When his wife is killed by a criminal that he put away, Mason (Dean Cain), a hard-nosed detective, deliberately gets arrested for murder in order to get revenge. While inside, Mason discovers a new criminal enterprise that those behind it would kill to protect.
What does it take to make a good movie? Beyond the basics of a well written script, a talented director, and a decent cast of actors and actresses, there needs to be that extra little spark, that little bit of magic that captivates an audience. The WWE produced 'Vendetta' is not one of those movies. It features a ridiculous plot with some strange story arcs, goofy acting, some odd directing with numerous bloody fistfights - and yet it still ends up being somewhat entertaining.
Chicago PD Detective Mason Danvers (Dean Cain) and his partner Joel Gainer (Ben Hollingsworth) just put the collar on one of the biggest (literally and figuratively) bad guys ever to grace the most wanted list, Victor Abbott (Paul "The Big Show" Wight). With the big man in jail, Mason can worry about more important things like starting a family with his beautiful wife Jocelyn (Kyra Zagorsky). Everything is going fine and dandy until Victor is released from prison because a witness disappeared (forget the fact that he shot a cop, but whatever). As soon as he gets the news of Victor's release, he gets a threatening call from Victor - only the call came from Mason's home phone.
As Mason speeds towards home, Victor slowly sets about beating Mason's wife to death. Even the news that she is pregnant fails to stop Victor from his assault. When Mason arrives with his weapon drawn, Victor doesn't even attempt to hide or run away, he goads the distraught man into killing him. Because of Gainer's arrival, Mason isn't able to do the right thing and pull the trigger himself. After months of mourning Mason can't move past the death of his wife, even pushing himself into work fails to busy his mind as the voice of revenge keeps whispering in his ear. With nothing left to live for, Mason decides that the only course for revenge means getting himself sent to the same prison as Victor, and the best way to ensure that happens is to kill the man's only brother.
Once inside, Mason comes face to face with Victor, only he can't enact his plan for revenge quite yet. As he mourned the death of his wife, the idea that someone was controlling Victor started creeping into his brain. Seeing how the murderer lives high on the hog inside of prison, Mason's suspicions are confirmed. As one of the few friendly and honest guards points out to Mason in the exercise yard, you can kill the body but the head still lives. As Mason picks off Victor's lieutenants one by one, Mason quickly learns that prison warden Snyder (Michael Edlund sporting a ridiculous haircut) may have been behind Victor's early release and ultimately Jocelyn's death.
I'll be up front and say that 'Vendetta' is a genuinely bad movie, but it is a lot of fun. There's just something about this movie's need to constantly show men beating each other to death that defies all logic and becomes increasingly entertaining. I have only a cursory knowledge of the prison system, but I'm pretty sure that with the incredible number of inmates who meet their end in horrible bloody ways that there should have been some sort of Federal investigation long before the big final fight breaks out. That said given the prison location, I'm actually kind of amazed that WWE hasn't tapped the 'Mortal Kombat' story model in order to feature all of their best wrestlers doing what they do best by beating each other nearly to death in the ring. How hasn't that been made into a movie? Maybe I should register that idea with the WGA…
Performances are what they are, I mean with a title like this you really shouldn't expect Oscar caliber work from anyone. Dean Cain probably peaked on 'Lois & Clark' but it's fun to see him here just as it is fun to watch Paul "The Big Show" Wight do his tough guy routine as he frequently punches and puts guys in headlocks. It's especially fun to watch Cain and The Big Show fight each other as the WWE wrestler has over a foot and about 200 pounds of muscle on the former Superman. A really fun performance is given by Michael Edlund as the slime ball warden who is a less than brilliant criminal mind. Expecting logical thought from a movie like 'Vendetta' will just cause you pain and suffering. If you turn your brain off and just go with it, the movie proves to be a stupid but entertaining way to burn 90 minutes of your life. If you buy this movie you already have an idea what you're getting yourself into and I will say you'll get your money's worth.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate brings the WWE produced 'Vendetta' to Blu-ray pressed onto a Region A locked BD25 disc. Housed in a standard eco case with identical slip cover, the disc opens to an animated main menu. The disc also comes with an Ultraviolet Digital HD redemption code.
With a 1.78:1 1080p image transfer, 'Vendetta' actually makes for a pretty decent Blu-ray viewing. Considering its digital roots, detail levels are pretty good overall, colors and flesh tones are stable, and black levels can be pretty inky at times. With those aspects in the plus column, there are a few issues that crop up from time to time. When the movie goes to a wide shot, there is an odd tendency for the film to become noticeably brighter and flatter looking. When the camera is stable and focused on a middle or close up shot, the picture can look pretty darn good. Action sequences can feature quite a bit of motion blur as the camera does the "shaky-cam" effect to add intensity. The movie is at its worst inside of Warden Snyder's office. For whatever reason, blacks become a bit too thick and are crushed and detail levels can appear very smeary. These are the scenes that should have looked better because of the controlled environment, but they're where this transfer falters. Overall the movie looks pretty good on Blu-ray, there are just some notable issues holding it back.
With a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track to ramp up the auditory excitement, 'Vendetta' actually earns some pretty strong points. There is a lot of punching in this movie (naturally) so it's actually a bit of a joy when so much power and extra oomph comes out of the sound system with every squishy hit. Dialogue (what little there is of it) comes through front and center and is crystal clear. The effective score from The Newton Brothers plays with a lot of high and low register tones and keeps the mix lively and fun. Surrounds are fairly subdued most of the time, but when the action kicks in there is plenty of channel movement with a strong base of atmospheric elements to keep the track feeling alive and present. At the end of the day, I was fairly impressed with the sound design for this flick.
The Making of Vendetta: (HD 6:37) Cast and crew talk about the making of the film and all the blood and gore effects and weapons that went into the making of the movie.
A Haunted Location: (HD 6:13) A brief look at shooting at Riverview Hospital and how the cast and crew had a fun time shooting at the abandoned mental hospital.
A Big Transformation: (HD 6:20) A brief look at The Big Show and his character and his persona as a wrestler and as an actor.
'Vendetta' is just one of those movies that has a very select audience. This wasn't a movie made for the cinema connoisseurs who want to discuss the meaning of imagery and the beauty of framing and the symbolism featured throughout the film. If you're coming into 'Vendetta' with that in mind, you're just wasting your time. If you're firing up this movie to watch guys punch each other to death, then you're in for a treat. The A/V presentation is as strong as it can be for a low budget production like this and with a few decent extras, WWE fans should have a blast. That said, it is most definitely one for the fans.