Image Entertainment // 2010 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 21st, 2011
The ultimate death race.
The back of the disc case proclaims: "No wires. No CGI. Pure adrenaline!" I can get behind those first two. It's the third where I take issue.
The latest urban competition is free-running and by "latest" I mean "2004." Deep in the guts of the city a group of athletic men in their mid-to-late twenties run like crazy through the streets, displaying unreal athleticism and jumping ability. With online viewers putting down money on his exploits (and his competitors), stud freerunner Ryan (Sean Faris, Never Back Down) is hoping to save enough money to move him, his girlfriend, and his elderly grandfather to the ocean. But just when he thinks he's found a way out, he and his cohorts are gassed, given explosive neck collars, dropped back into the city, and informed they'll be running for their lives.
Look, I don't care if Parkour as an action movie centerpiece has eclipsed its expiration date. I'm always down with some practically, CGI-free beatdowns. And if that means plot and character development are pitched out of a moving vehicle, that's a sacrifice I am willing to make. What can I say. I'm a cheap date.
So while I had little expectation with regards to the story -- there are few plot conceits more emaciated these days than the "shady-millionaire-caricatures-betting-on-fights-to-the-death" -- the idea of a bunch of athletic dudes with zero sense of self-preservation jumping off of rooftops is appealing.
Unfortunately, Freerunner fans on everything. The action is spotty, the characters are morons, and the writing is laughably bad. This is a terrible movie.
Because the runners are recorded for betting purposes, they wear cameras on their head to document the action. (There are also fixed cameras located around the city, but I have no idea how stationary lenses are supposed to keep up with these guys.) Used sporadically, the first-person view can be semi-effective and adds a nice effect to the Parkour. Fans of the video game Mirror's Edge know what I'm talking about. Problem is, this tactic is overused, and you're stuck with some jittery POV shots that nauseate more than thrill.
Director Lawrence Silverstein is hamstrung because Sean Faris, while athletic, isn't on the same level as the Parkour pros -- and he's the main guy. So Silverstein has to shoot around his star, which leads to hastily-edited, hard-to-follow sequences. The good news: legit freerunning champion Ryan Doyle and some of his peers get a solid share of screen time and their stuff is impressive to watch.
In the end, these above-average moments are too few and far between. Freerunner is mired in a swamp of brutal line-reads and plot holes you can do a double somersault through. Keep running by this one.
The Blu-ray is average, sporting a soft, washed-out 2.35:1/1080p HD transfer that only springs to life during a boat explosion in the finale. That's a bad thing, because the clarity reveals how godawful the effects work is. Audio is aggressive, with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track pushing out the grunt work. Extras: behind-the-scenes footage, a making-of featurette, a look at the stunts and fights, and some on-set B-roll featuring the actors playing a game called ninja (which actually looks pretty fun) and engaging in random Parkour.
Remember when I mentioned Mirror's Edge earlier? Go play that instead.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R