Genius Products // 2007 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 7th, 2007
It's hard not to kill.
Ving Rhames (Dawn of the Dead) returns for this straight-to-DVD prison saga, jam-packed full of shivs, fistfights and implied rape. Good times!
Rhames is "Animal," an infamous prisoner who made it into incarceration lore thanks to his role kicking balls in a giant riot from his previous prison. Now transferred to a new facility, Animal is shouldering his reputation and is soon compelled to get back to doing what he does best: laying waste to suckas.
When the sinister Kasada (Conrad Dunn), the de facto kingpin of the prison, decides to co-opt control of all the gangs through a series of vicious fights, he enlists Animal to do the dirty work. Animal is unwilling at first, but Kasada arranges for his son to be framed for murder, forcing him to fight in his cage matches. Animal must contend with the dangers of prison life, the bad-asses in the fight ring, his son's future and the fact he has the same name as a Muppet.
Hey, do you love the intricate, political workings of life behind bars? Well, here's the movie for you. Animal 2 will give you an eyeful of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that goes into making a grown man one's bitch. Also, Ving Rhames fights really awesome for a 48-year old. Then again, he's got arms the size of Patriot missiles.
I'm reluctant to classify this sequel as an action movie. The fights are certainly the mayhem centerpieces, but there's so few of them, they can't propel the film deep enough into the genre to gain admittance. The first big melee doesn't even happen until 40 minutes on, and after that, you just get a montage and a final, anticlimactic bout. Lame. The fights are fine, but limited in their scope. The close-combat set-up allows for some intimate, brutal beatdowns, but there's not much innovation in the violence. Basically, Ving Rhames pounds on dudes' heads and kicks them in the genitals occasionally.
To be fair, I don't think director Ryan Combs set out to make an action movie but rather a cocktail of family turmoil, inner-city youth unease, gangland backstabbing and prison politicking. These elements are present in the final product and should appeal to viewers hankering for the aforementioned, but a dearth of action and slow pace -- and the fact I find harsh prison films fairly unsettling -- relegate Animal 2 to the basement DVD shelving in my house.
Rhames is okay, delivering his lines in his trademark hard-assed snarl, and the guy is absolutely a physical force on screen. In fact, the performances all around aren't too shabby, with Conrad Dunn turning in enjoyable work as the villain and the young guys playing Animal's sons adequately delivering street angst. The prison inmates do what they're supposed to, which is look big and mean and scare me.
Finally, the story isn't too bad. There are plenty of set-ups and betrayals to keep the narrative rolling, though I had a hard time buying the illegal fighting ring slipping under the radar for so long. You'd think a steady flow of dead and maimed inmates would raise at least one or two eyebrows at the Department of Corrections.
Straightforward DVD release from Genius Products. Video (1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen) and audio (2.0 stereo) are serviceable, though a 5.1 surround mix -- standard issue these days people! -- would have been much-appreciated. Picture quality is solid and the drab prison color levels transfer nicely. A 20-minute behind-the-scenes feature with cast and crew interviews and trailers are your extras.
Prison life is raw and brutal and Animal 2 confirms that I'd constantly be in my happy place if I was dumped into gen-pop. But don't expect much action; this is a plot-heavy drama more than a rock 'em sock 'em knuckle-sandwich epic.
Get back into the ring, Rhames. I don't care if you're AARP or not!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Making-of Featurette