Some risks aren't worth taking.
Christian Rayne (Brian White, The Shield) is a man at a crossroads. His Olympic career ended prematurely, courtesy of a devastating injury. His relationship with his father is cold and impersonal. He doesn't communicate with his mother. He has decided to leave school to pursue an acting career. While attending a party, he meets Tony (Doron Keenan). Tony gets Christian involved with the drug trade, much to the chagrin of Claire (Tracey Stone). Will Christian cave in to temptation, or will he snap out of it and rejoin the real world?
Boy, I could swear that above description sounded like the synopsis to a really bad ABC Afterschool Special (Does anyone out there remember that series?) I feel bad using that parallel, since Redemption has some good things in it. It's well acted and directed. Unfortunately, it also needed a rewrite, pronto.
I can tell that Sean Reid, the director, has a future in this business. He knows how to direct actors to give strong performances. He knows how to use the camera effectively, especially given that Redemption was shot on high-definition digital video. Maybe Reid (who's credited with the story concept) should have written the script himself. Screenwriter Hunter Dennis resorts to the predictable far too often. Reid came up with an intriguing premise, but Dennis fails to provide the characterizations necessary to flesh out the heart of the story.
Brian White gives a fine performance as Christian. He invests the character with more insight and details than Dennis bothered to give him. As an actor, White has real potential, and I would like to see him in another film. Doron Keenan is properly charismatic and menacing as Tony, the would-be drug dealer. Tracey Stone is also good as the love interest, creating a living, breathing human from the ashes of Dennis' script.
Artisan actually gives us a 1.78:1 non-anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks very nice. Considering the origins of the film (digital video), you can forgive the slight grain and subdued colors. The picture looks very sharp, with solid contrast and no edge enhancement. I'm pleased they offered a widescreen version—Artisan is infamous for their crappy full-frame disasters (refer to my reviews of The Scheme, Cat Chaser, and Cutthroat Alley for more information).
Audio is offered in both Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Surround stereo. Both are fair efforts, neither exceptional nor underwhelming. Sometimes the musical score is mixed too loudly, overpowering the dialogue. Some scenes are hampered by an eerie tinny sound during moments of silence. You can understand most of the dialogue, but be prepared to turn on the English subtitles. You'll need them for those parts affected by this background noise.
By Artisan standards, the extras on this disc are plentiful by. A commentary track by director Sean Reid and producer/editor Bonner Bellew is unusually informative and intelligently done. There are some moments when the participants stoop to self-congratulation, but for the most part, they avoid that trap. You will learn more about the production and behind-the-scenes details than you normally would. Rounding out this lean package are the standard photo gallery and a theatrical trailer.
I actually want to watch Redemption again. It may be the type of film that takes repeat viewings to fully appreciate. That said, I wouldn't recommend purchasing this disc. $19.99 is just too much to pay for a film that is mediocre at best. I'm tempted to recommend renting it, though. The performances and direction make a valiant effort to overcome the tepid script, and nearly succeed. Maybe the best option is to wait until it appears on cable.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary Featuring Director Sean Reid and Producer Bonner Bellew
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