DVD REVIEW: THE REVENANT

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11.12.2013

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BUY FROM AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
MSRP $14.98
RATED R
STUDIO Lionsgate
RUNNING TIME 117 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES
• “Making of” Featurette
• Commentary with Director Kerry Prior
• Audio Commentary with Cast
• Deleted Scenes
• Photo Gallery

The Pitch

Imagine if Dead Heat was a good movie.

The Humans

Kerry Prior (Writer/Director), David Anders, Chris Wylde, Louise Griffiths, Jacy King

The Nutshell

Bart Gregory (David Anders) has been killed in action and buried with full honors – so why is he up and walking around? Turning to his best friend Joey (Chris Wylde) for the answer, the two buddies conclude that to keep Bart from decomposing, he needs blood… and lots of it! To get it, the become nighttime vigilantes, draining gangsters, drug dealers, and bad guys alike of their precious blood. The side benefit of the bloodlust is safer streets for all, but more angry, undead criminals have a bone to pick with Bart and Joey.

The Lowdown

The Revenant is the story of Bart, a soldier who is gunned down in the opening minutes of the movie. Not long after his untimely death, Bart shows up at his friend Joey’s apartment; he’s pale, disoriented, and hungry. Any attempts at eating result in Bart vomiting a horrible black bile; his eyes have a milky white film over them, and he becomes completely catatonic during the day. After some research, Joey decides that Burt is a revenant (presented as a sort of middle-ground between a vampire and a zombie) and that he can only subsist on human blood.

Bart makes a good effort trying to live off blood packets stolen from blood banks and hospitals but this soon proves to not be so economical. Opportunity falls in his lap when he’s attacked by a a man with a gun who shoots him and goes after Joey. Unable to be killed, Bart saves Joey’s life and feeds on the attacker. A plan soon forms between the two: they’ll drive around at night playing vigilante, ensuring that Bart gets all the blood he needs and the city is removed of its growing criminal element.

Yeah yeah, we get it. You don’t tip. Shut up.

Bart is a tough character to rest a movie on because on paper, he’s kind of boring. He is the flat definition of “normal guy” and has no interesting characteristics to speak of (beyond the whole being dead thing). David Anders plays the character with just the right amount of broody angst and doofy charm, kind of like a cross between Chris Pratt and Dylan McDermott, to make Bart work. You can see that Bart is haunted by what happened to him but shades of the man he was still show through, and that’s not something a lot of actors can pull off.

There’s a lot of hate for Chris Wylde and some of it is deserved. He’s like a mash-up of Dane Cook and a coked-up Aaron Paul. He’s an actor who is good at one very specific type of character and Joey is well within his wheelhouse. Joey is a manic sidekick type required for buddy comedies but there’s a great deal more depth to him than that implies. He’s loveable and hateable and Wylde sell both sides of the character with aplomb.

The most common comparison The Revenant gets is to the 1988 Joe Piscopo/Treat Williams movie Dead Heat, it’s one that everyone immediately jumps to after reading the synopsis and seeing the trailer. I confess that even I connected these dots immediately but the similarities are actually very superficial. I think it’s the Dead Heat comparison and the fact that there’s no good way to make a trailer for this without giving away a lot of the best moments that has caused people to stay away from this one. I’ll try and sum it up better. The Revenant is Near Dark as written by Vince Gilligan. It captures the fatalistic feverish atmosphere of the former and combines it with the kind of darkly humorous “everyone is basically terrible” narrative of Breaking Bad.

At one point they discover that revenants are notoriously bisexual, with sexy results.

The Revenant has been in distribution Hell for a few years and that’s fairly apparent as it reeks of Bush-era cynicism. I’m not sure how much subtext was intended and how much I inferred but the writer/director Kerry Prior obviously has something to say. The feel of the movie is something that isn’t often attempted and usually fails when it is.

The make-up and special effects are well beyond what I would have expected from a movie with a budget like this one. This is probably largely due to Writer/Director Kerry Prior’s past as a make-up artist on such effects heavy films as The Blob, Phantasm 2 and 3, Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and 4, The Abyss, and The Lost Boys.

Dark comedy is hard to do. Often times a movie will go too dark (see: Very Bad Things) and it won’t be very funny as a result or maybe it will skew too funny (see: You Kill Me) and it won’t be very dark even movies with a fair amount of both have often come across schizophrenic in tone (see: Hancock.) In this case the two themes are blended with one slowly giving way to another and then back and forth with a grace that makes the change from one to the other hard to notice. The movie starts extremely dark but slowly bleeds in the comedy with banter between Bart and Joey followed by some sight gags which give way to gallows humor and then things get darker until they’re serious again; this happens several times throughout. This tonal shift is best encapsulated in a scene toward the end that is destined to become The Revenant’s most iconic, I won’t spoil it but you’ll know when you see it because you’ll be heartbroken and laughing at the same time.

It’s a trap!

Now that I’ve inflated your hopes to critical mass, let’s bring them back down a little bit. It takes a bit for the plot to get anywhere interesting, and while the tone blends seamlessly, the narrative jumps from subgenre to subgenre.

While the humor mostly works, but jokes do miss every now and then. And I bring this up because it seems to be a point of contention in a lot of reviews I have read: The Revenant is a dramatic horror movie with comedic overtones, not the other way around. If you pop this in expecting Shaun of the Dead then you’re going to be disappointed. It’s a very funny movie, but comedy is clearly not its main priority.

As the movie comes to its conclusion things get apocalyptically dismal and the ending is so downbeat and horrifying that I love and hate it simultaneously in much the same way I feel about the ending of The Mist. The Revenant is a bit of a mess as far as plot goes and its message is a bit all over the place, but it’s a beautiful mess and it’s got a lot of things to say about war, crime, and friendship even if it can’t always say them clearly. It’s the kind of movie that has room for improvement but I couldn’t dream of changing anything.

Lazy pun involving “armless” in place of “harmless.

The Package

There’s a few special features on the disc but I wouldn’t call ‘em special. There are audio commentaries with the director and the cast, a making of featurette, and some deleted scenes. There’s also a trailer and a photo gallery, all pretty standard stuff.

The disc is presented in 2.35:1 16 X 9 widescreen with dolby digital sound and closed captions.

Rating:
★★★★☆

Out of a Possible 5 Stars



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