Judge David Johnson Z thinks the letter "Z" as a suffix or prefix instantly makes things cooler. Try it out sometime.
One man. Two lives. Countless enemies.
Continuing the trend of well-known stars in straight-to-DVD releases, Bobby Z features Paul Walker (Eight Below) and Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) squaring off in a case of mistaken identities.
Facts of the Case
Time Kearney (Walker) is a loser criminal, facing a harrowing stay in prison. But salvation comes knocking in the guise of a mysterious DEA agent named Tad Gruzsa (Fishburne). Gruzsa's partner is being held by a Mexican cartel and in exchange the bad guys want the notorious Bobby Z, an infamous drug-runner—who happens to look just like Kearney.
So the deal is, Kearney impersonates Bobby Z for the swap; after that, all bets are off. But when the trade goes violently wrong, Kearney is on the run, sporting a new identity while enemies from all fronts hunt him down.
This movie's not horrible, but it's easy to see why it was shuffled off to Straight-to-DVD Land. Its title shortened from the more pretentious title The Death and Life of Bobby Z, Bobby Z does a few things well, but nothing great enough to mandate a viewing. The short of it: if you're hard up for a smattering of action on a Friday night and you enjoy large helpings of Paul Walker, I don't think you'll hate yourself in the morning for checking this one out.
I've admitted before, and I'll stick by the sentiment, I'm a Paul Walker fan. He does the same kid of schtick in each of his movies, sure, but I think it works. Bobby Z in particular seems crafted specifically to Walker's style. His character is a smart-ass tough guy, not a far cry from his past roles, and the action scenes do well to show off his on-screen dexterity. They guy has a good sense of fight scenes, and director John Herzfeld has given him plenty to work with. So, again, if you're a Paul Walker aficionado, I think you'll dig this flick at least a little bit, but for most other people, there's not too much here.
The storyline wants to be more cute and complex than it actually is, what with the identity changes and backstabbings and character reveals. In the end, this is simply a movie about a bad-ass dude running away a lot and occasionally getting into some fist fights. In fact, the story got in the way of the film's high point, the aforementioned action scenes. During his escape, Kearney matches up with a steady stream of scumbags and the fights are staged well. Herzfeld wisely opts for a traditional setup when shooting the mayhem, giving us a static look at the characters beating the Tiramisu out of each other: neck snaps, knees to the groin, gunshot wounds, and lots and lots and lots of punches to face make for some bodacious scrapping.
But to get to this good stuff you will have to endure tedious, wannabe serpentine plotting, an annoying young kid sidekick, gratuitous horseback riding, Laurence Fishburne doing very little other than sneering and hanging around, and a sense of humor that largely flounders (despite a promising start via some flashback storytelling). On the other hand, costar Olivia Wilde is ridiculously gorgeous.
Sony's DVD presentation offers both a full frame and 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Picture quality is average, but the color work was strong, especially the scenes in the Mexico desert. The 5.1 mix did a fair job of blasting the action scenes out. Previews and a short behind-the-scenes feature with cast and crew interviews are it for your extras.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I'll tell you what's real corny, though: the painfully clichéd "No, he's the imposter! Shoot him!" scene that all of these mistaken identity films seem to feature. Bobby Z is no different.
It's got its moments, but a more appropriate title change might have been Bobby Zzzzzzzzzz. See what I did there?
Guilty of Mediocrity in the Second Degree.
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