very shopworn plot structure, and there's very little in the way of color or creativity. While it's fun to see Forsythe go a little nutty (for a change), Relentless 3 is sunk by spotty pacing and an overall lack of forward momentum. An inordinate amount of screen-time is dedicated to a go-nowhere romantic subplot, most likely in an effort to give Rossi and love scene and pad out the running time, but the filler material serves only to underscore the fact that: the "serial killer" stuff is beyond boring!
Relentless 4: Ashes to Ashes is even worse, a complete and lazy retread of ideas found in Seven, Basic Instinct, and a 9th-season episode of Murder, She Wrote. There's a a vague subplot about a religious lunatic who's adbucting and slaughtering women, but it's presented in such perfunctory fashion that one wonders why they even bothered. The bulks of Relentless 4 consists of the detective butting heads with his snotty teenaged son, bickering endlessly with his (female) partner, and breaking out the potential woo on a sexy psychologist who may or may not have a connection to the serial slasher guy.
If you're waiting for a twist or a surprise, keep waiting. This flick feels like a Lifetime Channel version of a serial killer movie, what with all its pre-programmed strains of emo-music and woefully sub-standard dialogue. Oh yeah, the sexy psychologist is played by Famke Janssen, so there's a little kitsch value that Relentless 4 has over Relentless 3.
But after watching three out of four Relentless movies, I still can't figure out why they didn't stop after one. Heck, they coulda stopped even before one.
Video: Both movies are presented in their original anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) format, which is a little weird because there's no way these flicks played inside American movie houses. Did they?
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 on both. TV-movie quality all the way.
Generally I don't like my "serial killer" movies so sloppily tongue-bathed in touchy-feely Hallmark Channel silliness. Smush both of these flicks into one, and you'd barely have a full movie, let alone one worth watching.