The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Maximum Conviction (2012)

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I saw this on Netflix Watch Instantly, and I obviously couldn't ignore it.  The Steven Seagal factor alone makes it a must watch-- this will get us back to having his complete DTV catalog reviewed here at the DTVC.  Throw in Stone Cold Steve Austin, and, good or bad, this was a must, so I got after it.  Let's see how it went.

Maximum Conviction has Seagal and Austin as mercs or something that are called in to "mothball" a military prison.  Of course, as is usually the case with these things, something goes wrong, and that wrong involves a female prisoner who was brought in the night before that may or may not be Johnny Mnemonic-ing data for the CIA.  Throw in Michael Paré as the baddie looking to get her and her Mnemonic-ed info, some jumpy cinematography, and a severed finger for faux-edge, and you have yourself a modern DTV schlock actioner.

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On Twitter while watching this, I opined that these films were just done better in the 80s and 90s.  I know, we say that all the time, but it's true, isn't it?  What is wrong with these modern DTV actioners then that they can't recapture what those were?  Seriously, is anyone doubting that a 1992 PM Entertainment flick based on a similar premise starring Wings Hauser and Kathleen Kinmont wouldn't have been amazing?  Is it the jumpy cam?  The fact that we have Seagal and Austin set up like pretty much omnipotent forces so there is zero tension or suspense?  Or maybe that things happen so fast we can't focus on them for more than a half-a-second?  Beyond all of that, whether this was made in 1992 or 2012, we still had a lack of action, particularly bad in Austin's case, because the man is just crying out for good fight scenes, and we know from his wrestling career that he can excel at them and make them entertaining.  Guys walking around with guns raised does not an action film make, and in a prison setting, we could've had some really inspired ones.  This is more missed opportunity than anything, which makes it all the more frustrating that it didn't work.

In the spirit of being solutions oriented as opposed to just saying something sucks for the sake of saying it sucks, I've decided to use the remaining paragraphs to come up with the different movie this could've been, and should've been.  I'm talking a women in prison-style action film, in the Die Hard paradigm, with only Seagal and Austin as our good guys, going to save the girl with the Mnemonic-ed info in her.  Let's start with Seagal in this, as the film's one resident Hall of Famer.  What is the deal with that Louisiana accent Mr. Seagal?  Where is the man we once knew who said "I"m gonna take you to the bank, Senator Trent-- the blood bank."  We loved that man.  There's something about this man that's kinda silly, right-- and I'll be honest, less friendly bloggers than me might be a little more harsh on him, and have been.  Let's take this guy he was in this film-- because he wasn't that bad--, give him Seagal's old voice, and send him into the women's prison with Stone Cold Steve Austin and have them take out myriad stuntmen dressed like guards.  To hell with all this backstory and use of military or police terms.  I want Under Siege in a women's prison, how hard is that?

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We have yet to see a Stone Cold Steve Austin film that gives us the best of what he brought to the WWE.  The Rock had The Rundown, but with Austin, the part is either too serious, too earnest, or here, just not enough.  Part of the problem was Austin and Seagal lead a team of mercs.  No team, Austin and Seagal are enough; and you give me Austin mowing down guards, flirting with female prisoners, finding the beer in the kitchen, drinking it while taking out more guards.  This is what we want.  Where is this movie?  I want some Stone Cold Stunners.  One thing Maximum Conviction did do well was give Austin a little room to use his sense of humor.  Yes!  But we need more.  Seriously, him fixing a trash compactor or studying a mined doorway is time that we don't have him kicking ass, taking names, and drinking beers, and that's bad.

Every women in prison film needs a great evil warden, and we could've had him in Paré.  Instead he's like some US Marshal/head of the bad guys' team or something.  Man, imagine him as the evil warden.  He finds out one of the prisoners has Mnemonic-ed information-- maybe we introduce a secondary baddie that offers to pay Paré for her, and there's some kind of tension between baddies kind of thing.  Of course he's also got to be running a forced prostitution ring among the inmates, so maybe this is where the tension is, because the woman is really hot and could make him a lot of money, so he doesn't want to give her up.  Imagine him in some kind of like pseudo-Nazi uniform, it's just perfect.  He was made to be the evil warden, and he could've been it here.

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We had two great women too to play our heroine and female baddie.  The baddie was played by Aliyah O'Brien, and she acquitted herself really well in this film in that role, but in a women in prison film, that character could've been so much more.  Imagine somebody that wants the Mnemonic-ed information on the other woman plants her in the prison, and she fights her way out, earns the trust of the other woman, only to discover she's bad.  And the woman with the Mnemonic-ed information was played by Steph Song, and she was fantastic for the woman who's thrust into the women's prison and isn't meant for that world-- the problem was, while her character was perfect for that part, that wasn't the movie her character was in.  They even had a scene at the beginning that was like a partial flashback where we kind of see her in an exchange gone wrong, but it's so disjointed and carved up.  This should've been a whole fleshed out scene.  We always need to see the women in prison heroine in her life before these horrible events have brought her to hell on earth, and this scene would've been perfect for that.

Unfortunately, that's not what this movie was, it was a schlock actioner that didn't have enough good action and enough good use of it's talent.  Too much of Seagal and Austin walking around with guns raised, and too little of them getting after it.  Gun fights that were almost perfunctory in an environment that should've been more inspired.  And all of that faux-edge that attempts to make it better than the 90s actioner, but instead makes it worse.  I want my action movie back, and I don't think I'm alone in that.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2119474/

19 comments:

  1. THE PACKAGE, with Austin and Dolph, is much better...

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    1. Nice, I can't wait. It comes out on Netflix on Feb 19th, so I hopefully I'll get it close to that time.

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  2. Oh what a shame, I thought you'd dig this one more. I was reasonably happy with the action quota it has to be said. The automatics never really stopped firing, and that's a good thing. I thought Pare was pretty good too.

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    1. I don't know, it's like the bullets were, for lack of a better word, perfunctory. I also didn't like the idea of Seagal and Austin having a team with them. It matters to me who's doing the shooting, and their team wasn't who I paid to see. And while Pare was good, what did they really have him do other than yell at his team and torture that warden guy. I can see your points though, I don't know, I just feel like I would've liked it better if it had been made in 1992. Maybe I'm just a dinosaur.

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    2. More than likely I am just too easy to please these days! I do look forward to checking out The Package when that comes out.

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    3. Oh, you and me both. I'm also getting the new Universal Soldier tomorrow. We'll see how that goes.

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    4. I think you will really dig it. Just don't expect anything like the previous three, at all.

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    5. If it's good Van Damme and Good Dolph, I'll be happy.

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  3. The Package was pretty legit. You're going to like that one. Although it doesn't solve the Stone Cold dilemma you mentioned above, I think it does a better job than anything he has done recently. I still like him best in The Condemned, and thinking it over, it may be due to the plot of that film which meant a lack of guns, hence more Stone Cold straight up ass kicking. Which is what we want anyway.

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    1. I don't necessarily have an issue with him shooting versus hand-to-hand combat, I just want some kicking ass, taking names, and drinking beers. What was so wrong with what he did that was so good in the WWE? Forget this earnest, serious guy with a past or whatever, I want him to roll in on a Harley, kill two beers, and give a few stuntmen some Stone Cold Stunners. We got a little of that in this, but we also got a lot of him fixing a garbage truck. Yes, that's what I plunk down my cash for, to see Stone Cold Steve Austin fix a garbage truck for the first 30 minutes of the film.

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    2. No, no. I get that. I may have phrased it wrong. The thing is there's no levity to these films at all, and it's hurting them. They COULD do this stuff today (and Dolph has a fantastic knack for finding the right tone I think), but they miss the mark. Consider Commando, specifically the one liners. Imagine Stone Cold as Arnold selling the whole "Remember when I said I'd kill you last? I lied." scene. Totally works, right? That's what's missing. I don't need him to have a tortured past. Hell, give Stone Cold an iguana pet and remake the Bosworth classic Stone Cold as some ironic, yet totally awesome film.
      Nice to have you back Matt, thought we lost you for good this last stretch.

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    3. Exactly, at least in Stone Cold's case, because he can do levity really well, and to not let him do that is to take away one of his best assets. When you think of the 90s flicks, there were plenty that didn't have that sense of levity-- I mean, how many Dragon or Wincott flicks were dead serious-- but even when they were dead serious, there was a sense that they were a lot of fun. Just flip a car over and blow it up or something. Or what about the baton flight in Mission of Justice-- dead serious, yet ten kinds of awesome, and tons of fun. Part of it is the lack of levity, but it's also almost as if they're afraid to have fun, as if fun makes us take them less seriously. Well, we have news for you, we're taking you less seriously anyway, so just have fun with it.

      And thank you man, it's good to be back.

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  4. I totally agree, Steve Austin really needs to get a solid DTV film under his belt soon or he isn't going to last much longer in this business. He needs to find a solid DTV director like Isaac Florentine or Roel Reine or John Hyams to give him a quality flick. I still don't think he's found his ideal 'action persona' yet.

    The problem with the DTV world nowadays is that the main focus is placed on pre-selling the movie around the world. In order to pre-sell they sign up recognisable names like Seagal and Austin (who often aren't that interested in making the flick, they're just picking up a pay cheque). Once it's pre-sold and the posters are all mocked up, the actual matter of making the film seems to be done as cheaply and quickly as possible.

    Now back in the 90s I'm not saying that PM didn't shoot their movies cheaply and quickly too but they took a certain amount of pride in their work and focused on being good at one aspect - the stunts. Also, their actors - like Wings Hauser or Don Wilson - didn't have massive egos. They didn't go around refusing to do stunts or rewriting scripts or not sticking around to loop their own dialogue. They were there because they wanted to be.

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  5. I just got done with the new Universal Soldier, and while it wasn't perfect, it had a lot of things that this didn't, and I think it gets to your point. The Universal Soldier had some inspired fight scenes and a decent car chase; they tried to go next level in the action, not the gimmicky cinematography. That's what PM Entertainment was about too. Maybe some were pedestrian, but overall they got some good fights and some good car chases, and we as an audience had fun with it. It's more difficult to have fun with something like this.

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    1. Keen to see your review on that one. I saw it at the cinema at a one-night-only screening and loved the hell out of it, and bought the blu-ray the next day. For some reason the US DVD/Blu-ray and presumably stream is censored. All other territories are uncut. While it was low on Dolph and JCVD, it excelled in Adkins, who easily cements himself as the next big thing in DTV action (with El Gringo out, and Ninja 2 just wrapped shooting).

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    2. Hopefully I'll get that written tomorrow. I'm very surprised to hear though that we got an edited version here in the States, because what I just saw was pretty bloody. I can't imagine what was cut-- and I'm not sure I want to see it either...

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  6. My son and I are gonna enjoy checking this one out. Thanks. Great post!

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  7. Glad to see you back posting more regularly. I've been reading your site for a while now.

    I pretty much agree with your take on Maximum Justice. It just kinda felt dead to me, even with the all the machine gun fire going on.

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  8. Thanks guys, and I agree actionmoviefanatix, if gunfire can feel perfunctory, it felt perfunctory here.

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