Appellate Judge Tom Becker salutes the return of affordable sadism.
Ten men stole his life.
Ryan (Brendan Carr, Rise of the Footsoldier) thought he'd left his gangster life behind when he met the lovely Amy (Pooja Shah, Bend It Like Beckham). As is always the case, just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in. It's that One Last Job, and it doesn't go well. It goes horribly, as a matter of fact, and Ryan's old gang comes after him and Amy, torturing and killing them both.
Well, not quite. Evidently, someone didn't check Ryan's pulse so well, and he somehow survives a brutal beating and shooting, and being wrapped in plastic and dumped in the ocean.
Now, Ryan is a bruised, bloodied killing machine, and nothing—knives, bullets, gloom of night—will stop his quest for vengeance against the men who destroyed his life.
If the description of Ryan's improbable survival sounds a little over the top, wait until you see the rest of Ten Dead Men. A gleefully giddy celebration of sadism, it borrows liberally from the Tarantino and Woo playbooks, with echoes of Danny Boyle's Shallow Grave tossed in here and there, and is turned out on a budget that would make "shoestring" seem lavish.
Normally, zero-budget attempts to replicate an action film fail miserably. The filmmakers don't seem to understand that a comparatively crappy hi-def camera and a home computer editing system are not going to turn out something that resembles a studio production.
Director Ross Boyask is the rare meager-moneyed filmmaker who seems to get this. Realizing how terrible badly done effects look, this film suggests more than it shows, and the result is a powerful, high-tension thriller. Ten Dead Men is an absolutely brilliant use of low-tech resources, with ultra-violence effectively conveyed through cut-aways, jumps, reactions, sounds, and aftermath shots.
Boyask uses a narrator to tell his story, normally a hokey device, but one that works here. The purple, pulpy prose could have been a disaster; instead, it's a knowing wink at the genre. Lines like "Most of his considerable pay packets he gambles away; the rest he spends on drink to wash away the memory of his losses" tell us everything we need to know about the characters and set the mood well.
The film is structured in small chapters showing the demise of the various victims (there are more than 10 deaths, by the way), with flashbacks giving us Ryan's story and the events leading up to all this. Much of it is convoluted, but the details don't matter. All you need to know is that Ryan's an ogre looking for vengeance, and lots of people are going to be hurt real bad. It helps that the victims are fleshed out and well acted, and that they're given twisty backstories that make them more interesting.
Boyask does a great job directing and editing his action scenes. There's a cool and gruesome fight in an auto body shop, and a fantastic sequence in which Carr's Ryan squares off against real-life fighter Tom Gerald. The sheer amount of punishment doled out in these scenes is enough to keep action fans more than satisfied, and some of the more lurid agonies served up (Ryan keeps souvenirs of his victims) will have horror fans salivating. The level of violence is almost comical, but it never becomes unwatchable.
MTI gives us a very nice release of this British film, starting with a great-looking widescreen transfer. Audio is a simple stereo track, but it works fine. For extras, we get two commentaries, one with Boyask, Carr, and Producer Phil Hobden, the other with Boyask, writer Chris Regan, and f/x supervisor Steve Hayes. One drawback of these commentaries is that the film is playing in the background, and it's not synched with what's on screen, so it's a little difficult to listen to the tracks while watching. We also get three music videos of songs that are used in the movie, a couple of outtakes reels, a gallery, and a "behind-the-scenes" featurette that really doesn't tell us much at all.
Grisly, funny, and extremely well made, Ten Dead Men exceeds expectations. Boyask has made a perfect no-budget thriller that gets it right most of the time.
Everybody here is guilty, that's why this thing works.
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