The age-old battle of good versus evil plays out in the town of Hop, Washington, when mysterious stranger Ryan Varrett (Austin) blows in with nothing on his mind but vengeance. Shortly after his arrival, the town suddenly erupts in a fury of action that entangles a ruthless crime lord named Drayke (Danny Trejo), a murderous biker gang, corrupt local police, and at the center of it all, Varrett himself, who is dead-set on exacting justice according to his own code. The tension steadily mounts to an explosive climax as Varrett and Drayke face off in a fight to the death.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
If you're a fan of generic action movies, then you fall into the small group of people that will love 'Recoil.' If you feel like you saw your fair share of these in the '80s and early '90s, then 'Recoil' is going to be a blast to the not so awesome past.
'Recoil' opens with our lead character (former pro wrestler Steve Austin) cruising down an open two-lane highway in his vintage '68 GTX all by his lonesome. Music plays loud, and we can hear the racing engine and highway sounds as we occasionally observe the interior of the vehicle – leather seats, a well-worn road map, newspaper clippings, and the chicken-scratch burn scars numbered on our anti-hero's arm. The count is currently at 12 and in order for him to have gone through the self-inflicting painful process of burning them one at a time, what they represent must be of the utmost importance and significance. What exactly each burn stands for, we don't learn for a while – but we get a pretty good idea from what follows.
After our open road credits sequence, we see three backwoods hicks, armed to the teeth, and hunting in a mossy forest. The obvious ring-leader of the pack raises his fully automatic A.R. and sprays round after round, emptying his banana clip magazine entirely into an unknown off-screen animal. Once the gun dry fires, he looks up with astonishment and it's revealed what he's shooting at – a cute and cuddly bunny rabbit which he was unable to hit. The way that this scene rolls out leaves you questioning whether 'Recoil' is a genre-blending action-packed comedy because of how funny this sequence is; however, as you continue watching the movie, you realize that the laughs stirred up from the tonally confusing opening sequence are absolutely unintentional. Not a single other segment of 'Recoil' carries this comic relief. It's a typical action movie through and through.
'Recoil' is equal parts 'Rambo: First Blood,' 'The Crow' and 'The Punisher.' "Stone Cold" Steve Austin plays Ryan Varrett, an ex-Texas police officer on a cold blooded mission of revenge. As the movie unfolds, we learn that his wife and child were gunned down by masked bad guys and he's been on a suicide mission taking the culprits down one at a time. Each of the scars on his arm represent a vengeful kill. The A.R. wielding hick hunter from the beginning was just another kill on his revenge list – only this time, the FBI are linking his kills together and are hot on his trail.
Varrett's next kill is in Hope, Washington. Despite being a seemingly harmless small town, he's about to bite off more than he can chew … almost. His next hit is Rex, a member of the crew known for raping and killing random women driving down desolate highways. Since Rex is pretty much an idiot, killing him will be easy – but it's also going to open a huge can of worms. You see, the purpose of Hope's two-officer police isn't "to serve and protect" its residents, but to serve and protect the Mexican biker gang "The Circle" that runs drugs and weapons in and out of town. Rex just so happens to be the brother of the gang's heartless leader Drayke (Danny Trejo). By killing Rex, he's going to have 30 of the meanest fully-armed bikers after him.
Everything that happens is 'Recoil' is reminiscent of every other bad action movie out there. The hand-to-hand combat is monotonous, repetitive, and over used. The explosions are laughably uncalled-for. For example, a car speeds into a warehouse and the moment it breaches the closed gate, the entire building explodes – not just the area that the car drove into, but the whole huge building. It's almost as if someone made a mistake, like the explosives expert played by Danny McBride who prematurely blows up the jungle in 'Tropic Thunder.'
Out of the 35 people that Varrett meets in town, 30 are bad guys, one is a crooked cop, one is a good cop, one is priest, one is a mechanic who conveniently owns the convenient store too and the last is the hot and vulnerable widowed owner of the motel where he's staying. Of course, a romance is born between the two, but not a sexual one. Bad movies like this don't have the budget to pay their stars to get nude, so their relationship remains honest and platonic.
'Recoil' isn't terrible, it's just that the time for this sort of movie has passed – hence the direct-to-home video release. Nobody is going to see this in theaters because we've already seen it a hundred times at home. Had 'Recoil' been made in the '80s, it would have made a killing, but we're beyond this brand of brainless and formulaic action movie now. With big expensive things like 'Safe House,' 'Bourne' and 'Bond' on the big screen, why would we ever go back to the old way of doing things?
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Vivendi Entertainment has placed 'Recoil' on a Region A BD-25 in a standard blue keepcase that vertically slides into a cheap glossy cardboard keepcase that features the exact same cover art. With an unskippable FBI warning, a trailer for some random movie called 'Tactical Force' and a vanity reel for Nasser Group/Vivendi Entertainment, it's easy enough to get to the main menu, but know that the menu audio is annoying. Any time you move the cursor, a loud beeping button sound rings out. This cannot be disabled.
Despite being released by a small distributor, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode of 'Recoil' is fantastic. Aside from a few fleeting instances of both flickering aliasing and banding, the video quality is top notch.
The opening credits features many camera shots from the hood of Varrett's GTX looking down at the headlights being projected on the asphalt highway. Each time we see this shot, 60 percent of the screen is plagued with banding. Initially, this had me worried for everything to come after the credits – but it shouldn't have. 'Recoil' has to be the sharpest looking no-name low-budget movie I've ever seen on Blu-ray. As we explore the GTX, we clearly see the texture of the leather interior. We can even ready the city and highway names of his maps. If you wanted to, you cause pause the film and read each of the newspaper clipping sitting on his passenger seat. This level of sharpness never – not once – lets up. You can see the alligator-like texture of the skin below Stone Cold's neck, the uniquely textured face of Danny 'Machete' Trejo, and the tiniest droplets of rain water that fall through the night sky or rest on the chrome rims of the GTX.
With Canada filling in as a worthy double for Washington state, the mossy greens of the surrounding foliage are vibrant and lifelike. The overcast and drizzling sky tends to mute the few other colors that make the palette, but it never loses its lifelike characteristic. The muzzle bursts from an unsuppressed A.R. are still as bright and vibant as they should be. Black levels are inky and rich. It's only during a handful of shots that the shadows tend to chew up the details that should lie within them.
Not an single instance of noise is visible and DNR wasn't used to clean it up. Edge enhancement also isn't a factor. This is a very strong transfer for a very small title.
While I was blown away by the strong video quality, I was even more shocked by the outstanding 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix. It's one of the most dynamic and consistently engaging audio tracks I've heard.
While the opening video quality worried me, the audio didn't. This highway scene featured engulfing music and more instances of seamless imaging than almost any other movie out there. The scoring resembles a blend of the rising climactic theme from '28 Days Later' and the wandering theme from the original 'Hulk' television series. Throughout 'Recoil' there are non-stop small environmental sounds emitting from the surround and rear channels. There's not a single moment where you can say, "There's nothing coming from the back speakers." They are always actively engaged with sounds that add to the experience. When Machete beats up a under-performing member of The Circle in a ring with electrocuted ropes, you can hear all around you the menacing faint hum of the electric current buzzing through the wire ropes. When it's raining outside, you can hear drops hitting the different wet outdoor surfaces around you.
While the dialog is always clear, Stone Cold's diction isn't – but that's no fault of the mix. The rest of the dialog is crisp, clean and clear, carrying the right amount of bass for the right size of man. Bass is prevalent and effective throughout the entire mix, used most often to heighten the moments when big bare-knuckle punches land on the core or face of another person.
The only flaw that I noticed stems from the placement of certain effects within the mix during the first action sequence of the movie. While other sounds are filling the surround and rear channels, a few loud and large effects are placed solely in the front channels, which makes the effects sound flat. Although this removes a small bit of the dynamics, it only happens a few times shortly after the movie's intro. From there out, this lossless mix is amazing.
- The Making of 'Recoil' (HD, 8 min.) - This all-too-brief featurette begins like a simple EPK reel – actors and filmmakers describing in great detail the characters and their dichotomies – but finishes with informative talk about the design elements and how some of the major stunts were realized.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 5 min.) - Each of these five scenes was deleted for a reason – the most common of those reasons being that they were cheesy. I completely agree with the director for having chopped them from 'Recoil.'
- Trailer (HD, 2 min.) - While the movie strings you along for 30 minutes in finding out Varrett's backstory and reason for killing these thugs, the trailer gives it all away within the first ten seconds. That's why I felt it was okay to talk about it in the review. Let's be honest, you're not watching this movie unless you've seen the trailer, and if you've seen the trailer, you already know these facts.
If that old adage "there's a time and a place for everything" is true, then the time and place for movies like 'Recoil' was back in the '80s. While it's not terrible, this sort of generic action movie simply isn't relevant anymore. It only works when it comes to terms with this and capitalizes by amping up everything that made them so horribly good back then – like 'The Expendables.' The movie itself isn't going to win over everyone who watches it, but the great video quality and the wildly strong audio quality will. The area in which 'Recoil' lacks the most is in special features, but it's dead on with the low par of tiny indie genre flicks. If you love '80s action movies, then this is a must own (especially when you consider the strong technical specs). If you're interested but not entirely sold on owning it, then it's definitely worth a rent.
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