HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:74
I very honestly love Dolph Lundgren films. He was always a B level 80s action star, unable to get up to the stardom and popularity of others like Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Stallone, Arnold etc, but he has a charm all his own. After a few moderate hits like “Joshua Tree”, “Rocky IV”, “The Punisher” and a few others, the tall Swedish actor was relegated to mostly DTV hits for the rest of his career. Ironically a very intelligent man, despite his brutish features and sometimes thick accent, Dolph has made a name for himself in the DTV community, and usually ends up being an entertaining watch, much like how Van Damme’s work has been like lately. After the extra exposure in “The Expendables” and “The Expendables II”, Dolph’s work has gotten a lot more publicity as well as a lot better choices, despite still being relegated to DTV works. “Riot” isn’t an actor rising out of the ashes like a phoenix, but it is a much better action movie than it has any right to be. Partially due to the inclusion of Dolph Lundgren (who’s actually a supporting character here instead of the star) and Mathew Reese, who plays a very solid “stoic ticked off” hero archetype in the film.
Police Officer Jack Stone (Matthew Reese) has just been sentenced to life in prison for robbing a bank for the Russian mob and killing his partner in the process. While that’s the truth in part, Stone is not the vicious cop killer he’s made out to be. Recently his wife was murdered by Balam (Chuck Liddell), head of the Russian mob, and his partner was the one who turned him in to them. Balam has been mostly untouchable up until now. Living his life inside of a maximum security prison under the protection of corrupt wardens and politicians. Jack’s crime managed to get him in some hot water. Hot enough to be sent to the same maximum security prison that Balam is at. Get the picture now? While there Jack finds out that he’s not alone. A rather slow inmate named William (Dolph Lundgren) tries to make friends with the disenfranchised cop and it doesn’t take a genius to know that there is no way that Dolph is playing a slightly slow prisoner with just a drawl. That’s right, William is in there for his own reasons and those reason’s don’t including rotting in jail for the rest of his life.
Using Jack to his advantage, William soon reveals that they’re on the same side and with the same goal in mind. Take down Balam. Now that seems easy enough considering they’re both in prison, but Balam is basically an invincible god, stuck up in his private prison suite with bodyguards and enough weapons to take down an army. So that means Jack and William have to come up with a way to bring the king out of his castle so that Jack Stone can do what he came to this hell hole to accomplish. Take the king’s head.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=68306[/img]“Riot” is nothing extremely inventive or incredible. It’s a cheesy action movie in the DTV niche market with lots of big muscled men beating each other senseless. That still doesn’t take away from the fact that I had a LOT of fun with the movie, cheese and all. Dolph Lundgren and Chuck Liddell are plastered all over the cover of the Blu-ray and promotional art like they are the main characters, however Matthew Reese is actually the real protagonist of the film. Dolph is relegated to a supporting character, and despite my love of the Swedish martial artist I’m actually glad they did so. His role of William was perfect just the way he was. Just enough of an imposing force to make it look like he’s still on top of things, but not so much that you’re rolling your eyes at the 60 something guy trying to take on 35 year old muscle bound oafs. Reese does that in spades as he is just JACKED for the role and his background of martial arts helps a lot in his battles throughout the film. He really doesn’t seem THAT awesome at fighting until the end though, when his Tae Kwon Do background comes out to play (his mother is an instructor and started him at a young age). Liddell does a solid job at Balam, but he’s looking a little pudgy and his movements have slowed just a bit over the years, which is perfect for Reese though, who’s looking mighty fast in comparison.
The fight choreography is a mixed bag, being that you can tell they just go many non-martial artist stunt actors and had them run through a fight on a low budget. The chick fights are the biggest offenders as their movements seems stiff and stilted, sometimes over choreographed. Still the big action set pieces really work and actually are continuous shots for once. I’m one of those people who is just sick and tired of a film maker taking a scene and cutting it up into a billion quick cuts to make it seem like the actors are really going at it. Using the Paul Greengrass effect of blurred motion to simulate a fight by making you think something is going on because there is chaos in motion. All of the fights have SOME cuts to them, but by and large they are given a lot of frames before a cut happens, which is extremely refreshing to see actual combat going on without a gazillion annoying cuts.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=68314[/img]The 1.78:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray looks quite good, with some really spectacular looking scenes, combined with some overly flat DTV standard looking moments intermingled. When we see the outside world with the Reporter Trish Sinclair, or the flashbacks to when Stone’s wife is alive, we see some brilliant looking photography that looks stellar. Wonderfully rich colors, bright lighting and great fine detailing across the board. Inside the prison is a bit more subdued, with heavy emphasis on grey and orange color tones. Skin tones are a bit greyish, but fine detail is solid with good lines around the clothing as well as facial details showing up quite well. Blacks can be a bit murky at times, but overall look quite good. The really weird bits are inside Trisha Sinclair’s apartment, as they look overly flat with poor color saturation and a greyish tinge to the whole scenario.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=68322[/img]The best part of the whole film happens to be the aggressive 5.1 DTS-HD MA track ensconced on the disc. Aggressive and heavy with the LFE, it pounds away like a prison riot, adding deep waves of bass to combat scenes and a nice punch in the face with aggressive surround usage. The prison riots stand out as the chaos ensues all around, giving a nice sense of immersion to the experience. Dialog is never under attack though, with strong vocals and a nice sense of balance with the aggressive nature of the audio. The front soundstage can sometimes get a bit dominant, but it balances out at the end with a lot combat and rioting to keep those surrounds active.
“Riot” is cheesy, cheap and stupid, but it plays well with the old “good guy in prison to get the bad guy” trope that has been in action films for decades. Reese and Lundgren do really well as the undercover good guys and the fight scenes are a lot of fun, despite some awkward choreography here and there. It’s not a high budget release, but not intended to be one either, and I for one had a lot of fun with the DTV actioneer. Audio and video are good to great, and even though there are no special features I wouldn’t have expected them to make much of a difference anyways. Worth it for a fun watch if you like to see big muscled men punch each other in the face and kicked in the stomach.
Starring: Chuck Liddell, Dolph Lundgren, Matthew Reese
Directed by: John Lyde
Written by: John Lyde, Spanky Dustin Ward
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 88 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 5th 2016
Buy Riot On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Worth a Watch
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