You wouldn't want to run into Judge Paul Pritchard on the battleground...or anywhere else for that matter.
Our review of Battleground (1949), published July 26th, 2004, is also available.
There Will Be No Peace.
"You won't make it out of here. No one does."
Facts of the Case
Following a heist which saw the theft $3.2 Million—and a trail of bodies in its wake—six bank robbers are forced to get off the grid for a few hours while their getaway flight is re-arranged. Eventually coming across an abandoned cabin in a remote wooded area, the group prepares to settle down for the night, before making their way to a morning rendezvous. Due to the botched nature of said heist, in particular the actions of one member of the group which lead to the murder of a police officer, these crooks are already at each other's throats, and as tempers flare, one is gunned down by his cohorts.
When tensions between the men threaten to boil over, it becomes clear they are not alone. First their van goes missing, then the body of their deceased colleague is removed from the shallow grave they placed him in. Before long, their numbers begin to dwindle, as they fall victim to "The Hunter," a Vietnam vet who has no intention of letting any of them escape.
Battleground is as derivative a work as I have ever seen. Combining equal parts Predator and First Blood, while throwing in a pinch of Reservoir Dogs and Jeepers Creepers, there isn't anything about writer/director Neil Mackay's violent thriller you haven't seen before. And yet, thanks to Mackay's tight execution and the work of his cast, Battleground is a good little action thriller.
Battleground may be a low budget offering, but that hasn't stopped Mackay and cinematographer Kevin Rasmussen from delivering a handsome, albeit suitably gritty picture; one which makes effective use of its rural setting. Despite most of the action taking place outdoors, there's a definite sense of being trapped that sets in as the crazed hunter begins stalking his prey, which Mackay uses to build up a little tension. Though lacking originality, there's no denying the game of cat and mouse that ensues is engrossing, and Hugh Lambe's Hunter—a Vietnam vet who often becomes psychotic whenever strangers encroach on his territory—is suitably menacing.
Battleground does owe a debt to other (arguably better) movies, but such comparisons go beyond mere influence and lead to one or two scenes being copied almost verbatim. If you've seen Predator, you'll no doubt recall the scene where Dutch, Blain, and Mac unload round after round into the undergrowth, hoping to hit their unseen enemy. Mackay clearly remembers, as Battleground has its own shot by shot recreation. Likewise, scenes set in the Hunter's bunker are strikingly reminiscent of the Creeper's lair from Jeepers Creepers, where old tunes play and bodies are dissected with the utmost care.
The film's major weak point lies in its characters. For example, Lee Sandford's Heather is superfluous to the story, existing merely for eye candy. Though Sandford does a fine job, it's a shame she wasn't given more to do than play the terrified token female victim. Like every other character here, Heather is one-dimensional and undeserving of depth. This isn't necessarily critical. Battleground never claims to being anything more than an action-orientated thriller, moving at a quick enough pace that such deficiencies are easy to miss. I only wish more thought was put into it, as a few memorable characters would have undoubtedly elevated Battleground a notch or two.
Presented in standard definition 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the DVD offers a clean transfer with strong detail and natural colors complementing a sharp picture. The Dolby 5.1 Surround mix impresses with its use of the rear speakers, and delivery of crisp dialogue. The lone bonus feature is the film's trailer.
Nobody is going to mistake Battleground for a classic, but it delivers solid three-star entertainment.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Well Go USA
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