The latest in a string of straight to video low budget action movies to star Steven Segal, Kill Switch is the first of the batch to be distributed by First Look Studios rather than Sony. Whether or not that's got anything to do with Segal's box office draw (or lack thereof) is debatable but regardless of who got this one out to the masses, Kill Switch is a pretty bad movie, even by DTV action movie standards.
The story, written by Segal himself, finds him playing a detective named Jacob King who enjoys his reputation as one of America's toughest homicide investigators despite his infamy for shooting first and asking questions later. His tough methods get results, and to him, that's all that really matters. Even King is puzzled by a recent rash of killings taking place deep in the heart of Memphis carried out by a serial murderer known only as Lazarus (Michael Filipowich). Not one to let his catch get away, King follows Lazarus' trail through the city with some help from F.B.I. agent Frankie Miller (Holly Dignard) and a forensic scientist (the late Isaac Hayes).
From the bad flashback scenes filling us in on King's childhood and his obsession with catching killers regardless of what methods he has to use to the painfully obvious stunt doubles used in the fight scenes to the reused footage that pops up too often, Kill Switch is a bad movie. The film is horrendously edited and features a couple of completely unnecessary subplots that don't so much fill in the blanks of the story or the character development as they simply pad out the movie's running time. While it looked like Segal might be making a comeback with the reasonably interesting and well made Pistol Whipped, this film is a step back, we're talking Attack Force level badness on pretty much every level.
Most of the blame has to lay with Segal himself. While you can't fault the guy for getting on in years, you can fault him for mumbling incomprehensibly throughout the film and for giving his character a Cajun accent when he hasn't got the acting ability to pull that off convincingly (it's hard not to laugh when he mutters southern clichés like 'lawd have mercay!'). His decision to use a stunt double instead of simply cranking down the fight scenes to a more believable level results in too many scenes in which we're paying more attention to whose ponytail is on screen rather than watching the fight choreography itself and when the fight scenes in an action movie fail to capture our interest, you know the picture is in trouble...
To the film's credit, flash editing aside, it doesn't look bad. The location shooting gives it a bit more atmosphere than you might imagine and the score is emotive and appropriate. Isaac Hayes is fun in his supporting role and Holly Dignard is nice to look at. Michael Filipowich makes for an enjoyable over the top villain and his performance is enjoyable on a campy level. Unfortunately, none of this can save the picture, however. Kill Switch is riddled with clichés, a bad performance from its lead, and terrible fight scenes.
Kill Switch looks alright on this First Looks Studios DVD release framed at 1.85.1 and enhanced for anamorphic television sets. While there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts, heavy edge enhancement or print damage there are some scenes that look just a bit soft. Shadow detail isn't as strong as it could have been though outdoor and well-lit scenes tend to look quite good. Skin tones look lifelike and accurate and color reproduction is pretty decent. Overall, this isn't a reference quality transfer by any stretch but it's certainly quite adequate, even if it is interlaced.
The movie is presented in a fine English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix with optional subtitles provided in Spanish and closed captioning provided in English. Surrounds are used in the action scenes to give the fight scenes some much needed punch while the more dialogue-centric scenes use the front of the soundscape almost exclusively. Bass response isn't as strong as it could be but you'll notice it when your subwoofer kicks in. The levels are well balanced and there are no problems to report with hiss or distortion. There are a few scenes where Segal's a little mumbled sounding but that's like a problem with his performance rather than with the mix itself. And English 2.0 Stereo track is also included.
Aside from some animated menus and a chapter selection option, the only extra features on this release are the trailer for the feature and previews for a few other First Look Studios DVD releases that are currently available.
Segal's output has been very hit or miss over the last decade or so. Unfortunately, despite a decent presentation from First Look Studios, Kill Switch is a miss. Die hard Segal fans will want to check it out regardless and action movie junkies might consider it as a rental, everyone else can keep on moving...
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.