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Feature


Wesley Snipes plays an undercover CIA agent Marcus (badass name right?) recounting a story to a priest (Ernie Hudson) about how bad the situation he’s in is. He’s taken a mission and got his team together, but he’s been screwed over for the money element floating around in the plan and his colleagues (Gary Daniels and Zoe Bell) are just too tempted by the big numbers not to try and take it.  As the story unravels we watch Marcus deal with the double cross and watch as his mission falls apart.

 Game of Death
Other than some of the style choices of this movie, consisting of a nice, broody, atmospheric unfolding story intercut with some flashy edits, unnecessarily showy camera techniques and some atrocious dialogue, Game of Death (nothing to do with Bruce Lee by the way, but I'm also not sure what the title actually refers to in the movie either) was a whole lot more watchable than I thought it was going to be at least for the first half.

The story works much like a Mission Impossible movie in regards to Marcus assembling his team for a mission (and then one or more of them screw him over), but being a DTV release it was never going to turn into a full on Tom Cruise affair, instead keeping to the basics of car chases, gun fights and of course some old fashion fisticuffs.

 Game of Death
I’ve never been a Snipes fan. I don’t care for Blade aside from the first one, and other than White Men Can’t Jump I can’t think of one of his movies I’ve seen more than once... maybe Demolition Man. Nothing in Game of Death has really changed my opinion, but there’s no denying the man can look cool while kicking a whole lot of ass, plus he’s aged better than most of the other action stars still knocking out the shelf fillers, so the action star illusion wasn’t quite as hard to swallow.

As the runtime slips on by, Game of Death progressively got less interesting. Seeing Zoe Bell follow Snipes around a hospital while they both take random pot shots at each other felt drawn out and hearing my name said at the start or end of every sentence, an increasing event in movies of late (seriously over the last year or so there have been so many characters called Marcus) got tiresome to the point where I got sick of hearing the sound of it. Also with Wesley barely talking and every character babbling on about the plot in every scene, the clunky forced feeling dialogue also started to grate.

 Game of Death
The last half hour of the movie brings all the elements together pretty well and I really wanted Snipes to put the beat down on his crew (even if it only to shut them up talking). It’s far from being a slick affair and spends too much time talking up the suspense of a scene that doesn’t have a big enough pay off but really what started out as a DTV title that had promise ends up being a DTV that felt exactly like a DTV title.

Video


Game of Death has a mixed bag of visuals, opening with a very stark, very gritty shooting outside of a club, we move into a cleaner looking autumnal scene with bright morning sunshine and a nice sharp image. This intercuts with some rough looking close ups in a church and some weird ‘shot from afar’ angles. This mishmash of techniques continues throughout the movie with fades, dissolves, playful cuts and slow motion used like director Giorgio Serafini had a quota to fill.

 Game of Death
The visual tricks may very well have let the film down but the transfer itself is pretty consistent. Colour filters make scenes look a whole lot more filmic than most DTV titles I’ve seen, and even though nothing looks all that natural because of them the image is still rich in textures and detail, when it’s at its best and the contrast between the deep blacks and pale colours in some shots are excellent.

Audio


The majority of this DTS-HD Master Audio track sits in the front speakers with the odd wave of the synth sounding score spreading into the rears in the action sequences. The moody feel to the movie creates a nice atmosphere and its sudden change of pace when the action kicks off can sometimes work but often feels jarring.

 Game of Death
Dialogue sits well in the mix and the clicking of guns and boom of gunshots all have a nice presence but generally speaking I wouldn’t say the track was doing all the much beyond delivering the basics.

Extras


The disc opens with the Steven Segal flick Born to Raise Hell (he fights like a he’s made of wood nowadays doesn’t he?), The Losers and Dog Pound.

The ‘Behind the Scenes’ (11:44 SD) is the cast telling us the story and is just an EPK really and the only other extra is the trailer (02:01 HD).

 Game of Death

Overall


Maybe if Game of Death came out fifteen years ago it would have felt a little fresher, but to be honest fifteen years is probably still being too kind. This is yet another movie that harks back to the golden age of action hero flicks when they were awesome, and as with the rest of the DTV action crowd it doesn’t really capture what made that 80s golden age work. Snipes does his usual thing of not very much beyond looking cool and getting the job done and the rest of the film is about as forgettable as most of the other not-so-good movies in his filmography.

The disc’s AV is passable, the extras are fluff at best, and really I’m not sure who these action titles are targeted for anymore because I’m the nostalgic demographic this sort of thing is aimed at and I honestly couldn’t care less.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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