Our review of Rites of Passage (2011) (Blu-ray), published November 30th, 2012, is also available.
A journey throughout the explosive world of No Holds Barred fighting.
When I learned I was receiving a disc titled Rites of Passage for review, I looked for any information on the film. As a result, I was expecting a 1999 drama directed by Victor Salva, a director whose work I refuse to watch on the basis that he remains unrepentant about his child molestation. Imagine my relief when I saw that the disc was not the Salva film but a documentary about ultimate fighting. My relief lasted all but a few scant minutes.
There are people who swear by this stuff. Ultimate Fighting Championship, K-1, WWC, and various others pull in major grosses on pay-per-view yearly. My friends have tried in vain to convert me—to no avail. I have always been a wrestling fan and I will die a wrestling fan.
Rites of Passage makes a game attempt at being the Beyond The Mat of fighting documentaries. Beyond The Mat, as you might remember, was a genuine attempt by a filmmaker to explain the appeal and lifestyle of a wrestler. It was well filmed, edited, and directed, and had engaging interviews. Rites of Passage contains none of those things.
There are the "major" stars such as Mark "The Hammer" Coleman, Kevin Randelman, and even Royce Gracie puts in an appearance in fighting footage. Then there is the case of Ron "H2O Man" Waterman, who claims he was a WWF star. I have been watching the WWF (now WWE) all my life and I have no recollection of him ever appearing on a major show. Anyone who has seen him in WWF, do drop me a line. Unlike Beyond The Mat, their insights have no depth or interest and non-fanatics (like yours truly) will be bored out of their gourds.
The photography is very sloppy. While I agree that digital video is a godsend to us aspiring independent filmmakers, why must cinematographers think they have to hand hold the camera? There's nothing worse than half your audience walking out because the camerawork induces nausea and vertigo.
As for the full frame transfer, it appears that Rise Above took an existing VHS transfer and used that for the master. All the problems inherent with VHS are present with this transfer. Pixelation is always present, the colors are very muted, and there is the grain that is always present in any project filmed in digital video. It looks bad, and why anyone would want to pay $24.99 for such poor quality is beyond comprehension.
The basic Dolby Digital 1.0 mono mix is just as bad. Some dialogue is barely audible; other dialogue passages are way too bold and loud and the overall sound is tinny and hollow sounding. Very disappointing.
The second disc of this two-disc set is devoted to extras. Four commercials and three mini-featurettes are included as well as a full-length documentary. This is for fans only as I really had little patience to sit through any more of this material.
As I said before, $24.99 is what this set is selling for in stores. Fans won't wait for my blessing (and it's a good thing they won't). Non-fans are advised to stay away and spend your money elsewhere.
Get out of my courtroom before I change my mind.
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