Riot On!
R4 - Australia - DV1
Review written by and copyright: Stevie McCleary & Noor Razzak (2nd December 2006).
The Film

Jiggly boobs. That's what sticks out the most in my mind about this documentary. I keep thinking back to their usage of a scantily clad model's jiggly cleavage as she danced over the credits and other random flashy MTV-style breaks in the story. Whether it was intentional or not, she achieves the same goal that the founders of RIOT Entertainment did, albeit for a short time. They waved their hands around with some impressive misdirection and convinced big corporations like Nokia, Marvel Enterprises and New Line to invest millions of dollars in them. Millions of dollars into a company that didn't exist yet and once it did get going, would be declaring bankruptcy two years later. But to me it was all about those jiggly boobs. The documentary may have been about trying to work out what happened with these con-men, but for me I wondered what was going through the heads of the documentary team. Now, this isn't supposed to sound entirely negative. I just can't be sure whether I liked the way this was put together, or whether I was just another victim of jiggly-boob misdirection.
In 2000 the six Finnish men who made up RIOT Entertainment conned many businesses into giving them financial backing to help create games for people to play on their mobile phones. Not that they initially had any technology to do what they claimed. Not that they even had a company in the beginning (essentially just six guys and an impressive power point display). Not that they had people who knew what they were doing once they had a business. Not that they were above hiring friends and family to do…whatever they could find them to do. We see all of this unfold with manic, and often bizarre, animated segments that are mixed with testimony from the people that lived through the rise and fall of RIOT (some of the animated segments, while cheap, are very inventive and do serve to give the whole piece a unique look). And some of it really does have to be seen to be believed. In particular, the porn tape that some workers made in the main office's sauna at a party one night. Yup, that's right. Their office had a sauna. And parties that led to porn movies being made and sold nationwide (there's a bit of quick explicit shots of the tape in this segment, which I considered wholly unnecessary. They'd already made their point that their business was decadent).
Two of the main people behind the documentary are John Hakalax and Jan Wellmann, who were part of the original six members of RIOT-E. So naturally they appear as the main narrative throughout. But they seemingly do a fair job, as they refrain from painting themselves as victims. They seem more than open to exposing how crazy this time in their lives was. Jan's tale of his girlfriend leaving him is a standout.
As far as profanity goes, if you have tender ears, this may be a problem for you as well. It's not that there's constant use of it, but rather that when it's used it seems rather unnecessary. Not all of it comes from the people being interviewed either. One of the chapter titles is "Getting the f*****g Money". Some of it comes across as a quirk and fits the frenetic energy of the film. At other times it is just abrasive.
Fantastic music choices throughout, though. A wide variety of classical music is used to good effect and then mixed with more contemporary musical style. Very well done and fits the lightning quick editing that is used.
It's an interesting film that the blurb on the front of the DVD case claims is "Enron for the MTV generation" and this is a pretty accurate description. It's quite interesting, but at best it's an interesting diversion. Clocking in at only 73 minutes, and like jiggly cleavage, it's hard to not say that it's worth a look-see.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.78:1 this anamorphic transfer is a port from the original DV source, the film was shot on DV and therefor the image is sharp, crisp and clean. Colors are bright and vivid. Although the image is sharp I did find it flat, as is the major issue with anything shot on DV is the deep focus doesn't allow depth of field and your final image is as a result flat. This has nothing to do with the transfer but I thought it important to comment on it regardless. I also noticed some compression artefacts, visual noise was evident in some darker scenes, otherwise as far as DV-to-DVD transfers go this is a fine effort.

Audio

A single English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is included, although the film is almost entirely in English there are some scenes spoken in Finnish. For those scenes burnt-in subtitles are included. Considering this is a documentary a Stereo track is really all that's required, a 5.1 would be totally wasted on this film. The Stereo track suits the film quite well presenting the dialogue clean and distortion free although is limited in depth when music is concerned and this film does features some musical heavy moments that to be honest came across more annoying than they should have been with the music mixed at a slightly higher level than was necessary.
Other than the burnt-in subtitles no optional subtitles are included for this film.

Extras

DV1 has released this film with a collection of extras that includes an introduction, a series of deleted and extended scenes, 4 featurettes and some outtakes. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is a video introduction by founding member of Riot-E John Hakalax which runs for 1 minute 10 seconds. In this brief clip Hakalax intros the film and the reaction to it as well as lets us know this disc features some extras. Does he know the DVD packaging also carries this function?

Next are a collection of 5 deleted and extended scenes, each of these scenes includes an introduction by John Hakalax and includes:

- "Riot Sex Mayhem" which runs for 2 minutes 54 seconds, this extended scene shows how Hakalax's mother was extorted as well as the Riot porno that was shot by employees with company resources.

- "That's How We Recruited" runs for 2 minutes 43 seconds, this deleted scene reveals how Riot hired the UK manager after a night of drugs and drinking on company money.

- "Riot Christmas Carol" runs for 2 minutes 1 second, this deleted scene takes a look at the Christmas Carol that was created by Riot for their clients.

- "Game Development" runs for 3 minutes 24 seconds and is a deleted scene that deals with the sales techniques undertaken by Hakalax which managed to produce flashy pitches and demos but little else.

- "Titan A.E. Demo" is an extended scene that runs for 7 minutes 1 second and includes the complete demo for the game that Riot created in co-ordination with the film release.

Next up is "An Animated Explanation" a featurette that runs for 2 minutes 44 seconds, this clip takes a look at the animated sequence that shows how Riot got the rights to "The Lord Of The Rings" (2001-2003) films, the sequence was a matter of need rather than artistic reasons because the original interview footage shot was mostly unusable for various reason explained in this clip.

Following that is "Strong Emotional Conflicts", which is a featurette that runs for 3 minutes 49 seconds, in this clip Hakalax comments on how certain scenes in the film affected him emotionally, in the scene we was trying to contact Jan Wellman who Hakalax was convinced he was trying to avoid him and the film crew.

"The Opening Scene" is a featurette which runs for 2 minutes 16 seconds, in this clip Hakalax gives his reasons for the use of the dancer in-between the statues for the film's opening sequence, he provides a rather pretentious excuse: the juxtaposition of the lively spirit of the young girl representing the attitudes of Riot and what they were trying to project against the statues which represent hard work.

"The Leftovers" are interview outtakes presented in a reel which runs for 8 minutes 25 seconds, these unused interview segments were trimmed for time reasons.

"Outtakes and other s**t" is a reel that runs for 7 minutes 56 seconds and as the clip title suggests is a series of outtakes which include dropped stories and recollections as well as the interviewees flubbing lines.

Rounding out the extras is "Media Mayhem" a featurette which runs for 11 minutes 33 seconds and takes a look at the response to the film during its release from the media and even people that took part in the film who suddenly started to talk negatively about it and try to stop it from being shown. This clip includes some of the Finnish TV segments the filmmakers took part in.

Although this disc does include a generous amount of extras, none of them are worth repeat viewing, in fact many of the extras are throw-away clips that hold little substance, which is why they were cut from the film itself. The most interesting extra on this disc is the "Media Mayhem" featurette. It's sad that no audio commentary was included as it would have been nice to hear from the filmmakers after its release.

Overall

The Film: C Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: C+ Overall: B-

 


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