Driven To Kill [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (17th July 2009).
The Film

It’s been quite some time since I made a real concerted effort to sit down and watch a Steven Seagal film. I recall a friend loaning me a copy of his (at the time) latest direct-to-video stinker, “Into the Sun” (2005), a film that was intolerably bad on every level. The title should have been expanded to read “Viewers Will Want to Be Flung Into the Sun After Watching This Movie”. And so, with that, I decided that if I were to embrace any facet of Seagal’s career, it would only be his output in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Not that he made many timeless classics, but at least the guy was in good enough shape to kick a reasonable amount of ass and make it looking convincing.

Well, the DTV machine hasn’t stopped pumping out cinematic abortions because “The Kimono King” is back with another mess, “Driven to Kill”, itself a thinly-veiled rip-off of the box-office hit, “Taken” (2008). I seriously doubt I need to inform you that this is inferior to that film in every possible way. I find it even more amusing that they make it sound like “Taken” with the tagline: “They took his daughter. So he’s taking them down.” Odd, since his daughter is never kidnapped in the film! However, as expected plot and story matter little here, as anyone buying this film is likely looking to see a bloated Seagal lazily kick ass. The title in this case should have been expanded to read, “This Movie Has Driven Me to Kill Myself”, because anyone who willing chooses to subject themselves to this torment would do better chewing on a cyanide capsule during the opening credits.

Ruslan Drachev (Steven Seagal) is a former enforcer with the New York-based Russian mob, having left the life years ago he now enjoys a quiet career as a novelist. Just as his daughter, Lanie (Laura Mennell), is about to marry into a well-connected Russian mafia family, she and her mother are attacked. Her mother dies, but Lanie manages to survive the ordeal. Now, Ruslan is on the hunt to find out who tried to kill his daughter, usually by beating the pulp out of whomever he manages to grab and squeeze for information.

No one is watching this movie for the acting - anyone’s acting - so I’m not even going to bother breaking down the supporting cast other than to note that they all suck on various levels. No one here stands out, which I’m sure is just how Seagal wants it. Rather, I’m going to devote the next few paragraphs to Seagal’s most notable attributes: how bloated he is, his accent and his fighting style.

Here, Seagal registers a healthy 5 (and occasionally a 6) on the “Steven Seagal Bloat-o-Meter” (patent pending). He isn’t quite into water buffalo territory, yet, but he looks fairly rotund. Maybe he’s retaining a lot of water; I don’t know. The fact that he’s got such a deep tan doesn’t really help, as it causes him to look like a cherub dressed in black. I’m amazed they took the time to slim him down with Photoshop on the Blu-ray cover artwork because even Ray Charles could see that he’s not that thin on film. They say the camera adds 10 lbs.; if that’s true, there must have been at least 5 cameras on him because he’s gained a behemoth-like appearance which I don’t see him dropping anytime soon.

Seagal is in full-on multi-tasking mode here, managing to butcher not one, but two accents at once. The man is astounding! Here, he plays a Russian from New York, though you’d never know it because he barely knows how to speak in either dialect. Everyone that’s seen a Steven Seagal flick knows he can’t do accents; it’s a running joke at this point. From his very first film, “Above the Law” (1988), where he utterly fails at pulling off a New York accent (one of the easiest, in my opinion), he’s never managed to once make any type of recognizable effort to convincingly sound like his characters are supposed to. In fact, about halfway through this film he has seemingly dropped the Russian accent altogether. I guess it got tough trying to remember how a Russian sounds, so he just bailed and went back to his usual barely-audible, gritty whisper.

So he’s failed at keeping in shape, and we know he can’t pull off an accent… what about his fighting skills? Sure, he could beat some serious punk ass 20 years ago, but today he looks more like a large cat pawing at some unwelcome intruder. Many of his close-quarters moves look like he’s slapping his opponent, while the rest of his arsenal appears to be powerful solely due to some crafty editing techniques. He’ll raise his leg to perform a kick, rather weakly, mind you, and then his target will fly across the screen like he was struck by the hammer of Thor. Incredulous, to say the least. Even worse still is the fact that the editing here is so frenetic and slapdash that it looks like they gave an epileptic 14-year old a pair of scissors and turned him loose in the editing bay.

Can I give this film ANY credit? Yes, a little. The fight scenes are pretty damn brutal. In fact, they almost get too brutal because half of the people getting shot, stabbed or beaten take such a pummeling that I’m not sure how they survive. Granted, we know they’re all going to die anyways, but the antagonists really take some hard hits no mortal could endure. There’s one scene where Seagal stabs some guy in the neck about a dozen times before choking him out for what seemed like an eternity. If he didn’t seem so damn lazy I’d have an easier time believing he’s actually punishing guys half his age, but he is and I don’t.

Video

This is a Blu-ray disc, right? I had to check after I finished watching the film because the quality of the film’s 1.85:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer looks mildly better than a mediocre standard definition DVD. Problems abound, I’m not even sure where to begin… The entire film has a heavy coating of grain, black levels are weak and purple-y, the image is flat as a board, nothing pops, sharpness is non-existent, white levels look too hot… I could go on and on. Bottom line is that this is a sub-par image in every conceivable way. I’ve watched some bad looking titles on Blu-ray, but none has been so consistently poor for the entire duration of the film.

Audio

Faring no better than the video, the film’s English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track mixed at 48kHz/24bit sounds pathetic. The sound technician obviously didn’t try to compensate for Seagal’s whispered delivery because, while everyone else speaks in a normal tone, “The Ponytailed One”, naturally, talks in such a low, hushed manner you’re not quite sure whether he’s trying to sound menacing or he just woke up from his afternoon nap. I’m going with the latter. The surrounds get less of a workout than Seagal appears to be getting these days, with most of the action centered towards the front end. Even the numerous gunshots and body punches hardly register with more than a thud.
Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.

Extras

We’re lucky enough to not receive any extra material for the film, but we do get the following awe-inspiring bonus trailers:

- “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” runs for 2 minutes and 24 seconds.
- “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li” runs for 1 minute and 8 seconds.
- “Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead” runs for 44 seconds.
- “The Marine II” runs for 38 seconds.
- “12 Rounds” runs for 2 minutes and 21 seconds.

Overall

The Film: D Video: D Audio: C- Extras: F Overall: D

 


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