Dead Rising: Endgame
Sony Pictures // Unrated // $19.99 // December 6, 2016
Review by Tyler Foster | posted February 7, 2017
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Following the events of Dead Rising: Watchtower, reporter Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalfe) is following up on the leads his former partner Jordan (Keegan Connor Tracy) left behind before being taken and presumably killed by military officers under the command of General Lyons (Dennis Haysbert), and what exactly they're working on with pharmaceutical giant Phenotrans. With the help of his hacker girlfriend Sandra (Marie Avgeropoulos) and producer Jill (Jessica Harmon), Chase stumbles on a new program called Afterlife and video to prove Lyons will kill to keep the program a secret, but the threat of legal retaliation by the army prevents Chase from getting the story on air. Instead, Chase must turn to Phenotrans-exec-turned-snitch George Hancock (Ian Tracey) and lead his friends on a mission inside the infected zone, where a black ops base holds the key to saving over a million civilians' lives.

Dead Rising: Endgame is the sequel to 2015's Dead Rising: Watchtower -- a fact that is not mentioned anywhere on the disc's packaging and was quite a surprise to this critic, who had no idea there was a previous Dead Rising direct-to-video movie to watch before diving into this one. Not that the vague confusion makes much difference: this is a mildly entertaining, atrociously written, skillfully staged bit of zombie nonsense that seems likely to please the kind of fans who are interested in it, even as someone outside the loop on both the original games and the previous chapter in the burgeoning movie franchise.

The bad first: there may not be a single line of dialogue in the movie's entire 96-minute running time that sounds like something an actual human being would say. It's not even twenty minutes into the film before Metcalfe grimaces his way through an "I'm too old for this shit," and for a movie that relegates its minimal snippets of recap to a fast-paced montage in the opening credits, it feels like the entire movie is wall-to-wall exposition about where the characters have been, where they're going, and what they're doing on-screen as they struggle through another few pages of exposition. Writers Michael Ferris and Tim Carter never met a cliche they didn't want to hear coming out of somebody's mouth, and each one of those cliches is infused with technical terms relating to the medicinal chips Phenotrans and the army have injected into over a million infected people, or the hacking that Sandra has to do. Top it all of with a boatload of terms that come from the game (such as "Zombrex", the outbreak-curbing medication) or tie in events from the series, and you've got a great recipe for a word soup.

On the other hand, director Pat Williams acquits himself with relative ease, staging the usual zombie action with a surprising amount of panache. I enjoyed 2016's widely-praised Train to Busan, but that film's strengths laid less in making zombie action more interesting and more in presenting a unique cast of potential victims. Here, Williams devises some entertainingly wild sequences, such as a zombie trying to headbutt his way through the windshield of a car while Chase is driving it, some fun up-and-down antics on two floors worth of escalators, and a climactic, all-in-one-shot sequence in a medical bay that makes a decent play for Universal Soldier: Regeneration's impressive DTV action camerawork crown. None of it is wildly original, some of it is definitely hampered by the movie's limited effects budget (although Williams hides his limitations better than most), and it's hard to say it'd be worth sitting through the rest of the movie for if you're not already a Dead Rising fan, but it is entertaining.

With an excessively complicated plot and horrible dialogue to deal with, the performances are not among Dead Rising: Endgame's strong suits, but nobody comes out looking too poorly. Ian Tracey manages to shade in a bit of nuance to his wimpy executive, and although the movie hardly has time for it, there's a decent subplot involving Jill and her attempts to get the truth to the public. There's also a bit part, a solider played by Stephen Lobo, who earns special notice for being both an interesting character and a surprisingly sympathetic performance. Those who check the film out for its bigger names like Haysbert and Billy Zane will be disappointed, however, as Haysbert has nothing to do but deliver jargon, and Zane is hardly in the film at all, appearing only fifteen minutes before the movie ends. Game fans will also enjoy a cameo by one of the series' characters in the flesh, all before Endgame sets up the next chapter in the series.

The Blu-ray
Dead Rising: Endgame arrives on Blu-ray with surprisingly cool artwork that appears to actually be a digital painting rather than a photograph, of Chase and his compatriots getting ready to kick some zombie ass. The one-disc release comes in a Vortex eco-friendly Blu-ray case with a glossy slipcover featuring identical artwork. No UV HD digital copy is included, but you do get a sheet of temporary zombie tattoos glued to the shrink-wrap.

The Video and Audio
Produced for Sony's Crackle free video streaming service, Dead Rising: Endgame is less like a movie and more like a TV show. The result is a uniformly adequate but entirely unremarkable 2.39:1 1080p AVC video presentation and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, both of which present this digital production on disc in full resolution without much fanfare. As with so many films, Endgame ends up taking on a slightly desaturated look for the bulk of its running time while the characters are in the infected zone, with richer colors appearing when they're outside in safe areas. There is a sharpness to the image that says digital rather than film, but one which robs the image of texture and personality. It looks fine, but clinical. The same is true of the sound, which thankfully draws from a library of effects that feels big-budget, but presents them in a fairly straightforward way, with zombie chaos providing the most ample opportunity for surround activity. English and French subtitles and English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included.

The Extras
Although the packaging lists a handful of extras for Dead Rising: Endgame, most of them are incredibly short, likely produced for the web along with the film itself. The lengthiest is "From Game to Screen" (2:32), which serves an overall making-of featurette. Topics include picking up where the original left off and working the movies into the timeline of the video games. On the technical side, "Bringing Zombies to 'Life'" (0:55) is a montage of makeup application, and "Making the Weapons" (1:19) looks at the propwork. THe disc rounds out with a series of character featurettes, including "Who is Chase Carter?" (1:14), "...Jill Ekland?" (1:00), "...Jordan Blair?" (0:50), and "...Sandra Lowe? (1:02), each of which feature a minimal amount of interview footage answering said question.

Dead Rising: Endgame is less of a movie and more of a mediocre live-action comic book. It has no beginning and no end, exists mostly to fit into a space created by the timeline of the video games, and is aimed at an audience that already enjoys this world and cares about the characters. It's fitfully entertaining, and distinctly style over substance. That said, said style is decent. Fans of the games might enjoy renting it.

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