Once again, insufficient research on my own behalf has lead me to review a Blu-ray quite different from the one I thought I would be watching. When I volunteered to review 'The Order,' I thought I was getting the Heath Ledger film about a secret Catholic society. While 'The Order' that I actually reviewed also contained a secretive off-shoot of the Catholic church, it also featured Jean-Claude Van Damme kicking a whole lot of ass – something I was not expecting at all.
I've seen copies of this 2001 'The Order' in $5 bins for nearly a decade now, but have never felt compelled to check it out – until now, that is. 'The Order' feels like it was made to be a JCVD (Jean-Claude Van Damme) PG-13 version of 'Indiana Jones' (yes, 'The Order' is rated R "for violence" - but none of the content is beyond anything you'd see in a PG-13 movie or a TV-14 television program). Filled with quirky comedy and silly action, the story of 'The Order' is like a blend of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' and 'The Last Crusade.' Rudy (JCVD) is a world-class thief of expensive and desired artifacts. The profit he makes off these black market deals allows him to live the life of a playboy. The catalyst of the movie is when his father, a respected historian and museum curator, goes missing after obtaining a new artifact for the collection. But before we get into that, we need to talk about the odd intro of 'The Order.'
The movie opens with the story of a crusader in 1099 A.D. who had an epiphany, went AWOL, and started his own unique sect. He taught new principles of religion and Christ-like lifestyles from his own self-written book of virtues and earned many followers, but before he could publish his final chapter of writings, he was given a martyr's death and the scrolls were lost. This whole section of the movie plays out like a reenactment of a non-fiction battle on a History Channel show. Even the voice-over fits this mold. Now, let's get back to the present.
Rudy's father has been kidnapped and smuggled into Jerusalem because the lost final scroll has come into his possession, so Rudy must travel to Israel, learn about his father's disappearance and track down those responsible, all while trying to thwart a team of customs agents hot on his trail. That team, of course, is lead by a beautiful Israeli woman who becomes personally wrapped up in Rudy's mission.
Although made in 2001, the cheesy action movie that ensues contains all of the bad elements from classic '80s action flicks. When JCVD kicks someone, the kicked person flies through the air in slow motion. When he and a henchman begin brawling in a water fountain, every punch and kick is shown in slow motion so we can see beads of water slowly soar through the air. A funny aspect is that the technology in the movie doesn't match the time in which it's set. A coveted items in Rudy's father's possession is 3.5" floppy disk, not a CD. The action element is quite odd too. Although guns are used, the fight with the head bad guy in the end of the movie takes guns out of the equation and employs swords. Rudy must be one hell of a smuggler because he's trained in swordplay, gunplay, martial arts and has a suitcase full of James Bond-style spy gear. Rounding out the corniness of 'The Order' is it's wacky score and a sizzle/gag reel that runs before the closing credits. Saying that 'The Order' has tonal issues doesn't even describe the grandeur of its problems.
I enjoy a good mindless action flick from time to time, but 'The Order' is too mediocre to be considered worthwhile.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony and Image Entertainment have place 'The Order' on a Region A BD-25 in a blue vortex keepcase. The artwork is identical to the DVD release of the movie. Aside from an unskippable FBI warning and an Image vanity reel, nothing plays before the main menu.
The new 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer of 'The Order' is a lot stronger than you'd assume. The images have been thoroughly cleaned. There are only five instances (that I noticed) when specks of dirt quickly flash on-screen. Two scratches quickly appear on the left side of the screen during a fading transition at the 55:50 mark, but those are the only two instances of the print being dirty or damaged.
About 75 percent of the movie features strong details. The other 25 percent ranges from soft to very blurry, almost looking unfocused. During some of these instances, the focus appears to be set on the actor's shoulder and not his/her face. Some shots feature no sharp focus whatsoever. Edge enhancement has been applied through the movie, but it's only a distracting nuisance during a few scenes. Light amounts of DNR have also been applied, but it's never a major eyesore.
The color palette carries the expected sepia tweak that so many movies set in the Middle East or desert locations carry. Several of the New York City scenes feature the vibrant neon colors of night clubs. As saturated as they may be, they are never overly saturated. Fleshtones are natural and lifelike. Black level are decent, but could be stronger.
Compression flaws banding, aliasing, artifacts, and noise are non-existent.
Just like the video quality, I expected the audio to be poor, but the English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix isn't all that bad. As I mentioned before, the score is inconsistent and odd. It fluctuates between beautiful and sweeping overtures to generic, bouncy and quirky comedic music. But no matter which identity it assumes, it's always well-spread throughout the channels. While the other portions of the audio are inconsistent, the music is always full and alive.
The effects are far from great, but not terrible. Two-thirds of all the effects seem to derive from the front of the sound system. Of course, this creates a lack of dynamics, giving the effects a flat feel. The other third of the effects – typically during action scenes – make strong use of surround and rear channels. During chase sequences, cars seamlessly image around the theater. When it makes the biggest difference, the effects are strongly mixed.
The biggest problem lies within the vocal track. Overall, the vocals are too quiet in comparison to the rest of the mix. During those same action sequences that feature great effects and dynamic music, dialog is lost beneath the chaotic sounds. During the opening sequences of the film, it's nice to have the voice-over text printed on-screen, but the rest of the movie doesn't feature this bonus. Combining the various dialects of the movie with the low levels makes it impossible to hear at times. Good thing there are subtitle options, but know that the subtitles feature annoying white lettering centered in bulky black boxes that cover images on the screen.
There are no special features.
I don't mind mindless action movies, but ones that dabble in silliness and contain bad stories aren't really worth my time – and that's where 'The Order' lies. Truthfully, I would have preferred watching Heath Ledger's 'The Order' over this – and that says a lot. Although it carries an R rating, 'The Order' feels like a PG-13 attempt at a new action franchise. The unfitting tone tries being playful and comedic. The violence and gore is exceptionally tame. Sex is absent. Once one scene takes place in a strip club, but the strippers' naughty bits are always well covered. It appears that co-writer and star JCVD was going for a new 'Indiana Jones,' but 'The Order' is more like 'Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold.' 'The Order' fails as both an action movie and an adventure flick. The video and audio qualities are decent, but each features a few flaws. Aside from the void of special features, JCVD fans will be more than satisfied with this transfer, which I believe would be awful had Sony not had a hand in it.