Death and Life of Bobby Z, The (UK - BD RB)
Our Scott McKenzie wasn't surprised to discover this movie went direct to video...
When criminal and ex-Marine Tim Kearney (Paul Walker) hits his third strike with the California justice system, he finds himself staring down a long prison stretch. He knows that would guarantee his death at the hands of the friends of the inmate he killed on the inside, but he's given an opportunity to walk free by DEA agent Tad Gruzsa (Laurence Fishburne). He accepts the deal to impersonate recently deceased drug dealer Bobby Z in return for his freedom, but things don't exactly go according to plan and Tim finds himself descending into Bobby Z's world and he's forced to confront his own problems as well as Bobby's.
Before I kick off the review, here are a few facts about The Death And Life Of Bobby Z (to be known as just Bobby Z from now on). It was filmed in 2005. According to IMDb, its premiere was in 2007. On DVD. In Greece. It was originally optioned for theatrical release by Warner Bros. but they passed and Sony picked it up and sent it straight to DVD. Are alarm bells ringing yet? They certainly were in the screening room at Warner Bros. and they should be if you come across this movie and think (as Sony are hoping you will), 'hey, Morpheus is in it and so's that guy who's a bit like Keanu Reeves but probably costs the producers a lot less'.
Ignoring the closing credits, this movie clocks in at around ninety minutes, but it'll feel like you've sat through the Lord of the Rings marathon. The fact of the matter is that not much happens, and when it does, you're left wondering why something so illogical could ever happen. A prime example is when our hero returns to his cabin in the woods. He suspects that someone is inside so he ducks out of the way. At the same time, the bad guy inside opens the door and triggers a bomb, which the bad guys must have known was there. The look on his face at that moment says either 'uh oh spaghetti-Os' or 'what the hell am I doing in this movie?'
While the cast list may read like that of a theatrical release, it's clear that this isn't exactly a passion project for anyone involved. Everyone on screen you might expect a half-decent performance from is phoning it in. The biggest culprit is Jason Flemyng, who looks like he's trying to get through his scenes as quickly as possible in case anyone notices him. There's one spot of casting that made me smile though. When I heard talk of a powerful Mexican drug lord, I thought 'wouldn't it be good if he was played by Joaquim de Almeida?' And guess what? Up popped Joaquim de Almeida! If you want someone to play a South American badass who hangs around haciendas shouting at people, there's no better choice, as he proves in Desperado, Clear and Present Danger, 24...
Throughout the course of the movie there are a lot of strange moments that left me wondering why certain choices were made in the production. The opening credits are accompanied by narration by an old geezer who tells the audience how great Bobby Z is. This guy never shows up again and we never find out who he is. I found the editing to be troublesome, with a lot of cuts being made too late. This may sound picky, but what it means is that certain scenes are a lot slower than they should be and at times we're left with nothing more than characters staring at each other for far too long. Then we have one particular shot that may not even be on screen for more than a second, but the only two words I can think of to sum it up are: horse cam.
The one thing that put me off the movie most is that while Paul Walker is undercover as Bobby Z, no one really questions the fact that he's not the famous drug dealer who no one actually seems to have met. Then we have the attempt at giving him a redemptive storyline by bonding with the real Bobby's son, which only serves to slow the action down even more. There are a few predictable twists and turns along the way but the whole production feels very lazy and I suspect it was really just an excuse to have a few pool parties, where a lot of time seems to be spent without anything happening.
Considering Bobby Z is based in California and Mexico you should expect the movie to look bright and sunny, but the picture is a bit too dull for my liking. Colours look a bit washed out and black tends to look more like very dark grey. There also isn't the level of detail or sharpness we've come to expect from high definition transfers of recent productions. Sure, you can pick out every hair in Paul Walker's designer stubble but the detail doesn't stretch out to the background. There aren't any major problems with this 1080p 2.35:1 picture but I found myself to be generally underwhelmed with the quality.
Ditto for the audio quality I'm afraid. I could tell you I was listening to a TrueHD soundtrack, but I couldn't really tell you why I would have chosen it over a 5.1 track on standard DVD. Explosions are nice and loud, but this is actually a movie that's heavier on dialogue than action and I found the dialogue to be rather quiet and I had to adjust the levels on my system (which is usually evenly balanced) to get the balance right. Unfortunately Bobby Z suffers from Lethal Weapon syndrome, whereby there is incidental music playing in the background almost all the way through the movie and it started to grate on me very quickly.
Other than the trailer for Bobby Z, all we get is an eleven-minute behind the scenes featurette including a predictably large volume of clips from the movie along with interviews with the cast and crew. The biggest let-down is the fact that the video is non-anamorphic, which is pretty shameful on a high definition release.
It's very hard to recommend anything about The Death and Life of Bobby Z. The movie itself is a tough slog through a screenplay where not very much happens and the performances of the actors aren't enough to save it. The presentation isn't quite up to the standards we expect from high definition and Sony may as well not have bothered with the extras. There are plenty of much better action movies available on Blu-ray so I'd recommend more shopping around if you're thinking of plumping for this unremarkable movie.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 14th April 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English , Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Japanese
Subtitles: English, English HoH, Hindi, Japanese
Extras: Behind the Scenes Featurette
Easter Egg: No
Director: John Herzfeld
Cast: Paul Walker, Laurence Fishburne, Jason Lewis, Jason Flemyng
Genre: Action, Crime and Thriller
Length: 97 minutes
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