Hannah Lee (Abigail Breslin) is a bright teen girl trapped in the dark Southern underworld of violence and guns, drugs and vicious biker gangs. Neglected by her angry sister Amber (Alexa Vega), her only refuge is her troubled uncle Donny, who is a drug addict. Both live in fear of “Uncle Frank” Stinson (Sean Bean), who runs the illegal family business with an iron fist, aided by his psychotic younger brother Bobby. But when Amber falls in love with family rival Wild Bill (James Purefoy), Hannah realizes there is no escape from the ruthless Stinsons, and cleverly schemes to pit one pawn against another in a cunning game of revenge.
As if mixing money with family and friends weren't bad enough, writer and director Mark Young throws the deadly business of crystal meth into the blender for his 'Wicked Blood.' There's nothing particularly original or remarkable in the plot, as it is the currently popular theme — and choice of drug, apparently. Not sure 'Breaking Bad' has anything to do with it, but perhaps it does to some small extent. Then again, there's also the abundance of internet memes showing the grotesque after effects of users, which are pathetically tragic but at the same time ironically funny. Nevertheless, and whatever the inspiration for this mediocre drama, Young makes it the central catalyst to his latest direct-to-video feature.
The movie opens on a game of chess with Abigail Breslin explaining a few aspects to some unnamed kid when Alexa Vega as the snotty older sister shows up simply to boss her around and shouting that it's a stupid game. Rather than debate the idiocy in her comment, Young quickly moves to another scene of chess, where Breslin plays against her tweaked-out uncle Donny (a very good Lew Temple) — think of the memes mentioned above and you have a general idea of what this character looks like. Lacking the least bit of subtlety, Young is clearly using the game as an overarching metaphor for the entire narrative, as if the rest of the film will play out in the same level of complexity.
The metaphor also works double-time to demonstrate the intelligence, courage and talent for strategizing in Breslin's plucky Hannah. Compared to Vega's slightly more empty-headed Amber and the strung-out Donny, who apparently was once the state-champion of chess, Hannah is resourceful and quick-witted, a kid wise beyond her years, who thinks methodically and with purposeful intent. When playing against her uncle, she brandishes a rather fragile smile which seems earnest but also feels half-hearted and forced to conceal pain. Better known as the little girl from M. Night Shyamalan's 'Signs,' 'Little Miss Sunshine' and 'Zombieland,' Breslin reveals here that she can actually carry a film as the lead and shows she has the acting chops to prove it. Sadly, despite making the best of a rather demanding role, the story itself leaves a great deal to be desired.
As seems to be a common outcome for children of drug addicts and pushers, Hannah and Amber have lost both parents but live with their Uncle Donny, who surprisingly is able to remain a decently responsible caretaker, minus the meth lab and shooting up whenever possible. Tired of being under the thumb of local kingpin Uncle Frank Stinson (a forgettable Sean Bean) and his psychotic brother Bobby (an average Jake Busey), Hannah sets into motion a seemingly complicated plan that should bring the family drug business to ruins. And for some unknown reason, this involves switching the meth with crushed Vitamin D supplements. Meanwhile, Amber discovers her own way out when falling for local gang leader Wild Bill (James Purefoy), who also turns out might be the savior foolish Hannah had secretly being hoping for.
However, when it all comes down to it, Young fails to provide any worthwhile surprises and pretty much rides on some familiar terrain. Hannah's plan is not the least bit complex — more like incredibly stupid — and so easy to figure out that it's more of a mystery everyone else doesn't immediately see the girl as the cause of it. Although Bean does reasonably well in his portrayal of a scary drug lord, there is ultimately little about him to fear until the very end. Purefoy's role is arguably worst because anyone with the smallest knowledge of how movie's work with quickly determine precisely who he is and his agenda. In the end, 'Wicked Blood' coasts on an easily-digestible plot, but Young can't seem to make it into anything truly memorable or entertaining.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
E1 Entertainment brings 'Wicked Blood' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD25 disc inside a blue, eco-elite case and cardboard slipcover. After a couple skippable trailers, the disc goes to a static menu with music.
'Wicked Blood' debuts on Blu-ray with a notable and highly-detailed 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. Taken directly from an HD source, the picture is in pristine shape, with sharp, fine lines in nearly every scene. Every leaf in the trees can be plainly made out, and each stitch in the clothing is very well-defined while individual hairs are distinct and definite. The photography of Gregg Easterbrook comes with the usual teal and orange palette, but the majority of the video still appears digital and sterile, like something made for television. Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the high-def transfer nonetheless shows spot-on contrast with crisp, clean whites throughout and true, rich blacks with strong shadow details. Colors are fairly bold and varied, with excellent saturation, making for an overall pleasing and ultimately attractive watch.
For the audio, a DTS-HD MA option delivers a somewhat average yet adequate soundtrack that for the most part doesn't disappoint. The front soundstage is generally pleasing with a broad sense of presence and excellent fidelity. Although separation between the three channels exhibits clean panning and movement, overall dynamic range is never pushed very far or ever feels impressively extensive, yet it remains clean and detailed throughout. Low bass is bit more satisfying, but mostly reserved for the music and song selections while the few action sequences are made to go without, largely feeling lackluster. There's really not much going on in the rears except a few very minor bleeds that frankly fail to truly enhance the soundfield in any significant way. Nevertheless, with precise, intelligible dialogue in the center, the lossless mix still comes out on top and puts on a largely satisfying show.
Not quite as wicked as it thinks itself to be, 'Wicked Blood' largely feels like your typical drug-related drama and runs the course pretty much as would be expected. Starring Abigail Breslin, Sean Bean and James Purefoy, the direct-to-video feature is bargain-bin entertainment that's easily forgettable. The Blu-ray, on the other hand, comes with excellent picture quality and a strong audio presentation. With one very uninteresting supplement, the overall package is ultimately for the most curious and a decent way of fending off boredom.