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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Knights of Badassdom (Blu-ray)
Knights of Badassdom (Blu-ray)
Entertainment One // R // April 1, 2014 // Region A
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted April 1, 2014 | E-mail the Author
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A bunch of LARPers square off against a succubus accidentally summoned from the bowls of Hell.
 
Joe Lynch -- the man behind what might be the greatest splatter-comedy of the past ten years -- is over there in the director's chair.
 
I mean, look at the cover: Summer Glau (Firefly), Danny Pudi (Community), Jimmi Simpson (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), and Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage rocking chainmail armor and a big-ass sword. Steve Zahn too, although I don't know what geek-cred thing to put in a parenthetical next to his name.

On paper, anyway, I don't even need a review of Knights of Badassdom. Any one of the things in that laundry list would convince me to fork over my credit card, and you can count how many boxes have been checked off up there. That's why it's such a drag that Knights of Badassdom just...doesn't work. This is one of those movies that wasn't released so much as it eventually escaped. Filming wrapped all the way back in 2010. The first teaser trailer got a hell of a reaction online and in its big Hall H debut at Comic Con the following summer. After that, though...? Radio silence. Several years straight of a whole lotta nothing, up until word leaked out that the movie had been taken away from Joe Lynch, with one of the producers seizing hold and cobbling together his own edit instead. You'll still see Lynch's name in the credits and everything, but by all accounts, this stopped being anything resembling his movie quite a long time ago.

Before I fall too far down that rabbit hole, though, maybe I should say more than sixteen words about the plot here. Joe (Ryan Kwanten) has turned his back on black metal sludge metal doom metal, grabbing that B.C. Rich Warlock and plinking away through tears at his very first power ballad. The guy's stinging from the most brutal breakup of his life, and Hung (Peter Dinklage) and Eric (Steve Zahn) know just what to do to get their pal's spirits back up. You know, they get him ferociously stoned, dress his totally unconscious body up in battle armor, and dump him in the back of a van. Before Joe blacked out, he was just another schlub in some suburban whatever, but here, in the Fields of Evermore...? He's a legend. Kind of. Joe never got into the whole live action role-play thing, but there are those who still sing songs about his AD&D days, so he settles into the foam sword fantasy and dime store costumed monkey battles quickly enough. When life gives you +1 lemons, you might as well make +3 lemonade. Doesn't hurt that super-foxy Gwen (Summer Glau) is fighting by Joe's side either.

The whole thing is just the distraction Joe needs to get his mind off Beth (Margarita Levieva). Way to go, guys! You get a gold star. ...or, well, you would if Eric weren't so obsessed with clawing his way up to being a level 27 wizard. Armed with some ancient tome he picked up on eBay, Eric mimes a reanimation spell to bring Joe into the game, and instead he accidentally summons a succubus from the most fiery pits of the netherworld. To add insult to injury, the she-bitch takes the form of Joe's newly-minted ex. These guys are swinging around foam swords and lobbing golf ball lightning spells, and they have no clue that they're in the
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crosshairs of USDA Grade A demonic hellspawn.

The cast and crew brag a few times in the extras about how Knights of Badassdom is a head-on collision of horror, comedy, and fantasy, and it's pretty much the worst of all those worlds. Its sense of humor doesn't really score much of a laugh, initially leaning too heavily on sub-Grandma's Boy stoner comedy before settling into poking fun at the low-rent LARP battlefields. I appreciate that Knights of Badassdom doesn't mug for the camera and doesn't go for big, broad gags. It's smirking and silly more than anything else, and the cast -- especially MVP Jimmi Simpson -- are able to elevate the material somewhat. While all of that definitely has its charm, we at the end of the day are talking about a comedy that's just not all that funny. Knights of Badassdom eventually tries to mash together the splatter-comedy of Evil Dead 2 with the fantasy/adventure of Army of Darkness. It's a thrill to see so much practical effects work on-screen, especially the Abominog beastie once the climax rolls around, but all that's surrounded by a bunch of sloppy, unconvincing, underfunded CGI. There's no real intensity to any of the more horror-oriented elements, and the splatter isn't as batshit-demented as I would've liked, even though a lot of the red stuff gets sloshed around. Knights of Badassdom isn't timid about slaughtering the bigger marquee draws, although many of the characters are so thinly sketched that watching 'em get hacked to ribbons gets less of a reaction than you might think. There's a lot I like about the gruesome battle royale that makes up the climax as well as the demon's drop-D denouement that follows; it's just not enough to salvage how much of a slog it is to get there.

Aargh. I wish I could've seen Joe Lynch's cut of Knights of Badassdom, although reports conflict as to whether or not he was able to even finish his version. Even if I were to wind up panning the director's cut, I'd at least feel like I was reviewing the right
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movie. There's just not a lot to praise about this who-knows-how-compromised re-edit, squandering a ridiculously brilliant premise, a director I'm desperate to see more of, and its nerdsplosion casting. I didn't even get to complain about the chintzy intertitles (generic red text with some After Effects outer glow applied) or the painfully low rent epilogue, pairing walls of throwback joke-y text with still photos of the cast. I don't want to make it sound like Knights of Badassdom is torturously unwatchable dreck or anything, but it's awfully mediocre, and considering the staggering volume of stuff that the movie has going for it...again, I say "aargh". Rent It.


Video
Knights of Badassdom looks okay in high-def. You can tell with a quick glance that you're lookin' at 1080p video here and all, but the scope image is often a bit softer than I'd expect. Black levels are pretty underwhelming too -- disappointing for a flick mostly shot at night -- leaving the whole thing looking kind of flat. I get the sense that this is more of an issue with the way Knights of Badassdom was shot rather than any hiccups with the authoring of this Blu-ray disc, but whatever. Keep your expectations in check.

Tech specs lightning round! BD-50 disc. 1080p24 video. 2.39:1 aspect ratio. AVC encode.


Audio
The disc's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track gets that same sort of "eh, whatever" shrug. For whatever it's worth, Knights of Badassdom gets the 16-bit treatment rather than the more traditional 24-bit you're usually treated to with movies fresh out of theaters. The lossless audio doesn't deliver that level of distinctness and clarity that Blu-ray discs generally spoil me with...y'know, where you feel like you can clearly pick out each and every individual sound in the mix. It doesn't exactly engulf the room with sound either. Still, dialogue is balanced nicely, and there aren't any dropouts, clicks, pops, hiss, or clipping to get in the way. The rear channels and subwoofer score a passable amount of attention, from a couple of paintball barrages all the way to a demon's hellish snarl. The 5.1 thing is generally pretty modest and front-heavy, yeah, but at least the
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other channels aren't a complete afterthought. One thing that disappointed me is how limp the bursts of metal are. The percussion, especially in the finalé, doesn't thunder the way it should, and the chugging guitars are awfully meek. I guess they're dialed down to make the vocals stand out more, but that severely blunts the overall impact of Bear McCreary's rather badass music. Just wish the mix would bare its fangs more.

A Dolby Digital 5.1 track (640kbps) is riding shotgun. The only other audio option is a set of English (SDH) subs.


Extras
  • Promotional Stuff (7 min.; HD): It looks like there are a whole lotta bullet points on the menu and the flipside of the case, but most of Knight of Badassdom's extras are super-short YouTube-style clips, clocking in right at a minute a pop. There are quick promotional interviews with Peter Dinklage, Summer Glau, and Steve Zahn, although I'm pretty sure the Knights... excerpts in 'em are longer than the talking head interviews. For whatever reason, Glau's is labeled a "hottie montage", but it's the same fluffy-interview-plus-clips format as the other two. There are also a couple of "Horr-o-medy" behind-the-scenes microfeaturettes leaning more towards the practical effects end of things. With a combined runtime of two minutes, don't expect much.

  • Joe Lynch Interview (7 min.; SD): This conversation with director Joe Lynch is the only extra in the set to be dished out in standard definition. Lynch briefly chats about the element of wish fulfillment, his lifelong passion for horror and practical effects, and honoring LARP rather than skewering it.

  • San Diego Comic Con Panel (49 min.; HD): The meatiest of the disc's extras is nearly every minute of the hour-long SDCC panel from 2011. (It's a little shorter because the clips from the movie have been rightly yanked out.) Just about everyone has piled into Hall H: director Joe Lynch and actors Ryan Kwanten, Jimmi Simpson, Margarita Levieva, Summer Glau, Michael Gladis, Danny Pudi, and -- yup! -- Peter Dinklage. Steve Zahn is the only really notable omission. Among the highlights of this pretty terrific panel are Dinklage's prowess with the mighty foam sword, turning to the LARP Alliance for authenticity and support, the energy on the set from real-life LARPers that trekked in from all over the country, and the reveal that Hung was originally written as a 6'4" fat Asian dude rather than...y'know, Peter Dinklage. Well-worth the couple of clicks on
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    your remote to give 'er a look.

  • Trailer (3 min.; HD): Last up is a high-def trailer.

Oh, and Knights of Badassdom comes packaged in a straightahead slipcover. Best Buy has an exclusive DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, while the regular retail copies are Blu-ray only.


The Final Word
Hell of a cast. Hell of a premise. Hell of a director. I don't know how Joe Lynch's cut would've played before the movie was snatched out of his hands, but this producer's edit of Knights of Badassdom doesn't come close to living up to all that promise. Rent It.


Wanna Get It for Free?
Unless you're reading this review way after the contest has ended, DVD Talk and Entertainment One are giving away five copies of Knights of Badassdom on DVD. The giveaway copies aren't on Blu-ray, no, but "free" has gotta count for something.
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