Judge David Johnson also refers to himself as the "Guardian of the Realm." When he says "the Realm," he of course means "his pants."
There's bad blood between good and evil.
If you were to see this disc just lying around your local video retailer, turned it around and checked out the screen grabs, even read the synopsis, I'd hazard a guess you'd think this was one of the cheesiest low-budget action-horror movies ever. Those were my first impressions. And I was kinda wrong.
Facts of the Case
When evil attacks, the Demon Hunters are there to smite it. The Demon Hunters—or Guardians—are a high-tech, organized group of enforcers who have the ability to track down dimensional wormholes and ambush any diabolical scumbag that dares shows its pointy head. Josh Griffin (Glen Levy) is the Guardians' most effective Hunter, notching kill after kill on his belt and generally driving the demon hordes batty.
But something is up, and it is an evil that reveals itself as the most daunting challenge yet. Some devil worshippers have gotten a hold of an ancient artifact that has the power to summon an old-school demon god named Virago, who takes the form of a curvaceous Eastern European woman that struggles with English. No matter, it's all about her breasts and the revealing leather outfit she chooses to shoehorn them into.
Hotshot Alex Marlowe (Tanya Dempsey), a special import to help squash the undead, arrives to aid Griffin in his mission to clean out the occult hive and take out Virago. Alex brings her icy stare and her deadly blade-wielding to supplement Griffin's playful smile and haphazard marksmanship, creating a fearsome twosome that has a rendezvous with slime demons and half-naked immigrants.
I have to say, I was a little disappointed. I was all set to launch into this movie, face off with its presumed horrible-ness, and corn-hole it to death in a review. The thing just looked so stupid. Yet lo and behold, Guardian of the Realm failed to be the glorious whipping boy I had it pegged to be. Is it a good movie? Not particularly. The runtime is a serious issue, the performances are pretty bad, and the special effects are a joke, but there's enough good crap in here to win it some favor.
First off, you get whole bunch of decent make-up and costuming, considering what was surely a hamstrung budget. There are lots of demons running around this film, and the costuming crew was able to pull together some convincing work; horns and pointy teeth and crazy eyes abound, and it doesn't look that bad. Even better is the cyborg demon that pops up as major bad dude—the guy looks decent in his costume and actually moves with enough flexibility and skill to look the part. The final demon reveal is also well-done. Quality, however, tapers off when we deal with Virago the Poorly Dressed. Sorry, but that leather get-up is just weird and unflattering. Plus, homegirl is prominently featured on the back of the disc case, leading to said assumption the movie was rife with rampant cheese.
Our two heroes traipse through the movie decked out in leather jackets and form-fitting T-shirts (Dempsey runs around the entire time with a thong wedgie). It's the typical futuristic-quasi-Matrix look, but it fits with what we've come to expect with these action horror ventures. Performance-wise, well, yeah, things start to unravel when the actors open their mouths. Levy has a nifty accent and a goatee and that covers up some of his emotive limitations, but Dempsey, for all of her copious good-lookingness, never rises beyond mediocre. Her line delivery is stilted and she seems to miss every punch in her dialogue. She also has some really bad one-liners like "I'm that good," after wasting some demon. Bleccchh.
A few other positive notes: director Ted Smith loads the film up with a nice amount of gore (brother is in love with decapitations) and fights are decently choreographed, often paid off with a blood-splattered dispatch.
On the downside, there isn't nearly enough action. In fact, Guardian of the Realm could easily knock 20 minutes off of its runtime and the only result will be a leaner, meaner flick. The pacing lags too much in some spots, and the gap in action is noticeable, and harmful to the proceedings. Cut the talking, and keep the demon-slaying rolling. Latter, done well; former, not so much.
The technical end of the disc is lacking. The widescreen, besides being non-anamorphic, looks pretty bad. Visual quality is fuzzy, grain is abundant and the colors are too soft and murky. The 5.1 surround fails to provide an enveloping sound experience. No extras, save for a batch of trailers.
Guardian of the Realm has defied my first impression and proved to be not horrible. With 1/7 of its runtime shaved off, this could actually be a solid action low-budget action picture. Creature and gore effects are decent and the action scenes are about B- quality. The DVD itself sucks pretty hard, though.
A bit shorter and nicer-looking, and you might have escaped with an acquittal. Next time, maybe.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Velocity Home Entertainment
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