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RCE Info


Dead Cert

Shout Factory // Unrated // September 27, 2011
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted September 13, 2011 | E-mail the Author
I'm kind of on record as being a sucker for demented genre mashups, and...well, Dead Cert is half a gritty British gangster flick and half a remake of From Dusk Till Dawn, complete with a big chunk
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of the flick set at a vampire-infested titty bar. I know! That's why I made sure to grab the flick the instant it came out on Blu-ray. The only downside is that the Cockney gangster half of Dead Cert is aggressively generic, slow-moving, forgettable, and cheap-looking, and...yeah, the same goes for the vampire half too. We're talking about a movie that has the right cast and all the right ideas, but Dead Cert just lacks the chops to do anything even a little bit worthwhile with 'em.

Freddie (Craig Fairbrass) did a stint as an underground boxer, and he's done alright for himself having his crew move designer drugs. He wants to be a bigger man than that now, especially since he and the missus (Lisa McAllister) are trying to squirt out a kid. ...and, hey, what better way to be all proper and respectable than to open a high-end strip club? I guess the guy's got a good eye for real estate, though. Freddie's barely gotten the stripper pole mounted before he gets a buy-out offer from Romanian gangster Dante Livienko (Billy Murray). Freddie says no to that offer but nods "well, okay then" to a bare-knuckled wager. If his fighter wins, he gets three million pounds sterling. If Dante's man wins, though...? He gets the club. Freddie insists on keeping the fight fair and won't let his brother-in-law Dennis (Danny Midwinter) play fast and loose with that whole thing. Dante's man has something a hell of a lot more potent than steroids or putting plaster in his hand wraps to give him an edge, though; the bastard's a vampire. So's everyone in Dante's crew, actually. The vamps take control of the titty bar, and when Freddie and his men storm in to reclaim what's theirs...well, you've seen From Dusk Till Dawn, so you know what happens from there. Fangs. Blood. Helluva lot of dismembered bodies scattered all over the place. Fun for the whole family!

Dead Cert plays like it's lazily checking off boxes from a long list of genre clichés. It's frustratingly talky, trudging along as sloooooooooooooooowly as it can to pad the runtime out to feature length, and even the underground fights and the couple of kills before all hell breaks loose in the titty bar fail to get the adrenaline pumping. The brawls are clumsily staged and devoid of any real speed or energy. Even the splattery vampire attacks -- gnawing on dismembered limbs and all -- are kind of a bore to watch. It doesn't help that the vamps don't much. I mean, Dead Cert is half over
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before you see any fangs. The attacks mostly involve them nuzzling someone's neck -- I don't think you ever actually see the fangs sink in -- and all the total bodily dismemberment stuff happens off-camera. Dead Cert never really figures out how to make these creatures seem all that supernatural, nearly invulnerable, or even particularly menacing. Someone with stage blood smeared all over his face and a set of dime-store fangs slaps someone or digs his head in another dude's neck. I dunno. Maybe it's pulse-pounding excitement or whatever if you've never seen a vampire flick before, but otherwise...

The sound design is unusually limp and lifeless, and the cinematography is so chintzy that it feels like I'm watching a really elaborate home movie or something. The cast does what they can with such lackluster material, but no one really manages to stand out all that much. Billy Murray in particular is disappointingly bland, lacking the sort of eerie charm an ancient, legendarily wicked vamp really ought to have. Ack. There are a couple of things in the script I like -- rewriting key events from European history to swirl around vampire attacks and having Freddie's crew keep on fighting after they've been vamped -- but that's kind of like being handed a rancid cheeseburger and going on about how nice the pickles are or whatever. Dead Cert has such a gleefully insane premise, and yet it refuses to ever really cut loose. The movie's ambition far, far outstrips its meager budget and the talent behind the camera. ...and I'd bitch about the two bafflingly incompetent codas, which I guess are threatening a sequel, Dead Cert is a lifeless, uninspired British gangster flick mashed up with a lifeless, uninspired vampire flick. Neither one's handled competently enough to stand on its own, and they really don't work crammed together. Skip It.

There's one point in Dead Cert's audio commentary where everyone kind of just stops and ogles how great the flick looks, even making it a point to mention that this the first time they've seen it properly graded
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and looking so cinematic. After giving this Blu-ray disc a spin, I'm kinda left wondering if they're watching the same thing I am. One of my gripes with Dead Cert is that it doesn't look cinematic at all; the whole thing is so overwhelmingly video-like that the movie just looks distractingly cheap. Other than that, Dead Cert does alright on Blu-ray. The image is reasonably sharp and detailed, with just a tinge of the softness I'm kind of used to seeing on flicks shot with the Red One camera. Contrast tends to be somewhat flat, especially when the lights are dialed down. There's definitely some video noise buzzing in the background, but the AVC encode never sputters or stutters under the weight of it all. Although pretty much the entire third act is bathed in red, colors are otherwise pretty striking, especially the Suspiria-esque Technicolor magentas, greens, and blues in the earlier strip club scenes. I get the impression that Dead Cert looks about as good as it possibly can on Blu-ray, but because the movie isn't all that polished in the first place, the bar's not set all that high.

Dead Cert is presented on Blu-ray at its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Despite a pretty lean bitrate, its AVC encode never devolves into a smeary, blocky mess. The movie and its extras fit on a single layer Blu-ray disc with plenty of room to spare.

Why settle for 5.1? Dead Cert is packing a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack...and doing the whole 24-bit audio thing while it's at it too. With the specs maxed out like that, it's a pretty safe bet that this Blu-ray disc is completely transparent to what the sound mixers and all were hearing in their ritzy, bleeding-edge high-end studios. The only thing is that...well, if that's true, what they were hearing in the studio must not have been all that great either. This soundtrack is surprisingly thin and harsh sounding, frequently marred by some distractingly heavy background noise. The subwoofer lets out a dull rumble every once in a while but doesn't snarl with the sort of ferocity I'd expect out of a vampire-slash-gangster flick. Effects that should pack a wallop -- kicks, punches, and all that -- are anemic. The recording of the dialogue can be really uneven, especially when Freddie and his crew have barricaded themselves in the basement. The bland Casio keyboard score feels kind of meek and insubstantial. The surround channels are lightly atmospheric but don't get really immersive. A few effects stand out -- streams of water pounding down, f'r instance -- but that's about it. Pretty much nothing in the way of distinctness or clarity either, with everything -- including dialogue that would've been tough to make out anyway wif' 'ese thick Cockney accents -- all muddled together. It just doesn't feel like there was any post-production polish on the audio at all. I'm sure Shout! Factory did the best they could with the elements they were handed, but...yeah, it seems pretty clear that they didn't have much to work with, exactly.

Also included is a PCM stereo track. No dubs or anything this time around. No subtitles either, and that's a drag since the Cockney accents are frequently so impenetrable.

  • Audio Commentary: Actors Billy Murray, Craig Fairbrass, and Lisa McAllister pile into the recording booth with producer Jonathan Sothcott for Dead Cert's commentary track. Lotsa chatter. Lotsa laughter. A
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    bunch of it's more interesting to them than it'd be to...well, any casual listener, I guess, heavy on pointing out how they know some of the actors in the movie and noting where certain scenes were shot. A few highlights include spelling out what the mostly-glossed-over Bliss drug would've represented in the world of the walking undead, touching on a few scenes that were reshuffled around in the final edit, and cringing at the chaos of the final day of the shoot. It's one of those commentaries that I enjoyed listening to even though I really didn't get much of anything out of it.

  • Making of Dead Cert (30 min.; SD): Dead Cert's behind the scenes featurette sticks to the usual formula, heavy on recapping on the plot, chatting with and about the cast, running through the big stack of characters in the flick, and gushing over how brilliant a director Steve Lawson is. There's not all that much meat on the bone for a while there, but the featurette does get better as it goes along, delving into the splatter effects, stuntwork, costuming, and production design.

  • Trailer (3 min.; SD): Last up is a two-and-a-half-minute standard def trailer.

The Final Word
C'mon, Dead Cert starts off as a gritty Cockney gangster flick, and halfway through it turns out they're all trapped in a strip club with a bunch of vampires. How could it not be the best thing ever? Well...kinda sad to say that it's really, really not. Dead Cert plods along at an excruciatingly slow pace, and with as routine and amateurish as both the gangster and vampire ends of things wind up being, the payoff's not even a little bit worth it. Skip It.
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