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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Rolling Vengeance (Blu-ray)
Rolling Vengeance (Blu-ray)
Kino // R // October 17, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Tyler Foster | posted November 15, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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Back when Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's double feature homage Grindhouse came out, one popular comment made by film geeks was that Tarantino's Death Proof was a more accurate imitation of exploitation films than Rodriguez's Planet Terror because a large chunk of the movie is basically just people sitting around talking, presumably because the filmmakers who made those original features only had so much cash to blow on a spectacular finale, and the rest was all padding. Whether that's the truth overall or not, it's certainly true of the Canadian exploitation film Rolling Vengeance, which sounds like a winner on paper, but is hard to sit through in execution.

The film follows Joey Rosso (Don Michael Paul) and his father, Big Joe Rosso (Lawrence Dane). Big Joe is teaching Joey the ropes in the long-haul trucking business, introducing Joey to his client list, and, as the film opens, letting him deliver a shipment all by himself. Big Joe is as excited to turn his business into a family affair as Joey is for the responsibilities, but that excitement is tempered when Joey's first run ends with him damaging a few liquor boxes belonging to his dad's most disagreeable and disreputable clients. Tiny Doyle (Ned Beatty) is the owner of a local dive bar/strip club, and his sons are reckless drunks who like to taunt people out on the road. Although the initial cost is just a few cases of Jack Daniels, the conflict between Tiny's family and the Russos quickly escalates into an all-out war. Over the course of 90 minutes, several bodies will pile up, Joey's girlfriend Misty (Lisa Howard) will be brutally gang-raped, and Joey will attempt to settle the score in a two-ton monster truck of his own design.

Yes, yes, that sounds kind of incredible -- and this is before pointing out that the monster truck spews fire. Unfortunately, said monster truck, the obvious hook for the movie, does not show up until almost an hour the aforementioned 90 minutes. That hour is a real mood-killer, an extended and brutal slog through what feels like a neverending series of tortures designed to really force the viewer to root for Joey's eventual payback. It wouldn't be a surprise to learn that exploitation fans don't mind it when movies like this wallow in cruelty on their way to exaggerated action, but Rolling Vengeance is almost too effective at pummeling the viewer with Joey's misery at the death of his mother, child sisters, and his father. The film even throws on Misty's brutal rape fifteen minutes after Joey's first rampage with the monster truck, a scene that plays as so mean-spirited it's hard not to turn the movie off.

In addition to the oddly effective way in which director Steven H. Stern plays the drama of the violence being inflicted upon Joey and his family, there's also the fact that Don Michael Paul is simply not a very good actor, and he's up against Ned Beatty, who is milking every bit of slimy effectiveness out of his sleazy, hick asshole character. The conflict is wildly unbalanced, with Beatty providing a rich and effective figure for the audience to hate, while Paul stands around pouting or whining somewhat helplessly. Not only is Stern good at making the viewer want to see Tiny Doyle get squashed or killed, he can't make it feel like Joey is ever going to get the job done.

By the time the film gets to the monster truck action, it's already a case of "too little, too late," but to make matters worse, the one thing Stern isn't good at is the truck action. While there is some truly incredible stuntwork in the movie (the highlight being a shot where the Joey's towering, boxy monstrosity leans up in the air and brings its front wheels down on a van that visibly contains a living, breathing stuntman), Stern doesn't have any idea what makes for an exciting angle, how to built tension, or any sense of payoff. After hours of maudlin, depressing drama, the audience is desperate to see some gory deaths, but Rolling Vengeance doesn't offer a single one. Instead, Stern films everything flat and straightforward, and frequently cuts to frustrating slow motion to get detail on destruction that is not interesting enough to be worth zooming in on. The final showdown is a complete miss: not only is nobody driving the monster truck, but it isn't even between Joey and Tiny, but rather a ticking clock where Misty's life hangs in the balance. Between the punishing misery and flat action, Rolling Vengeance belongs on the junk heap.

The Blu-ray
Kino Lorber presents Rolling Vengeance in a single disc Blu-ray edition featuring illustrated poster artwork which predictably oversells the monster truck aspect of the movie, featuring two people that look nothing like Paul or Howard. Inside the Viva Elite Blu-ray case there is a booklet featuring other Kino Lorber releases.

The Video and Audio
The 1.85:1 1080p AVC transfer provided by MGM is pretty par for the course for Kino Lorber's releases, falling right in line with the middle of their efforts. The transfer has an aged quality, with slightly noisy, chunky grain, and slightly washed-out colors. The picture is lacking in depth, but print damage seems on the minimal side, and detail is thoroughly okay. A DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is disappointingly quiet, muffling dialogue, and featuring little to no directional separation during the few moments of spectacle on hand. Sadly, no subtitles or captions are included for this one.

The Extras
Two extras are included. First there is an audio commentary by Canuxploitation's Paul Corupe and film historian Jason Pichonsky. These two have a lot of positive things to say about Rolling Vengeance that I do not, which is the basic gist of their conversation, hovering somewhere between expert and fan.

There is also a short interview with actor Lawrence Dane (9:45), which finds the veteran character actor talking for a bit on his experience making the film, before moving onto his career in general and his accomplishments in front of and behind the camera.

An original theatrical trailer for Rolling Vengeance is also included.

Rolling Vengeance has such a great hook, it feels like a no-brainer: a guy gets revenge on bad guys with a monster truck he built himself. Sadly, Rolling Vengeance manages to disappoint on all counts. Skip it.

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