Game of Death comes to Region B-locked UK Blu-ray with a mixed-bag 1080p video presentation in the movie’s original aspect ratio of widescreen 2.35:1. Detail is generally very good throughout, from the frequent ‘stylish’ close-ups to the longer aerial shots. Softness is kept to a minimum, and there’s no sign of edge enhancement or digital defects. That said, the ridiculous film stock changes – dropping in and out of wall-size, superimposed black and white shots; often rendered in blisteringly inappropriate slo-mo – make the grain level go haywire, and highlight some unsightly banding. Some scenes come across much better than others – the intricate church detail standing out as the polar opposite in terms of quality when compared to some of the later indoor hospital and bank-located scenes. The colour scheme is clinical at best, the whole picture having a marginal yellow bias; but most of the tones are rendered quite well – from the skin tones to the often sun-drenched locales. Black levels are reasonably strong, and this isn’t an unpleasant watch, but it’s also far from demo quality.
On the aural front we get a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which just doesn’t have the material to work with, providing very little atmosphere or substance throughout the proceedings, and further emphasising the fact that this is a boring movie – surely one of the worst things an actioner can be. Dialogue comes across relatively clearly and coherently, largely dominating the frontal array, and accompanied by the often out-of-place score, this track comes across as distinctly front-dominant. Effects are extremely suppressed, and not just because of the silencers adopted by the key shooters, with very little impact to any of the more significant noises. Still the hand-to-hand combat moment pack the biggest punch, and there is some directionality directionality, surround action and something even approaching a coherent sound design for the production, most noticeable when the helicopters buzz overheard, or during one of the most tedious car chase sequences ever committed to film (shot almost entirely in a studio), but really there isn’t enough surround action, and even less output from the rears. Bass? You’ve come to the wrong place. Still, it’s a solid enough rendition for a movie like this.
Not quite a bare-bones release, we not only get some trailers (including one for the main feature), but we also get 6 Behind the Scenes Featurettes. Hold on, don’t get your hopes up – they’re each a couple of minutes in length, so there really isn’t anything substantial on offer. Split into: A Look at the Story; The Action of ‘Game of Death’; The Cast; Working with Director Giorgio Serafini; Behind the Stunts; and Shooting in Detroit, the titles speak for themselves, and basically we get your usual fluffy, padded promo excerpts, with cast and crew soundbites and behind the scenes snippets all fast-edited into a bite-size piece.
I would like to think that my taste in movies is quite broad and (almost) all-encompassing, from the Big Screen Blockbusters like The Dark Knight and Inception, to the small-scale indie stuff like Monsters and Fish Tank; from foreign thrillers like The Millennium Trilogy to Brit classics like The Ipcress File. And I even have a soft spot for ageing 80s action stars, who seem to have been almost universally relegated to the Straight-to-DVD pit, only seldom popping their heads out to see the rest of the world turning around them. Watching movies from this pit, you have to drop your standards considerably to enjoy any of them, and take what you can get from the low budget, bad acting, poor sets, generic story, stale dialogue and limited action. Occasionally there’s a surprise to be found: whether it’s a proper quality action-thriller like Van Damme’s Universal Soldier: Regeneration, or a comedy-value production (unintentionally hilarious because of its poor standards) – normally at the hands of dwindling relic Steven Seagal. These days Wesley Snipes is more famous for his tax evasion than for his contributions to film, but he’s one of the few 80s action stars who proved himself as an actor before he started throwing his fists around so it’s truly a shame that, after having provided scene-stealing support in 2009’s Brooklyn’s Finest, he has so swiftly dropped back into the Straight-to-DVD pit. Worse still, he has given us surely one of the worst DTV movies in existence, a true all-time low, which has terrible acting, horrendously-delivered already-trite dialogue, unimaginative low budget settings, jarring directorial flourishes, and poorly-staged stagnant action scenes. It really doesn’t take much to entertain me when it comes to these action stars, I’m pretty consistently forgiving, but this really is an all-time low. I’d recommend watching every single other one of Snipes’s movies before you consider picking this one up.
On Region B-locked UK Blu-ray the video and audio are decent enough for the material, and the disc isn’t quite bare-bones, but I can’t honestly see who is going to even give this a rental. I actually wanted the film to work, but if I’d have known it would have been this bad, I would have stayed away. Do what you must, but consider yourself warned.
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