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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Urban Justice
Urban Justice
Sony Pictures // R // November 13, 2007
List Price: $24.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted November 1, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

In this latest straight to video action film to star Steven Seagal, the aging Akido master plays Simon Ballister, whose son was a cop recently killed in the line of duty. When the L.A.P.D. writes it off as a random shooting and doesn't effectively follow the incident with much of an investigation, Ballister takes it upon himself to avenge his son's death and bring his killers to justice.

With his mind set on vengeance, Ballister packs it all up and moves into the heart of Compton. While this might not be the safest idea for most middle aged white dudes, Ballister is a former special forces agent who is not only handy with a gun, but deadly with his fists! In short, he can handle himself. At any rate, it doesn't take Ballister long to get involved in a brawl with a few local gangsters. This puts him on their radar and before you know it they're gunning for him while he's gunning for them. Ballister is grossly outnumbered and the gang has ties to the police that Ballister didn't know about but he's fueled by vengeance and won't go down without a fight.

As predictable as you'd probably expect it to be, Urban Justice is pretty much a by the numbers affair that brings nothing new to the action genre at all. The characters are all clich├ęs and stereotypes and the dialogue is contrived and at times it sounds pretty forced. That said, those who have seen Seagal's recent DTV output will be happy to know that he does bring more to the film this time around than he has for the last few years. Gone is the horrible dubbing (a few of his efforts featured someone else performing his dialogue!) and there aren't nearly as many obvious stunt doubles or stand-ins seen in the action scenes. In fact, the action scenes are actually pretty good and surprisingly violent. Seagal shows more enthusiasm here than he has in his last five films combined and while that still places him firmly in the Chuck Norris School Of Non-Acting, it's nice to see him at least put in some effort.

A few moments of humor (mostly related to Eddie Griffin's supporting role) lighten things up now and then but for the most part, for better or worse, this film is played straight. It does hurt the film when Seagal starts speaking like an urban street thug, as he's just not the least bit convincing when he does this, but when it's time for the shoot outs or the hand to hand combat scenes the film does rise to the occasion. Plenty of bones are broken and squibs aplenty provide no small amount of controlled carnage. There's no doubt that middle age hasn't been all that kind to Seagal but he carries himself better here than he has in his other recent endeavors and Urban Justice, while far from a great film in any way, is enough of a return to form that his fans should enjoy it. It's not original, it's poorly written, and there's no suspense whatsoever but Seagal does show up and look cool in a 'Fat Elvis' sort of way while busting a whole lot of heads.

The DVD:

Video:

The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on this DVD is decent, but a little too far from perfect for such a recent film. Color reproduction looks good and flesh tones look lifelike and natural but there are some mild compression artifacts noticeable in the blacks throughout the film and grain is a little heavier than you'd probably expect. Print damage isn't really a problem, you might notice a speck or two on the image but that's about it, though some edge enhancement does creep its way into the frame. Urban Justice is certainly perfectly watchable but there's room for improvement here.

Sound:

Audio options are provided in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound in English, Thai, Spanish and Portuguese while a French dub is included in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. Subtitles are here in English, Korean, Thai, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese and French while, closed captioning is provided in English only.

The English 5.1 Surround Sound mix is pretty solid. Rears are used for the score as well as for directional effects during the action scenes with most of the dialogue coming from the front of the mix. Levels are properly balanced and dialogue is always easy to hear and follow. There are a couple of quieter moments in the film where things are just slightly muffled but this isn't common and it only happens a few times. In the end this is a fairly aggressive track that helps bring the action scenes to life nicely.

Extras:

Aside from some static menus and a dozen or so trailers for other action films available on DVD from Sony, this release is completely barebones and there are no other extra features to be found.

Final Thoughts:

The action scenes in Urban Justice aren't bad but the story is predictable even if Seagal does better here in the action scenes than he has in his last few efforts. That said, the film is entertaining if you don't mind turning your brain off and Sony's presentation at least looks alright and sounds quite good. Those who like their action films cheap and sloppy should enjoy the picture - rent 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.

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