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Bullet (Combo Pack)

FUNimation // Unrated // February 25, 2014
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted March 1, 2014 | E-mail the Author
Bullet (Danny Trejo) is a cop on the edge. He's in the middle of trying to run the cartels out of Los Angeles when his nephew (Kyle Villalovos) has been kidnapped. Actually, the governor's daughter (Seri DeYoung) has also been kidnapped. Bullet's daughter (Tinsel Korey), a recovering addict, teeters on the verge of a relapse while her son is missing. The governor (John Savage) tries to keep his emotions in check, but struggles to keep his mind on his daughter's life than the political labyrinth in front of him. All of the chaos can be traced back to Carlito Kane (Jonathan Banks), a murder-happy cartel leader who would like for his son, Manuel Kane (Eric Etebari) to be released from his death sentence. Ultimately, in order to work his way out of this mess, Bullet is unwillingly teamed up with a special agent (Julia Dietze), who wonders if Bullet's crossed from one side of the law to the other.

If that plot synopsis sounds a little overstuffed and disjointed, that's because Bullet is not a movie so much as a pile of cliches stacked on top of each other like a cinematic Jenga game, none of which last more than five minutes before the film switches to a different one. Over a period of roughly ten minutes, the film can transform itself four times over: Trejo and Villalovos go to a park, walking together while sweet, serene music plays. A parkmemer witnesses what might be a rape, so Trejo runs over, gun out, ready to leap into action. Moments later, Trejo is snarling a threat at mysterious kidnappers over a phone, and it feels like a rip-off of Taken. Then, Banks is trying to pressure Trejo into recanting legal testimony and signing a pre-written suicide note. Finally, we're cutting to Korey, buying drugs from her old dealer, and we're being asked to actually care whether or not she relapses.

Although the film's schizophrenic nature is enough to give the viewer whiplash, the really surreal part is that none of these things are even interesting. It might be kind of fun if Bullet was like Black Dynamite, a pastiche so aggressively oversaturated with tropes that it played as a comedy. Sadly, Bullet is just limply serious while invoking what borders on cinematic deja vu. Listening to Jonathan Banks delivering a speech about his criminal philosophy while shooting some random perps, or seeing Trejo blowing off lawyers and other cops who are suspicious of how he does the work are just saturated with a sense of "been there, done that." At one point, Trejo is shown psyching himself up and then winning some sort of underground boxing match after refusing to take a fall payoff, which ups the ante by being not only a complete cliche but potentially one from the wrong movie.

Nick Lyon is not only one of those four screenwriters but also the director, and the film reflects an "in the moment" mentality shared by too many bad up-and-coming filmmakers. When Jonathan Banks beats someone to death with a golf club and the ensuing blood splatters onto the camera lens, it's not indicative of some overall style, it's just what Lyon felt would be cool in this one specific shot (predictably, it's actually kind of obnoxious and adds nothing). The script calls out to be more economical, wasting time showing us the governor's daughter being kidnapped, or including her at all simply because Lyon and his co-writers can't think of another way to stay Manuel's execution. Everything in the film happens because it might be "cool" or is mandated by the thin story. It doesn't seem to matter that the "golf tee in the mouth" punishment Banks is issuing right before he kills his stooge is hardly any different than Trejo interrogating the same guy by sitting him on a gasoline tank and then shooting at it. A better filmmaker might have thought twice about telling the audience the same methods are both funny and evil, but Lyon isn't looking at any sort of bigger picture.

In researching the film's history a little after watching it, I learned there was a somewhat bitter lawsuit between Lyon and Robert Rodriguez, one of the film's producers. Rodriguez and the other producers cut some sort of deal that Lyon objected to, in which Lyon was unable to get the film's hard drives for the post-production process. However, Lyon's complaint was about money, not his artistic vision -- the new deal lowered his cut, and he complained he didn't get paid. In some ways, that's probably all anyone needs to know about Bullet.

The Blu-Ray
Big, crisp faces are the order of the day for Bullet's Blu-Ray artwork, depicting Trejo, Banks, and Torsten Voges (not Julia Dietze, as the credits would imply) looking or aiming guns in different directions in front of a smoky backdrop. The Viva Elite case housing the Blu-Ray and DVD copy slides inside a nice foil-embossed slipcover, and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
Bullet is given a 1080p AVC in a ratio that -- maybe my eyes are just playing tricks on me -- appears a little more open than 2.39, possibly 2.2:1 or even 2:1. The image quality fluctuates from shot to shot, often appearing quite nice, but crushing heavily at other times, with distinctly digital color distortion such as Trejo's black pants and jacket turning a dark blue in the shadows, or the crags in his face burning a bright reddish orange. Detail is consistently excellent. In at least one shot, motion blur is apparent, but I noticed no artifacting or banding.

An English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 is strong, but again, at the mercy of the source material. Occasionally, such as a scene in an interrogation room,a little unintentional ambience creeps into the track, with the dialogue taking on a hollow echo. The technical merits of the mix, in terms of separation and directionality, are quite good, but this is also one of those films with low-budget sound effects, which give the film a cheap feel. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included.

The Extras
One bonus feature is included: "The Making of Bullet" (19:00, HD) is standard making-of fare, with the usual generic talking heads about characters and story, as well as a number of clips from the film. Nothing essential. An original theatrical trailer for Bullet is also included.

Messy, unoriginal, and not even fun about it, Bullet is a waste of time. Skip it.

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