Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
This should serve as a note to all up-and-coming young actors: If you find yourself faced with the choice of actually starving to death or earning a paycheck by landing a role in a movie such as 'Ambushed,' the choice is easy: you starve. Otherwise the shame that follows you from that moment on will truly be a fate worse than death.
Written and produced by Augustin (that's right, he goes by the same naming convention as, say, Madonna or Cher) and starring some recognizable faces such as 'Expendables' teammates, Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture, this wannabe drugs-to-riches story not only comes across as lame, infantile and utterly amateurish, it also takes the cake as the most repugnant, puerile and ridiculously unwatchable movie of 2013.
Despite what most flicks of this ilk would have you think, layers of lazy nihilistic misanthropy, topped-off with a healthy helping of misogyny (there's an actual moment when a female undercover DEA agent engages in a slow-motion pillow fight with a drug dealer's girlfriend), and some half-baked ideas about capitalism and the inefficacy of the war on drugs don't make for much of a movie, especially when they have nothing pertinent or intelligent to say about nihilism, misanthropy, or, heaven forbid, capitalism and the drug war. And things are only made worse when all of the abovementioned defects find there way into a screenplay with little interest in things like pacing, character development or dialogue that doesn't sound like a pre-teen who – having just smoked his first cigarette after watching 'Scarface' for the eleventh time this month – is pretty sure he's got this whole complicated, bureaucratic, decades-long battle with drugs and the inherent questions of the legality/illegality of narcotic substances all figured out. What it all boils down to, however, is a string of surface-level deep pontifications on the drug trade smattered across 97 minutes of tedious action-movie larking about that manages to forget most of its cast and subplots about halfway through the movie.
'Ambushed' opens up on Frank (Daniel Bonjour), who is at the tail end of his journey from being a strip club owner to wannabe drug kingpin who's looking to retire and settle down with his conservative girlfriend Ashley after finally making his big score. Augustin is clearly attempting to juxtapose the two facets of Frank's life – namely, his suburbananite-in-the-making façade that he presents to his girlfriend and her WASP-y family, and the down-and-dirty drug dealer who'll kill a colleague just to get ahead – but he only winds up painting two slightly different pictures of the same incompetent and detestable moron. From beginning to end, Frank is supposed to be the audience's surrogate, taking them on a wild ride through the criminal underbelly via his completely unnecessary voiceovers that make him less of a tour guide and more an insufferable dolt, espousing insipid didacticisms intended to be poignant, meaningful and edgy.
The rest of 'Ambushed' concerns an anemic plot revolving around a dirty cop played by Randy Couture, trying to make one last cash-grab before retirement, and Dolph Lundgren, the DEA agent trying to bring everyone down. Meanwhile, Frank and his loose cannon (read: dimwitted, yet volatile) partner Eddie (Gianni Capaldi) wind up in a sure-to-end-badly business deal with Vinnie Jones' kingpin, Vincent Camastra that last all of five minutes and begs anyone watching to actually care. Now, it's possible there are people who think characters like Frank and Eddie are interesting to watch, and they maybe even identify with them in some way or another, but these characters are not only completely loathsome, they're dull and dumb as hell. Why anyone would ever develop a film around characters like them is the only semi-worthwhile question that comes from watching this movie.
Amateurish movies are sometimes entertaining based on the pure ineptitude that's on display, and 'Ambushed' feels like it should at least be that kind of movie. Instead, it winds up being the kind of flick that was made for the sake of hammering out semi-serviceable manufactured goods and somehow spinning them into cash for the producers. This is the epitome of a soulless manufactured product that is completely and utterly devoid of artistry, creativity, purpose, and intelligence. When a film can't even be enjoyed for how fruitless and awful it is, then it is truly a failure in every respect.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Ambushed' comes as a 25GB Blu-ray + DVD combo pack from Anchor Bay Entertainment. There are a handful of previews, but they can be skipped individually to get to the top menu.
If nothing else, 'Ambushed' should be commended for nearly having as sloppy and banal an image as it does a storyline. To be fair, there are some moments in the film where the picture actually approaches something along the lines of a cinematic image, but most of the time the 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 encoded transfer just comes across looking shallow, washed-out, or otherwise far too sterile.
For the most part, the image here vacillates between a disastrous camcorder-y presentation – complete with bargain-basement stock footage of Los Angeles – and some semi-competent digital cinematography that actually makes good use out of some of the locations in which the movie was shot. As the image is actually so uneven, there are moments when the contrast and use of filters is so high it looks B-roll from a training class on what not to do when making a film, while other times, such as Frank's cliffside heart-to-heart with Eddie, the image actually produces some clear, distinct facial features and a convincingly warm golden hue to denote time of day and location. And while there is a great disparity between the good and the bad portions of the film, when it actually does look good, it is generally on par with that particular moment.
Otherwise, the image contains muted fine detail and even more muted or washed-out colors that give the film an uninteresting monochromatic look and diminish any appeal it might have otherwise had. At best, this is an uneven image that has flashes of brilliance in a package that is otherwise a letdown.
As is their MO, Starz/Anchor Bay have chosen to slap a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix onto 'Ambushed' and the result is a fairly nice, but standard action-movie sound that struggles at times with balance between dialogue and sound effects or score, but manages to deliver them individually on a somewhat competent-sounding level.
For the most part, dialogue is clear, though it can be problematically low at times (which could be a blessing in disguise) and occasionally becomes muddled when the film's soundtrack or sound effects begin to take over. Thankfully, during the climactic sequence, there's little in the way of dialogue, so the film can focus primarily on the rain effects and making the brutal punches and kicks of Randy Couture and Dolph Lundgren sound as thunderous as they look. In that regard, there is not only a nice sense of directionality on the mix, but also the ability to generate an immersive environment (á la the rain) that extends through multiple channels in a dynamic fashion.If only the mix could have managed this level of intensity on a more consistent level, then it would have been the best part of an incredibly disappointing movie. As it stands, this uneven and spotty mix is just another slip-up in a movie that's loaded with them.
- Ambushed: Behind the Scenes (HD, 15 min.) – The producers, director and a few members of the cast get together and talk about the making of 'Ambushed' with straight faces and absolutely zero apologies. It's worth watching, as talking about this movie as though it were viable entertainment, without dying from laughter, means some of these people are the best actors in the world.
When you look at this as a simple, low-budget action movie with some recognizable, but not necessarily big-name stars, you generally have low expectations. And yet, 'Ambushed' still manages to be the dumbest screenplay transformed into the most dim-witted movie that may be released this year. There may be flicks that are worse, based on the disparity between expectation and the final product, but for sheer dismal incompetence and vacuous unpleasantness, this feeble-minded effort will be the one to beat in 2013. With less than stellar audio and video, and a laugh-worthy behind-the-scenes supplement, you needn't waste your time on this flick. Just skip it.
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