Game of Death (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
February 11, 2011 by Dennis Amith
Wesley Snipes once again shows us that he can kick some ass! Unfortunately, “Game of Death” features the most experimental, ineffective and overused editing effects that I have ever seen in a popcorn action film.
Images courtesy of © 2010 Game of Death Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Game of Death
FILM RELEASE DATE: 2010
DURATION: 111 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English, 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
COMPANY: Voltage Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RATED: R (for Violence and Language)
RELEASE DATE: February 8, 2011
Directed by Giorgio Serafini
Screenplay by Jim Agnew, Megan Brown
Executive Producer: Alastair Burlingham, Nadine DeBarros, Zev Foreman, Will French, Roger Alan Grad, John S. Hicks, Richard Rionda Del Castro, Steve roobbins, Stephen Roberts, David Schiff
Supervising Producer: Luc Campeu, Barry Filby
Produced by Billy Dietrich, Philippe Martinez, Rafael Primorac
Associate Producer: Mikey Eckstein, Jennifer Young
Co-Producer: Romain Viaris-de-Lesegno
Line Producer: Michael Williams
Music by Jesse Voccia
Cinematography by Erik Curtis
Edited by Kevin Budzynski, Todd C. Ramsay
Casting by Lori Eastside, Dean E. Fronk, Donald PAul Pemrick
Production Design by Frank DeCurtis
Art Direction by George Goodridge
Set Decoration by Lou A. Trabbie III
Costume Design by Dana Campbell, Jo Rosen, Alexis Scott
Wesley Snipes as Agent Marcus
Zoe Bell as Floria
Robert Davi as Smith
Gary Daniels as Zander
Ele Bardha as Security Guy #1
Simon Rhee as Stairwell Assassin
Quinn Duffy as Redvale
Dailyn Matthews as Nurse Rebecca
LaDon Drummond as Jane
Action superstar Wesley Snipes is back and badder than ever as CIA Agent Marcus Jones, a professional hit man caught in a double-cross between his partners in the agency, a ruthless arms dealer and a powerful Wall Street broker worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Framed for a murder he didn’t commit and chased by expert assassins, Jones must clear his name before its too late.Also starring Robert Davi (Die Hard), Gary Daniels (The Expendables) and Zoë Bell (Grindhouse), GAME OF DEATH is an action-packed thriller filled with pulse-pounding excitement.
“Game of Death” is an action-packed, balls to the wall popcorn action film showcasing Wesley Snipes and showing us that the man still has it!
“Game of Death” is a film that was released in 2010 (in Japan) and is a direct-to-video film directed by Italian filmmaker Giorgio Serafini and starring Wesley Snipes (“Blade” films, “Demolition Man”, “The Art of War”), Robert Davi (“The Goonies”, “Die Hard”, “oo7: License to Kill”), Ernie Hudson (“Ghostbusters” films, “The Crow”, “Miss Congeniality”), Zoe Bell (“Kill Bill” films, “Inglorious Basterds”, “Death Proof”) and Gary Daniels (“City Hunter”, “Fist of the North Star”, “The Expendables”).
The film revolves around Agent Marcus (played by Wesley Snipes), a CIA agent who was assigned to a case to infiltrate and become the bodyguard of underground arms dealer and kingpin Smith (played by Robert Davi). Marcus was given explicit instructions that no one in the CIA is to know about his involvement, nor should it link back to the CIA.
The film begins with Agent Marcus watching a group of kids playing with a priest (played by Ernie Hudson). Marcus visits the priest inside the church and begins his confession and says that the newspapers are right about him. He is a CIA agent who is wanted for theft and murder and tells his story.
As we see how Agent Marcus was assigned the job to infiltrate Smith’s underground business and become his bodyguard, a group of people in black are in pursuit of Smith. While pursuing Smith, unbeknown to Agent Marcus that they are being followed, Smith suffers a heart attack. And while they are en route to the hospital, the people in black start open firing at him.
Agent Marcus manages to get Smith to the hospital in time and a doctor begins surgery on him. Meanwhile, as Smith is treated for his diabetes, he is unaware that the men in black are in the hospital to kill him and kidnap Smith.
But when one man fails to kill him, Agent Marcus realizes that they are after him and Smith and he tries to take the gunmen one-by-one.
He realizes that the men in black are led by Zander (played by Gary Daniels) and that he, his friend Floria (played by Zoe Bell) and other CIA agents have gone rogue and are sick of their jobs representing and protecting monsters, so they have decided to steal Smith’s money. They ask Agent Marcus to join them but Marcus has no intention of helping them out.
In fact, Agent Marcus wants to make sure that the CIA rogue agents are dead.
“Game of Death” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1) and while visuals tend to show good amount of detail on walls, face closeups and seeing the skin much clearly, there seems to be an extraordinary amount of experimental editing for this film, especially with the look.
I’ll go into problems that I have with the editing more in the conclusion for my review but I will address the use of filters which brings out the browns and the blacks for the film. Some scenes look good and blacks are nice and deep. The problem is, while it may prove to be stylish and cool and enhance your Caucasian villains dressed in Black, all it does was enhance and darken Wesley Snipes even more to the point that his suit and his face are black. The fact that Snipes is a darker man where the hospital surroundings are white, there should have been better lighting on Snipes, so his face can be seen. These scenes primarily are used inside the hospital and times where you can’t see Snipes. He’s a black figure and all you see the collar of his shirt and his eyeballs.
Needless to say, I have issues with the experimental nature of this film when it came to various shots and editing. What may work for an arthouse film, does not work in an action film especially when its overdone and the fact that it’s utilized too much in different ways, it’s like someone was trying to employ every kind of effect with editing that they can accomplish. Too much of it is not a good thing.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Game of Death” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. For an action film, the film delivers in crystal clear dialogue and music. Music and gunshots are well utilized through the surround channels but it’s not as immersive as I have hoped.
For a film that took liberties in utilizing various editing sequences, I wish they used that creativity towards audio. Sure, there are music that seemed in tune with the fighting scenes but I was hoping for a little more surround direction with bullets whizzing from left to right or right to left, something more immersive. More use of the bass or possible LFE during the chase scenes and fights. It’s a decent lossless audio presentation but not as immersive as I would have hoped. Don’t expect “Quantum of Solace” type of lossless audio during the chase or gun battles in “Game of Death”.
Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH and Spanish.
“Game of Death” comes with the following special feature (presented in HD):
- Behind-the-Scenes – (10:16) A featurette that contains six mini-featurettes which include: A Look at the Story, The Action Game of Death, The cast, Working with Director Giorgio Serafini, Behind the Stunts and Shooting in Detroit.
This is probably one of the better post-Blade Wesley Snipes movie I have seen in a while but while Snipes fit the role, I had a few problems with the screenplay and the editing.
First, the good.
Wesley Snipes can always play a cold, kick-ass type of character. In “Game of Death”, Agent Marcus is your cool, somewhat emotionless agent who gets the job done. If anything, this role can easily be carried for future sequels, as he is somewhat of a fugitive, but not sure if Snipes wants to play the fugitive again like he did in “U.S. Marshals” (another action-based film where Wesley Snipes excels at). And despite Snipes being older and the fact that we haven’t seen him as much in the big screen as of late, there’s no denying that Snipes can still play these characters nor does he look as if he has aged a lot either.
For fans of popcorn action flicks, this is the type of film that you can sit and watch and just enjoy the gunfights, the one-on-one fights and just sit back and enjoy. It’s one of those types of action films and the fact that you get a pretty cool cast with Robert Davi, Ernie Hudson, Gary Daniels and Zoe Bell helps as well!
But now the bad.
This is an action film and somehow, the filmmakers wanted to spice up the action or the look of the film by using jarring editing by stutter effects, jump cuts, blur effects, black vignetting, anything that can be employed during the action sequences is employed. And too much I’m afraid to say. Everything from action sequences to chase scenes, to regular shots of cars driving, helicopters flying, these editing effects were used and I felt this sporadic and various styles of editing took you in and out of the moment.
There is too much use of experimental editing in this film that it was really getting on my nerves. Even a cinema legend like Jean-Luc Godard is known for sporadic editing but he did it sparingly for his arthouse independent films and it worked for him, for an action film, there was no need to try to make every action sequence utilize different styles of editing and effects. It would have been effective if it wasn’t used so much. I’m not talking about a few times, it happens too often and it takes you out of the film.
The other problem I had with the film is lighting. Wesley Snipes has dark skin but it seems that there was not enough lighting on certain scenes and the contrast with the type of filtering used in the film, made the blacks deeper and Wesley Snipes becoming more of a black figure on screen (I’m talking about whole body including the clothing) and all you see is his white collar and the white in his eyes. This is not a silhouette shot but it appears that by using a filter that made things visually appealing for the backgrounds, for its characters, the blacks are much more enhanced. The bad guys wear black and because they are Caucasian (and two are Asian), they can be seen easily but Snipes, not so much at times.
The last problem I have is believability of certain scenes. The scenes in which Wesley Snipes takes an elevator in the hospital and ends up in the mental ward, that whole scene was ridiculous. It was almost as if they wanted to make the mental patients seem like they were zombies without supervision from doctors. And the way it focuses on a girl who keeps telling Agent Marcus, “I dreamed of you” or “please let me go with you”, there was no need for the scenes, there was no need for dialogue. It may have led to a good fight between Snipes and one of the bad guys but it was one of the most ridiculous scenes as as a swarm of mental patients were trying to get near Agent Marcus and making them seem like zombies. A very kitschy scene.
And of course, believability. If you have a hostile in the hospital, most hospitals would enforce lockdown procedures. We see this all the time in movies and television but somehow this hospital doesn’t do anything and Agent Marcus just walks away. Granted, it would help for some credibility in scenes but if you’re intention is to make popcorn action films, then I can understand, credibility is not important.
But with that being said, the Blu-ray release of “Game of Death” visually looks very good at times with the outdoor scenes really popping. Some scenes are quite vibrant, blacks are nice and deep (but as mentioned earlier, bad lighting choices made Snipes too dark) and saw no problems with artifacting, DNR or edge enhancement. You can see the detail of the skin of the character’s faces and detail of the weapons. As for audio, there is a good use of surround usage during the gun fight exchanges but I wish there was more surround usage when it comes to bullets whizzing from left to right. As creative the crew wanted with the film visually, it would have been nice to see more immersive sound employed during those action sequences throughout the film.
Overall, “Game of Death” is a popcorn action flick that features a lot of stealth, gun battles and one-on-one fighting. A film that no one should approach as wanting to get anything deep. Although a Wesley Snipes film, it’s not as deep as “US Marshals” and it’s not as entertaining as the “Blade” films. It’s a pretty much straightforward story that is easy to follow but with editing choices and situations in the screenplay which were contrived and ridiculous at times.
But if you are looking for an action-flick just to sit back and enjoy and not look for anything significant or deep in the storyline, “Game of Death” is probably for you. Wesley Snipes does deliver and he still is able to deliver today for his action roles as he did a decade or more ago.
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