Based on the novel by Franz-Olivier Giesbert and originally known as L'Immortel, director Richard Berry's 2010 film 22 Bullets stars Jean Reno as a man named Charly Matteï. No longer the young man he once was, in recent times he's left his life of crime behind him and decided to spend more time being a husband to his wife and a father to his two children in Marseilles. Shortly after the movie begins, Charly is the victim of an assassination attempt when a gang of masked gunmen pump twenty-two bullets into his body and shoot his dog dead.
Charly is whisked off to the hospital as quickly as possible and the doctors remove the bullets from his bloodied body. Against the odds, he doesn't die in the hospital bed and begins to make a quick and steady recovery. While in the hospital he receives a visit from an old underworld associate from his past named Tony Zacchia (Kad Merad) who promises to find the men responsible for the hit and to get revenge for what they did to his friend but before he can do that, a second attempt is made on Charly's life, this time in the hospital. Soon enough, Charly makes it out of the hospital and when he does, his old right hand man, Karim (Moussa Maaskri), helps him figure out who was really behind the assassination attempts: Tony. Karim urges Charly to take him out before it's too late but before they can get too far with that, Karim is murdered. A cop named Detective Marie Goldman (Marina Fois) starts working the case and trying to put together the pieces of this puzzle while Charly finally goes on the war path against those who tried to take his life and killed his friend.
Berry and his team aren't out to bring you the most original action film ever made, in fact if there's one obvious criticism you could levy at the picture it's that it is actually pretty unoriginal, but damn it all if they don't make 22 Bullets a whole lot of fun to watch. It's a tightly paced thriller with a couple of twists thrown into the storyline, some more obvious and predictable than others, and it makes great use of some Marseilles locations, showcasing both the city's beauty and it's rather sordid underbelly in interesting ways. The cinematography is slick and pleasing to the eye and the production values strong throughout. In short, the movie looks great, though it does tend to use a ‘cooler' color scheme more often than not and as such, it's use of color is a little on the limited side.
Leading man Jean Reno is in fine form here. He's perfectly cast as the aging man who has tried to leave his ignoble past behind him but who is, of course, begrudgingly pulled back into things. Reno's world weary appearance suits him well in this picture, and his ability to be simultaneously kind and intimidating gives his character an appropriately interesting dichotomy. He loves his family and doesn't want to get pulled back into old habits but when he's given no choice those old habits serve him well and he proves an effective instrument of vengeance. The rest of the cast are also quite good here, with Marina Fois in particular delivering an interesting performance and Kad Merad doing a fine job as the deceitful Zacchia but it's Reno's show for the most part, he's the one you really come to this movie to watch.
A concrete action with enough healthy doses of drama to make for some strong character development, 22 Bullets makes for good, suspenseful and exciting entertainment. It's not deep and it's not all that novel but it is very well done.
22 Bullets arrives on Blu-ray framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The quality of the image is very good, there's plenty of detail evident throughout and very nice color reproduction. Black levels and skin tones are nice and natural looking and while the image leans towards a darker, cooler color scheme, there are some moments where the brighter colors really pop. Darker scenes are free of any major compression artifacts or noticeable crush and the image remains strong and stable throughout the movie. This is quite a good transfer, detail is obvious and evident not just in close up shots but medium and even some long distance shots as well, texture too.
Cinedigm has included one audio option for this release, a French language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, with optional subtitles provided in English and French SDH. This track makes great use of the rear channels in a few of the more active scenes. The score is also placed very effectively throughout the movie, rising up behind you more than once to help add atmosphere and tension to the proceedings. The track also features crisp, clear dialogue and properly balanced levels and demonstrate solid bass, meaning when gun shots go off, there's some solid kick to them. No problems with any hiss or distortion to report either. All in all, the audio quality here is very good.
The main extra on the disc is a Director's Video Commentary in which Berry sits in front of a camera and talks about the movie. Behind the scenes clips are occasionally used to illustrate various points that he makes as he talks about the look of the movie, Reno's character and his penchant for silence, and some of the themes that run throughout the movie. This is basically an interview that runs the length of the movie. Oddly enough it plays as a separate feature and not as a picture-in-picture option, which is kind of odd. Some pre-production and planning illustrations are also used here and there in addition to the BTS footage but most of this is the director talking to the camera. The content is decent, but this would have likely worked better as a PIP track or an audio commentary.
We also get a twenty six minute featurette that covers the making of the movie by way of some decent behind the scenes footage and some fairly superfluous talking head style interviews with the cast and crew. It's decent enough but definitely on the superficial/promotional side, it never gets too deep.
Menus and chapter selection are also included and as this is a combo pack release, inside the case you'll also find a DVD version of the movie featuring identical extras.
22 Bullets is a rock solid action thriller with a strong lead performance from the eternally likeable Jean Reno. It's tense, it's exciting and it moves at a good pace and showcases plenty of visual style. Director Richard Berry isn't reinventing the wheel here and it's not the most original picture you're ever going to see but it's good stuff just the same. The quality of the picture on this Blu-ray release from Cinedigm is quite good and while the format of the primary extra is a bit unorthodox, the context of both the ‘video commentary' and the featurettes are interesting enough. Recommended.
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.