Driven to Kill (Blu-ray)
Directed by Jeff F. King
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 98 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: May 19, 2009
Review Date: May 26, 2009
Steven Seagal is still making movies? Who knew? Actually, his latest effort Driven to Kill is a movie in name only. Oh, it has the usual quota of bullets, blows, and blood, but its leading man is so bloated and thick of speech that the film seems drugged, almost on life support. No amount of razor-edged cutting and thousands of rounds of ammunition can hide the fact that this film’s script, direction, and acting are from hunger. What a sad spectacle for someone who once commanded A-list budgets and ranked among the top ten box-office stars. Driven to Kill is one dire movie.
On the day of his daughter’s (Laura Mennell) wedding to the son (Dmitry Chepovetsky) of a Russian mob boss (Igor Jijikine), former Russian mobster-turned-pulp novelist Ruslan Drachev (Steven Seagal) learns that his ex-wife (Inna Korobkina) and his daughter have been victims of a home invasion with the ex-wife killed and the daughter seriously injured. The motive seems unclear until we learn that the mobster’s son had refused to join the mob, and his father had done this partly to bring his son in line. Ruslan’s ex-wife’s new husband Terry (Robert Wisden) also seems strangely unmoved by the events of the day, so Ruslan makes it his job to get to the bottom of the plot against his ex-wife and daughter and bring his kind of justice to those who deserve it.
Yes, the predictable ebb and flow of this trite stalk and revenge story (script by Mark James) leaves no room for surprise revelations or unusual twists and turns. It’s paint-by-the-numbers filmmaking without a brain in its head or an ounce of originality in its soul. We know Seagal’s taciturn former mobster is going to clean house with a combination of bare knuckle brawling and martial arts, expert knife handling, and with multiple sprays of machine gun and automatic firepower (though one must quickly add that Seagal’s Ruslan is a lousy shot; all that fired ammunition, and there are still bad guys standing at the end that he must settle the score with through other means). There is a lot of trash talk back and forth with these Russians about being “a real man,” and I predicted when the final confrontation arrived, it would be with fists, you know, “real man” stuff. I wasn’t wrong (though the final coup de grâce does involve a pistol).
Is there any need to discuss the acting? Steven Seagal mutters and mumbles with a vaguely fluctuating Russian accent (that also comes and goes), but he has only his hulking presence to use as a screen weapon. Any speed he’s supposed to possess as a badass is now supplied by the film editor who jazzes up his standard arm and feet movement with rapid-fire editing meant to suggest the character’s razor-sharp reflexes and split-second timing. Robert Wisden’s smarmy new husband comes closest to a characterization, but the script does him no favors. Dmitry Chepovetsky also seems to be trying hard to inject some human emotions into the role of husband-to-be Stephan, determined to thwart his father’s efforts to enlist him in the gang lifestyle. He, too, can only do so much with such mundane action and direction.
The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. This is among the worst Blu-ray transfers I’ve seen with varying grain levels and an image that’s never better than average in sharpness and sometimes much worse. Color also fluctuates from acceptable to drab, and flesh tones generally drift toward being too brown and hot. Details often get obscured in the shadows. There are also scenes that feature crawling pixels, a definite distraction. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is only stereo in nature with neither music by Peter Allen nor the noisy sound effects ever occupying anything but the front channels. No effort at all has been made to pan the shots through the soundstage resulting in a front centric mix that’s a distinct letdown. Dialogue isn’t always clearly discernable either, and often I had trouble knowing whether the actors were speaking Russian or simply mumbling indecipherable English. (There are very few subtitles to tip one off as to which language is being spoken.)
Apart from 1080p trailers for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Wrong Turn 3, The Marine II, and 12 Rounds, there are no bonus features.
One of the saddest excuses for an action movie it’s been my displeasure to watch in recent months, Driven to Kill is bargain basement filmmaking at its worst. What it’s doing on Blu-ray with such a disappointing picture and a mere stereo soundtrack masquerading as a surround track is a much more interesting mystery than anything present on the disc in question.