Thomas Archer (Ron Eldard) had a good life. He was happily married to a beautiful woman (Marisa Coughlin) and they had a healthy, happy son together. Money wasn't a problem, as Thomas did well at the architectural office where he was gainfully employed. Why then, when we are introduced to this character, is he walking through a subway station carrying a bag and looking morose?
As we learn through a series of flashback scenes, Thomas' perfect life was taken from him and smashed into a million pieces when an unknown assailant chooses his home to invade. His wife is severely injured and their son is left dead. To make matters worse for Thomas, his interaction with the police assigned to his case leaves him even more upset and frustrated - they don't seem to be able to do anything to help him. Thomas takes some comfort from Dr. Heller (Christopher Plummer), a psychiatrist whose aid he seeks in order to get his head back on straight. Thomas' sessions don't go so well, however, and soon Heller tells him that an underground organization lead by 'The Man' (Til Schweiger) exists that, for a price, will find the assailant and let him exact the revenge he wants. Thomas likes the idea and soon the wheels are in motion but once it's all rolling, he starts to doubt his initial instinct and soon finds himself in a dangerous situation couple with a moral dilemma.
A surprisingly violent and dark revenge drama, Already Dead benefits from an interesting premise and some solid supporting performances but unfortunately suffers from a miscast lead character. It's not that Eldard is a bad actor - he's quite talented - but he seems out of his element here and while that could work to the film's benefit when you take into account the circumstances that his character has to deal with, the script asks Thomas to make some rather questionable decisions and this takes us out of the movie (would you commit a horrible crime knowing full well that you're being videotaped by people you don't know?). He doesn't feel right for the part, almost as if Eldard knows that his character is doing something really dumb, as he comes across as an intelligent man who is asked to make, and ultimately comply with, some bad ideas. Plummer and Coughlin are good in their parts and Til Schweiger is solid in his mysterious part, but it isn't enough to really make the film stand out.
That said, the film is reasonably well made and not without its fair share of entertainment value. Some of the more suspenseful scenes are very well done and a few sporadic moments of intense action keep things moving nicely. The movie is quite watchable and perfectly enjoyable, it's just that there are a few flaws in the script and with the lead character that keep it from hitting its potential. The middle section drags a little bit but it starts and ends on high notes and it's quite well shot with some interesting compositions and nice use of shadows and seedy locations.
Already Dead is presented in a solid 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The picture is fairly grainy but this looks to be intentional and it suits the cinematography and the storyline well. Some of the darker scenes are a tad murky and lack fine detail but overall, things look good here. This is a dark film so don't expect colors to pop off the screen but the cool tone of the film is replicated well. There aren't any problems with heavy edge enhancement or mpeg compression nor are there any issues with print damage.
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix is also strong. Dialogue is always easy to follow while the score and the sound effects are mixed in properly. Levels are well balanced and bass response is good. Optional 5.1 Surround Sound mixes are also included in Thai and Spanish and a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround mix is included in French. Optional subtitles are provided in English, French, Thai, Chinese, Korean and Spanish.
Extras are slim but Sony has included a trio of deleted scenes: Police Confrontation (0:49),Archer And The Man (4:47), and Hallway Shoot Out (1:05). These don't change the film much but they're worth watching, all three presented here in non-anamorphic widescreen.
Aside from that we get some static menus, chapter selection, and trailers for a few other unrelated Sony DVD releases (though no trailer for the feature itself... a truly annoying habit on Sony's part).
Already Dead is a little predictable with some funky plot holes, but it's well acted and well directed with some nicely executed scenes of suspense and action. The extras are pretty slim but the transfer is decent as is the audio mix. It isn't a film you'll go back to, but it's worth a watch and you can consider this one a very solid rental.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.