On paper, Blood Of Redemption looks like a B-movie action fan's dream come true. Seriously, look at the cast: Dolph Lundgren, Billy Zane, Vinnie Jones and Robert Davi? That's kind of awesome, right? If nothing else, this should be a lot of fun. It's probably not going to win an Oscar but hey, eighty-five minutes of action with a fun cast is nothing to sneeze at. Unfortunately director's Giorgio Serafini and Shawn Sourgose screw up pretty much everything that they possibly can.
The story, such as it is, is a mess. When the film begins we meet a man who is yammering on about his past to a pretty woman. From here we learn that the man is Axel (Dolph Lundgren), and that he worked as an insanely loyal body guard for a mafia family lead by Sergio Forte (Robert Miano). When he is no longer able to take advantage of the protection that was once offered him, he decides to call it quits in the crime business and wants his sons, Quinn (Billy Zane) and Kurt (Gianni Capaldi), to follow suit. Kurt wants to be a boxer but for some reason winds up joining the FBI. Quinn, on the other hand, doesn't intend to give up the family business any time soon.
Enter an English mobster named Hayden (Robert Davi… seriously), an associate of the family. His nephew, Campbell (Vinnie Jones), has just arrived in the states and is looking to get in on some of this. Soon enough, he and Quinn launch a heist but before the two can make their escape, Quinn gets nabbed by the fuzz. He goes to jail for a year or two or three, it's kind of unclear, and while he's away, his father is shot and his brother works his way up the FBI ladder. Axel, on the other hand, has been trying to figure out who killed his boss. And then there's Loryn (Jelly Howie), the pretty young thing who we thought was interested in Kurt but may have actually been Quinn's girl all along. She's screwing Campbell who has moved into the family home and taken over the business running counterfeit money laundered through a Russian guy named Boris (Massi Furlan). When Quinn gets out of jail, he too wants to know who killed his father and set things right, but Campbell isn't about to just hand over control any time soon and before you know it, loyalties are tested, Axel gets into a fight with a dominatrix while a half-naked woman lies chained to a wall beside him and a lot of people get shot.
This is one of those movies where, at certain times during its eight-five minute run, the camera zooms in on the face of an actor and computer graphics spell out their names in big, bold block letters for no reason. This is a movie where most, though not all, of the story is told in flashback. This is a movie where a man's FBI file is kept in paper format only and there's only a single version of it (so you can light it on fire and disappear). This is a movie where a man trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle uses a bulletin board, push pins and red string to sort it all out, while his laptop sits unused on a desk a few feet away. There's no sense of logic here, no care for narrative flow and a complete disregard for common sense. Do you want a scene where an FBI agent sees the bad guys, calls it in, is told not to go in alone and then goes in alone anyway? That's here too. Want some betrayals and backstabbing that was obviously intended to serve as a plot twist but which is telegraphed so early on in the movie that it serves not to enhance suspense but to enhance predictability? Yeah, lots of that here too.
The movie is reasonably well shot and it does make use of some interesting camera angles but the post production work is painful. There are way too many instances of a fast moving action scene suddenly erupting into slow motion for a few seconds before finishing back in real time and for what reason? Style over substance is the only obvious answer but this has been done to death and it doesn't make the movie look any cooler. On top of that, it looks like every single muzzle flash and every single bullet hit has been done digitally. So the firefights in the movie and the carnage that they cause wind up looking like a cut scene from a video game. That's not good.
So what is there to like about the movie? Well, Jelly Howie certainly is a very attractive woman and her performance here is decent enough. Not only does she get naked, as does every single other female in the movie aside from one random cop, but she manages to make her characters lightly more interesting than some of her co-stars. Vinnie Jones plays Vinnie Jones, the guy is amusing enough but he has less range than Jason Statham and like his fellow Brit he seems to wind up playing the same character in every movie. Robert Davi has some serious trouble with his character's British accent, it slips in and out completely at random and as great as Davi can be, his work here is pretty awful. What about Billy Zane? He's okay. There's nothing memorable about his turn here but he doesn't embarrass himself. Gianni Capaldi, who kind of looks distractingly like David Schwimmer, handles himself well in the fight scenes and his thesping is perfectly acceptable, just unremarkable. That leaves Dolph. Though top billed, his role here is more of a supporting effort even if he is the character that bridges all of this together. Dolph is fun in almost everything he does, he's got a goofy charm and some legitimate charisma and while this is very far removed from his best work, he's enjoyable enough in the picture. He's just not used enough to save it.
Blood Of Redemption is framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The transfer is fine. Shot on digital video there are no print damage issues to note and the image is crisp and clean. Some of the darker scenes don't show the greatest shadow detail but there are no problems with compression artifacts to note nor is there any obvious edge enhancement. Detail is generally pretty good, close up shots showing off Davi's craggy looking face rather well whenever he's on screen and the image is strong enough that if you're bored and need something to do you could probably count Dolph's stubble. Skin looks nice and natural, colors are well produced and all in all the movie looks pretty good.
The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is decent enough. There are scenes where there isn't quite as much surround activity as you might expect but the rears are used well in a few of the action sequences to spread out the sound effects. Dialogue stays clear throughout and the levels are nicely balanced. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion, nor should there be with such a recent movie. Bass response is strong enough to make you take notice even if it won't blow your doors off and the score sounds alright. Optional English closed captioning is provided.
Extras are slim, limited to a trailer and an eleven minute behind the scenes featurette. We get a few brief interview snippets with Dolph and a few of the other cast members and some footage shot on set, but this isn't particularly deep. Menus and chapter stops are also included and as this is a combo pack release, we get a DVD version of the movie with the same extras as well. Both discs fit inside a Blu-ray case that in turn fits inside a slip case.
While the Blu-ray release of Blood Of Redemption looks and sounds just fine, the movie itself just isn't very good. Dolph's likeable enough in his role but the storyline is really just a series of one bad action movie cliché after the next. Add to that Davi's horrible accent, CGI muzzle flashes, horrible editing and a plot that fails to stand out. There are a couple of good fights in here and a few moderately amusing action scenes, but this one amounts to a whole lot of wasted potential. Rent it if you're a fan of any of the main cast members and need to see it for yourself, otherwise, as hard as it is to write this, you can skip it.
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.