Okay, where do we start with this one.... Wrong Side Of Town stars former WWE superstar Rob Van Damme as an ex-Navy SEAL named Bobby Kalinowski who apparently makes a good living as a landscape architect. When we meet him, he's using his chainsaw to cut a log up while his wife, Dawn (Lara Grice), sunbathes on the deck and his foxy teenage daughter, Brianna (Brooke Frost), goofs around in the pool. Just after Brianna puzzlingly decides to freak her parents out by pretending to have drowned, the smiley black dude who has just moved in next door, Clay Freeman (Edrick Browne), stops by to introduce himself and borrow a hammer. It seems Clay's wife, Elise (Ava Santana), insists he hang up the wedding pictures before doing anything else. At any rate, before you can say unlikely friends the two couples have gone out for a night on the town to a restaurant/nightclub called The Maya where one of Clay's clients, a Jewish mobster named Seth Bordas (Jerry Katz) runs the show. He comps their dinner and heads out to take care of some business, leaving his cokehead younger brother, Ethan (Ross Britz) in charge in his absence. When Dawn heads out to use the ladies room, Ethan takes a liking to her and forces her back to the office to do some blow. She resists and so he basically tries to rape her but before he gets his way, Bobby busts through the door. A fight ensues, and Ethan falls on his own knife and dies.
With his brother now dead, Seth decides to put a bounty of a hundred grand out on Bobby's head. After leaving the police station, he and his three travelling companions get accosted at a gas station where Bobby has to fight a gang (lead by the film's director, David DeFalco). They make it out alive and head for home, but Bobby knows there's going to be trouble so he goes to pay a visit to an old friend of his named Big Ronnie (Dave Bautista, a.k.a. Batista - a current WWE superstar). You see, Bobby saved Big Ronnie's life back in whatever war it was they served in together, and he figures he owes him a favor. Ronnie runs a nudie bar and hangs out with a topless Stormy Daniels and is hurt by the fact that Bobby never comes around anymore. He refuses to help and sends him on his way, but has a change of heart and shows up with a couple of submachine guns just in time to save Bobby as he's being accosted by another gang (one of the gang members is played by Ja Rule). Bobby heads for home, finds Dawn gagged and Brianna missing - it seems she's been taken hostage, but at least the fiends had the good sense to tell Dawn where they were taking her. Bobby suits up like Rambo, complete with boot lacing and knife sheathing, puts on his sunglasses (and then takes them off) to hop on his chopper, drive on down to the pier and save his little girl from the evil gang of racial and ethnic stereotypes that have been such a pain in his ass these last few hours. But is he tough enough to do it alone?
From the low budget James Bond style credits to the completely awkward looking scenes where Batista does weird martial arts this is a bad movie fan's dream come true. So wooden is the acting from Van Damme in this film (he makes Don 'The Dragon' Wilson look charismatic) that it becomes almost hypnotic, particularly when he's surrounded by people who have no problem whatsoever going completely over the top. Written and directed with an amazing vapidity by David DeFalco, the guy who gave us Chaos (and who did a video interview in a morgue with a chain around his neck and who got into an odd online war with Roger Ebert), it's a film so completely ignorant of its shortcomings that you can't help but root for it. It's remarkably cliché ridden, entirely predictable, and wholly preposterous and for these very reasons very watchable in spite of itself.
Set to a wonky metal soundtrack and featuring all sorts of awesome racial stereotypes, this is a movie that's about as subtle and careful as a kick to the balls. It doesn't waste time with things like character development or background information, it simply zips us along from one goofy set piece to the next but at least it does so quickly and with enough frequent violence to keep us distracted from its many obvious shortcomings. Anyone going into this one expecting a masterpiece shouldn't be allowed to watch it. You can tell from the cover art (which misrepresents Batista's involvement in the film to a very large degree) that this is going to be dumb, and it is. But sometimes dumb is fun. Despite its obvious low budget, despite its paper thin characters, clichés and stereotypes and despite its predictability there is plenty of entertainment to be had here, though most of it for all the wrong reasons.
Wrong Side Of Town stumbles its way onto Blu-ray in a decidedly unremarkable 1.85.1 AVC encoded 1080p anamorphic widescreen transfer. While this has to look better than the standard definition release that Lionsgate is putting out on the same day, this isn't reference quality material by any stretch. Frequent ringing is easy to spot and the digitally shot production often looks a bit harsh in terms of its black levels which frequently fluctuate between fairly strong and fairly murky. You'll notice a fair bit of detail in facial close ups but a lot of times texture seems fairly flat and unremarkable. Color reproduction is about average, but darker scenes show some compression artifacts and video noise. Skin tones look good for the most part, but there's really nothing here to write home about.
The singular audio track on this disc is a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix with optional subtitles provided in English, English SDH and Spanish. This really isn't all that more exciting than your basic stereo track. It's very front heavy and rear channels are only noticeable a few times throughout the movie. Bass response is limp and gun shots lack punch. The track is well balanced and the dialogue is generally easy to understand but the rap and metal soundtrack doesn't really kick like you'd expect it to.
Lionsgate has wrangled up four short featurettes for the extra features section, the first of which is Set Life With Rob Van Damme and it's basically a look at what the wrestler did on set and how he passed his time. Interviews With The Stars lets the cast talk about working together on the picture while Stunts With Rob Van Damme shows how he did all of his own stunt work for the movie. These three are presented in high definition while the fourth and final featurette, Kali Training With David Bautista, Marrese Crump And Oscar Lugo, which is a nice look at the fight choreography, is in standard definition. Combined, these four featurettes run just shy of sixteen minutes, so none of them are particularly substantial.
Rounding out the extras are a trailer for the feature and previews for other Lionsgate Blu-ray action film releases (all in HD), some menus, and chapter selection.
Wrong Side Of Town is a pretty horrible movie no matter how you slice it, but it's got a really dumb sense of fun to it that'll probably appeal to a certain b-action lovin' demographic and if you fall into that category, you'll get a kick out of it. That said, if you're not in that group, you have been warned and will probably want to stay far, far away. The unimpressive video and audio don't help matters much even if there are a few mediocre extras thrown in.
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.