At one point in 'Blood of Redemption,' a laughably nonsensical title for a laughably bad direct-to-video actioner, the story about vengeance, honor and, duh, redemption makes it fairly easy for viewers to decide if they wish to continue watching or shut it off. And sadly, that moment happens within the first ten minutes, as Dolph Lundgren narrates in his permanently grumpy, Lurch voice that perfectly matches his perpetually sullen facial expression. With a bizarre combination of drowsy slurred words which are nonetheless oddly spoken with perfect, distinct articulation, Lundgren explains this is the story of a dead man while he is simultaneously being shot dead from behind (DUN-DUN-DUUUUN!!!).
But as you would suspect from something as predictable as this unintentionally hysterical mess, we're made to endure Lundgren's narration longer — he is the headliner after all, weird as that sounds. He may be down for the count, but he's not out of the fight yet, folks! In fact, the movie suddenly decides to turn back the clock two weeks earlier when Lundgren's mob henchman Axel was still very much alive, yet he looks, walks and acts like a walking corpse. In a movie about greed and betrayal, would anyone really want to double-cross a guy that looks as if he won a three-way bare-knuckle fist fight with a sledgehammer and a baseball bat? Anyhow, back to the story.
Lundgren proceeds to narrate important information for better comprehending the overall plot — not a good sign of quality, but a clear indication of the laziness involved in the writing. Except this time, he's not talking to us; he's talking to Loryn (Jelly Howie) about events which she apparently already witnessed or knew prior to this scene. Ignoring that fact, the story jumps another three years into the past to show crime boss Serge (Robert Miano) being forced into retirement by a sleazy senator. His son Quinn (Billy Zane) and business partner Hayden (Robert Davi) are, of course, none too happy. After Serge's murder, Lundgren hunts down the killer, but first, he must figure out who did it from a list of suspects that includes Quinn, Hayden, Serge's younger FBI son Kurt (Gianni Capaldi), the senator, Hayden's nephew Campbell (Vinnie Jones) and Russian associate Boris (Massi Furlan).
This low-rent crime drama is a hackneyed and pedestrian assortment of clichés — just one long series of blatant film truisms and plot devices working towards one very obvious goal: a supposedly shocking, last minute twist. In that sense, the filmmakers also aspire for this pennies-cheap fiasco to be an engaging, unsolvable mystery, something along the lines of 'The Usual Suspects.' They really want that final reveal to be just as surprising and unanticipated, so they go to extraordinary lengths to ensure the audience thinks Hayden and Campbell the most likely suspects. Granted, the other characters are thrown a bone or two, but the spotlight never moves from the uncle-nephew connection, making the real culprit that more obvious well before he's finally exposed.
Right from the start, it's clear directors Giorgio Serafini and Shawn Sourgose — the pair also penned the script with Rey Reyes — strive to make the best movie they could from a limited budget. They inject what they hope to be a clever, labyrinthine plot with lots of stylish visuals and a spirited panache. The screen lights up with fancy graphics that were cool and hip almost twenty years ago, rapid edit cuts and cinémavérité-style camerawork, and funny slow-motion action montages to make the hilarious fight choreography look more exciting. Unfortunately, the whole thing feels as if the filmmakers watched all of Tarantino's movies, 'Smokin' Aces' and 'The Boondock Saints' a few too many times. And sadly, all the CG blood and gunshots in the world can't redeem 'Blood of Redemption' from feeling like a cheap imitation of everything else we've seen.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Entertainment One brings 'Blood of Redemption' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack. A Region A locked, BD25 disc sits comfortably opposite a DVD-9 inside a blue, eco-elite keepcase with a glossy slipcover. At startup, viewers are taken to a menu screen with a picture of Dolph Lundgren in the bottom left corner, full-motion clips and music.
Dolph Lundgren dispenses his vengeance with a surprisingly good and highly-detailed 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. Taken directly from an HD source, the picture displays mostly razor-sharp definition and clarity from beginning to end. Both Lundgren and Billy Zane really show their age, especially the Swedish-born actor, revealing every wrinkle and pore during close-ups. Contrast is spot-on with bright, clean whites, and black levels are rich and punchy, providing the 1.78:1 image with appreciable dimensionality. The plenty of great visibility in low-lit interiors, and facial complexions appear healthy and accurate with excellent lifelike textures. The color palette is very well-saturated with bold, vibrant primaries and warm, dynamic secondary hues.
Unfortunately, and as is typical of digital photography, the high-def transfer largely feels sterile and ultra-smooth, giving several scenes an unattractive look with unrealistic movement. There is also some minor banding and posterization worth mentioning. All in all, the presentation is rather excellent, but a couple small gripes shy of greatness.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, on the other hand, is a mixed bag of the good and the dull, but ultimately, the average. It's fairly clear engineers made every attempt to make the design grander and more exciting with the addition of subtle activity in the rears. It does provide some amusing ambience, especially the sounds of people chatting in another room or the echo of gunfire inside an empty warehouse, but the effects are also noticeably static and localized. Basically, it's obviously fake and forced.
In the front soundstage, imaging displays good warmth and feels decently expansive, but this is largely due to the generic musical score spilling across all three channels with excellent balance and fidelity. Dialogue is well-prioritized and intelligible in the center, and low bass is surprisingly responsive with a good amount of weight though it's not really enough to impress. The mid-range is clean with better than expected clarity, but it also seems limited and narrow, creating a rather flat lossless presentation, even during the many action sequences.
Starring Dolph Lundgren as a walking corpse on a mission of vengeance, 'Blood of Redemption' is your standard DTV actioner where the ambitious filmmakers aspire for greatness but a limited budget and low production values hinder any such possibility. The movie is ultimately a dull imitation of everything else and will likely fall through the cracks unnoticed. The Blu-ray arrives with excellent picture quality but a mostly average audio presentation and one very forgettable bonus feature. In the end, the overall package will attract only the most devoted of Lundgren fans, but everyone else will be safe skipping it entirely.