Judge David Johnson wants to win a trophy. A big one.
Power is the only thing that matters.
Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs) and Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight), reliable soldiers in the Army of Straight-to-Video Check Cashing, turn up for the low-budget crime movie that has pictures of muscle cars on the disc case cover for some reason.
Here's the gist of the movie: warring crime syndicates are threatening to tear Los Angeles apart and a daring young officer goes deep undercover to put a stop to the bloodshed and general malevolence that these scumbags have uncorked. Along the way, our hero runs into some potentially derailing circumstances when he falls in love with a girl smack in the middle of the political machinations of the gangster life.
Beyond the Trophy wants to say some big things about man's thirst for power (e.g. the trophy), but its intentions to deep-dive into the human condition is waylaid by brutal production, a needlessly serpentine plot, some corny narrative gimmicks and a pervasive feel of cheapness.
Hey, it's low-budget. I get that. But the below-average quality of the execution is jarring. More than a few times the visuals look like something just a few degrees north of VHS quality. Scenes are out of focus, and characters are positioned awkwardly off screen. It's distracting.
Not that an expert cinematographer would have done anything for the story. The endless exposition and forced switchbacks grow confusing and, ultimately, tiresome. Roberts and Madsen fulfill "hey, that guy!" quotient and I will admit neither seem to be terribly bored. Madsen also acts as the narrator so perhaps the voiceover work gives him enough juice to not check out.
In the end, these guys give it their all, but Beyond the Trophy is a pretty crappy experience from top to bottom.
As for the DVD, the less said about the putrid video and worse audio, the better.
Guilty. No one gets a trophy.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Arc Entertainment
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