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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Confessions Of An Action Star
Confessions Of An Action Star
Lightyear Entertainment // Unrated // January 20, 2009
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Bill Gibron | posted April 21, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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The Product:
It's about time to put a moratorium on the mock documentary. You know, the Christopher Guest guided genre that sees "real" events and individuals satirized for the sake of an easy, ironic laugh. Since it first reared its insightful head circa This is Spinal Tap, the notion of taking a well traveled type and tweaking it via improvised recreation has garnered hits (Best in Show, Lollilove, Special Needs), and many, many misses. And like reality programming, it's one of the cheaper forms of filmmaking, especially when you consider the various production shortcuts used. Still, after two decades being deluged with numerous examples of same, the cinematic category appears spent - case in point: Confessions of an Action Star. While genial and quite clever at times, this talking head like look at the rise and fall of a dancer turned steely man of machismo is rife with reasons to believe. It also argues that, in the long litany of movies making fun of certain film aspects, there's little left to discuss.

The Plot:
When he was young, all Frank Sledge wanted to do was dance. His instructor/surrogate mother Samantha thought he would wind up on Broadway, or reviving the musical genre in Hollywood. Instead, Frank becomes one of Chippendale's brightest exotic stars, a showcase that lands him a shot at starring in a low budget b-movie. Unfortunately, the project has nothing to do with dance and everything to do with martial arts and fistfights. Frank is initially awkward and unable to perform. But with the help of friend/choreographer Glen Jeffers, he finds the "rhythm" of the scenes and shoots to stardom. It's not long before fame goes to Frank's head. He starts drinking and gets abusive with the cast and crew of his films. Soon, he's so drunk he can't stand up. Losing everything, he turns to AA for sobriety and to help solve his problems. Slowly, Frank recovers his career, introducing the concept of dance as ass-licking stunt spectacle.

The DVD:
Somewhere around the halfway point, Confessions of an Action Star turns from satiric to somber. It may not have been the intention of the filmmakers, or the real purpose behind the sudden shift over into alcohol and asshole-ism, but when it happens, our good time is more or less destroyed. Before that, we were enjoying the farce, the frequent OMG celebrity cameos, and the hilarious spoofs of such Seagal/Van Damme classics as Above the Law and Under Siege. But when our fake protagonist, the familiarly named Frank Sledge, starts blacking out while on the set of his Rambo rip-off Jimbo, we're no longer laughing. Instead, a weird kind of malaise overtakes the movie and we begin to see the con behind the con artist. For all his good intentions, for all the well meaning motives he tosses at the screen, stuntman turned screenwriter/star David Leitch just can't keep the truth at bay - this was a good 30 minute sketch stretched out to a thin, reedy 90. By expanding it beyond the limits of legitimate parody, he tramples into territory he's incapable of handling correctly or comically.

Indeed, Confessions of an Action Star (which actually got its start as Sledge: The Untold Story, which in turn was a short film) wears out its welcome long before we've tired of the ruse. Nothing needs needling more than the '80s/'90s ideal of cinematic bombast, and with such stunted star power as the Muscles from Brussels in their lampoon sites, Leitch and fellow stuntman turned director Brad Martin had more than enough material. But by turning Sledge into a living, breathing, flawed individual, the duo has forgotten the first rule of comedy - something is only funny until someone gets hurt. In this case, Sledge's fall is so hard, his recovery so painfully embarrassing (getting fired by Brett Ratner? Is that even possible?) that by the time we're visiting AA for the third time, we're done caring. Sure, it was really fun while it lasted. This is the kind of movie where Sean Young can completely redeem herself and Eric Roberts can boast about his drug use and we actually enjoy the enthusiasm. But if we're supposed to find humor in self-loathing and hatred, Confessions fails to offer any.

Still, for what they accomplish, for the number of famous faces they get to play act at being part of the Sledge sphere of influence, Confessions deserves creative kudos. In addition to Young and Roberts, Hugo Weaving makes a brief statement, while Angelina Jolie almost steals the film with her angry actress diva routine. Also excellent are Carrie-Anne Moss, Kelly Hu, and in a wonderful Matrix send-up, Debbie Allen. There are also some "fictional" folk expertly essayed by Dax Shepard, Jon Gries, Sam McMurray, and Farrelly Brothers favorite Lin Shaye. Still, one can't help feel that Confessions of an Action Star is a good idea pushed way beyond the boundaries of entertainment acceptability. It's not meant as a slam against Leitch or Martin, nor is it an attempt to undermine what they've managed to accomplish. It's just that, in a world waiting to marginalize each and every item that comes under into its frame of reference, a film like Confessions of an Action Star needs to be smarter, sassier, and whole lot more insane before everyone gets in on the joke. Until then, what should have been uproarious ends up only mildly amusing.

The Video:
Lightyear Entertainment provides Confessions of an Action Star in a 1.78:1 anamorphic letterboxed image that speaks well for the care taken in the transfer. The different mediums employed by Martin to make the film, including full screen sequences, and frequent switches between celluloid formats makes for an intriguing, highly cinematic end result. The spoofs are handled with expertise and the overall production looks polished and very professional.

The Audio:
The Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 is nothing to write home about - not even with crayons. The dialogue is easily discernible, and the rare musical moments come across with conviction. There is no real use of the channels, and the speakers more or less function as mono transmitters offering the same sonic experience on each side.

The Extras:
Want to know how Confessions of an Action Star came to life? Luckily, Leitch and Martin are on hand for a wonderful full length audio commentary that clarifies many aspects of the film. They are a bit too enamored of their own efforts, but that's to be expected. Elsewhere, we are treated to a marginal making-of that's a bit to "clever" for its attempted overview, and there's also a look at the Sledge short film that started it all. Toss in a trailer and some on-set production photos and you've got a nice complement to the feature film itself.

Final Thoughts: There's a good benchmark for gauging whether or not you will enjoy Confessions of an Action Star. If you believe that the mock doc genre is in desperate need of a rest, if you think every Guest and company cheat is ruining the category's continued comic potential, then by all means, avoid this genial if generic work. It offers some decent laughs and rubbernecking cameos, but that's about it. However, if you believe that there is always room for a comedy that cracks wise at everything Hollywood stands for, then by all means check it out. This critic will combine the sentiments and suggest that Leitch and Martin's pet project earn a Recommended rating, though a rental may be the actual way to go. You can't deny the filmmakers' familiarity with the subject and there are moments when you just can't help but get caught up in the craziness. But Confessions of an Action Star could have been so much better. Instead, it's superficial but fun.

Want more Gibron Goodness? Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here

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