Ring Of Death
R1 - America - Genius Products
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (25th January 2009).
The Film

Just as movie stars are viewed as trendsetters or supposed to be at the edge of the latest fads in fashion or style, films themselves follow the same fads that seem to dominate society. In the past year it seems like the latest film fad has been Mixed Martial Arts fighting or MMA, which has suddenly surged to popularity in just watching two men trying to beat each other down using every way they can think of, but supposedly more real than professional wrestling. These sorts of fads effect films at every level, from the too-pretty mainstream like “Never Back Down” (2008) to even the more independent films like “Redbelt” (2008). But of course this is one part of life where the trickle down theory actually works, as the MMA fad trickles down even to the incredibly cheap, direct-to-TV or DVD films like “Ring of Death” (2008). “Ring of Death” tries to follow the MMA fad on the cheap, trying to be edgy in filmmaking but just becomes painful the longer it goes on.

Burke Wyatt (Johnny Messner) is an former cop whose career is over and he’s been struggling ever since being pushed out of the police force until his old partner comes forward with an offer from the FBI. In exchange for a trust fund for his son and the promise of a new job with the FBI, Burke must infiltrate the Cainesville State Prison to investigate a suspected underground fighting ring. Of course Burke agrees and gets into the prison, sending messages to the outside about the cage matches going on inside the prison, run by the corrupt Warden Golan (Stacy Keach) and then broadcast on the Internet for a nominal fee. Burke soon gets drawn in too deep and the warden catches on to his plans and his participation with the FBI, putting the lives of Burke’s family at risk unless he fights in cage.

The plot is fairly typical, but the writing doesn’t even reach mediocre as it’s all predictable and there aren’t any campy or fun lines to really put the movie going. Sometimes when you’re making a direct-to-DVD or made-for-TV movie like “Ring of Death” you just have to embrace what you are and just be ridiculous or bizarre in your badness to make it enjoyable. Sure there’s some ridiculous fights and a general absurdity to the movie with random nudity, but it never rises to the level of comedy or entertainment that would help to keep the film afloat. Too many of the fights just come down to guesswork and shaky cameras. You hear the impact; you see the fist or leg move for the impact followed by a shake away or quick cut to the bloodied opponent. If they were going for the more handheld style to make it seem more intense they could have at least let the fight happen or let the audience watch the fight. I’m more inclined to think that it's just a result of terrible directing and camera work. There are even some scenes where you can see the camera trying to get the proper zoom, adjusting it minutely. Other times though there’s an extreme use of just super fast zooms, but only zooming in a tiny bit, I suppose trying to add intensity but it just comes off as comical until it’s spent the past 15 minutes doing quick and maybe 2 foot zooms that just get annoying.

Overall “Ring of Death” tries to follow the trend of capitalizing off of MMA and approaches the point of awesomely bad, but hitting that sweet spot is mostly an all or nothing game. Even if you just fall an inch short of the goal, it’s just downright annoying and frustrating to watch. The acting is bad, the writing is bad and the directing is plain abysmal, I have trouble even saying watch the movie for sweet fights since you never really see a fight happen and when people are thrown to the ground you see the supposed cement bend around them as soft mats would. Definitely not worth your time.

Video

The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation features a clean transfer but the original production values aren’t terribly high to begin with. It definitely feels like the made-for-TV movie that it is and doesn’t really aspire to be much more as the video isn’t terribly crisp and the poor directing in the fight scenes doesn’t really help with the mediocre video quality.

Audio

Presented with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track suffers problems as well as the ambient sound and the audio sound track aren’t properly balanced with the audio and can sometimes elevate above the dialogue and any sound effects that are going on in the scene. It doesn’t happen all the time, but just often enough that it’s impossible to overlook.
There are no optional subtitles available on this disc.

Extras

There are no real extras to speak of other than the start-up bonus trailers on the disc, they are:

- “Yeti” runs for 1 minute and 24 seconds.
- “Swamp Devil” runs for 1 minute and 33 seconds.
- “Black Swarm” runs for 1 minute and 52 seconds.

Overall

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

 


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