Driven to Kill (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Optimum Releasing
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo & Samuel Scott (10th April 2014).
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

Optimum Releasing have released "Driven to Kill" onto Blu-ray in the United Kingdom using the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The transfer is 1080p and uses an AVC MPEG-4 encode. It's also a huge disappointment.

We often complain of companies excessively using digital noise reduction and removing natural grain, but this also works in reverse. This movie was shot in HD, and then had heavy artificial grain added to the transfer in post-production. Why they have done this, I have no idea, but it hasn't been done well. In fact, not much has done well here. Next on the problem list is the severe lack of detail. Close-ups look flat, and background objects have no clarity and often look fuzzy. In fact, I would rate it as a reasonable looking DVD when it comes to details. Colours are inconsistent throughout, especially the black levels which also suffer from crush. Skin tones are warm, and much of the palette feels soft. There's a little aliasing here and there and a few compression artefacts, but no major damage to the print such as scratches. Overall, despite the low production values and my low expectations, "Driven to Kill" looks poor for Blu-ray. It's certainly not a transfer to look out for.

The feature is uncut, and runs 98:07.

Audio

There are two audio options available:
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- English LPCM 2.0 Stereo

Unfortunately, like the transfer, the audio is a disappointment. For my viewing I opted for the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which was flat and lacked depth. The surrounds are well utilised for the score, but when it comes to the gun shots, fights, environmental effects and dialogue, it may as well have been a stereo track. There is little in the way of channel separation, and apart from the score, directionality is poor. Dialogue is occasionally a little mumbled and difficult to understand, but generally coherent. As to be expected for such a new film, there are no problems such as inconsistent volume levels, drop outs or scratches. This is a basic track, and nothing more. Please note it is the Stereo track that plays by default, so remember to change the settings before the movie starts.

No subtitles have been included.

Extras

Just a theatrical trailer (2:27).

Overall

Film reviewed by Anthony Arrigo.
A/V and extras reviewed by Samuel Scott.

The Film: D Video: D Audio: C Extras: E Overall: D

 


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