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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Riot (Blu-ray)
Riot (Blu-ray)
Universal // R // April 5, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted April 8, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Written and directed by John Lyde in 2015, Riot stars Matthew Reese as a cop named Jack Stone who is tossed into a maximum security prison for his part in a large scale bank robbery. Jack was a good cop, why would he get involved with something like that? Well, inside that same prison is interred a man named Balam (Chuck Liddell), a Russian mob boss who just so happens to be responsible for the death of Jack's wife. He does all of his dirty work from inside the prison but is so well connected on the outside it's as if his imprisonment has had no ill effect on his operation at all. Jack knows this, and so he staged the robbery to get himself inside and in turn get closer to the man he wants to kill in return for what was done to him.

Once Jack is on the inside he quickly runs afoul of various guards, a few of whom are definitely on Balam's payroll, and of Balam's various thugs. Fights are common place but Jack can defend himself. His only friend seems to be a slow inmate named William (Dolph Lundgren) who spends most of his time hiding from the chaos and working as a janitor. Meanwhile, on the other side of the prison in the women's' facility, a beautiful inmate named Alena (Danielle Chuchran) finds herself in hot water with some of her fellow prisoners. As the story plays out and Jack gets closer to his target, these different plotlines intersect all while Jack does everything he can to ensure he gets his revenge.

Riot isn't a work of startling originality but it is a decent prison-based B-grade action movie. As predictable as it might be, and it's pretty predictable, there's enough entertainment to be had from watching it all play out to appease less demanding action movie fans. The highlights, as you'd probably expect, are the fight scenes and the titular riot that takes place in the last half hour or so of the movie. There are a few minor skirmishes with Reese taking on various guards (all of whom wear body armor and black hockey masks on the inside!) but it's the bigger brawls that stand out. Reese can hold his own in front of the camera and makes for a pretty decent action hero in the movie. UFC fighter Chuck Liddell is no slouch here either. His moves are authentic and legitimate and he makes a pretty serious impression once the gloves come off and it's time to get down to business. His Russian accent isn't always convincing, but it's not too hard to look past it. Danielle Chuchran is also a bit of a bad ass here, she's fast, lean and mean and knows how to take a punch as well as land one. And then there's Lundgren. He's got more of a supporting role here despite the fact that he's top billed and placed front and center on the cover art, but he's fun to watch. He has less to do in the action scenes than the other cast members but when he's allowed to do his thing, he does it well, even if he's underused and his part in the film is (intentionally) overstated on the packaging for this release.

The pacing is decent. The movie goes at a pretty good clip, throwing in very little in the way of actual character development but supplanting that with enough tough as nails fisticuffs to compensate. Production values won't floor you. There are obvious stock footage inserts used every once in a while to give you the impression that the prison is situated in a big city. At one point the Queensboro Bridge is shown so maybe this is New York? The movie never makes it all that clear but it almost doesn't matter! With almost all of story unfolding in the prison, this movie doesn't need to really show off anything aside from the prison interiors and it does that well enough. The score is completely generic and unremarkable but the fight choreography and camera work that captures it is all done fairly well.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Riot hits Blu-ray from Universal Studios in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition 1.78.1 widescreen transfer. Shot digitally, there's obviously no print damage. Detail is good for and color reproduction is fine, the hot interiors of the prison are fairly drab but the orange jumpsuits pop against those drab interiors nicely. Black levels are decent and shadow detail isn't bad either. There are no obvious problems with edge enhancement or compression artifacts.

Sound:

The only audio option on this set is an English language DTs-HD 5.1 mix. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The movie features plenty of rowdy fight scenes and so we get a lot of rear channel and surround activity throughout. The low end offers up some nice rumble to anchor the action without burying the performers while the dialogue stays clean, clear and always discernible. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion anywhere in the mix. Some of the quieter moments offer up some nice subtle background details here and there but where the mix is at its best is during the more intense moments of the movie.

Extras:

Aside from a few trailers for unrelated films that play before the main menus load, there are no extras, though chapter selection is available off of the main menu. The disc comes packaged with a cardboard slipcover and includes an insert card inside with a download code redeemable for an HD download of the feature,.

Final Thoughts:

Riot is formulaic and generic but so too is it well paced. Fans of low budget action movies and Lundgren devotees will appreciate this more than the average movie buff but the fight scenes are plentiful and handled quite well. Universal's Blu-ray is barebones and offers no real extras features but it looks and sounds just fine. This is entertaining enough that it's worth a rental, even if it's hard to recommend it as a blind buy.

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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