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Ambushed Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack Review

Ambushed (2013) Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Ambushed

Video Debut: November 12, 2013 / Running Time: 97 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Giorgio Serafini / Writer: Agustin

Cast: Dolph Lundgren (Agent Evan Maxwell), Randy Couture (Detective Jack Reiley), Vinnie Jones (Vincent Camastra), Carly Pope (Agent Beverly Royce), Gianni Capaldi (Eddie), Daniel Bonjour (Frank), Susie Abromeit (Kathy), Cinthya Bornacelli (Ashley), Michael Rivera (Agent Haraday), Holly Lynch (Vicky), Mel Rodriguez (Sweetness/Scott), William McNamara (Agent Waters), Cody Davis (Pusher), Chuck Saale (DEA Lt. Robert Thompson), LaDon Drummond (Captain Debra Johansen), Domiziano Arcangeli (Madsen), Scott Mallace (Tony), Lester Speight (Johnny the Bouncer)

2.35:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish / Extra Not Subtitled / Not Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Two single-sided, single-layered discs (BD-25 & DVD-5) / Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available as standalone DVD ($24.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

Buy Ambushed from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD DVD Instant Video

If you gave the topic any thought about twenty-five years ago, you probably wouldn't have guessed that Dolph Lundgren would still be acting in 2013. The tall, muscular Swede who embodied athletic evil as Russian villain Ivan Drago in Rocky IV had too heavy an accent, too limited a range, and too narrow a calling to foresee a long career.
But here we are well into the 21st century and Lundgren is still making movies and as leading man. Sure, most of the movies barely get released to theaters if at all, but his direct-to-video efforts are too numerous to be losing money. Plus, there's The Expendables, the lucrative series of throwback action flicks that assign him fourth billing behind Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, and Jet Li. Lundgren's career is in a much healthier state than you'd expect for someone who tarnished two big brands (Masters of the Universe and The Punisher) back when action movies were a Hollywood staple.

Lundgren's latest is Ambushed, a vehicle heading straight to DVD and Blu-ray combo pack in most of the world this fall. Though he takes top billing, Lundgren doesn't appear until ten minutes in and even then he maintains more of a supporting presence. The film's closest thing to a lead may be Frank (Daniel Bonjour), a California strip club owner and drug dealer who supplies Goodfellas-type narration from time to time.

The unshaven Frank's life in crime has evolved naturally and without planning. Now, he'd like to get out and settle down with his pure girlfriend Ashley (Cinthya Bornacelli), a teacher with a loving family. But Frank's exit from the narcotics market becomes clouded after he spontaneously kills a supplier and a colleague for a bigger slice of the action. His partner in crime, Scottish bully Eddie (Gianni Capaldi), can't believe that uncharacteristic action, but he agrees to benefit from it.

DEA agent Evan Maxwell (Dolph Lundgren) worries about the danger that his girlfriend's undercover work puts her in. After deciding he wants a bigger share of the action, Frank (Daniel Bonjour) changes his mind and decides he wants out of crime altogether.

Meanwhile, revered veteran Los Angeles federal agent Evan Maxwell (Lundgren) is looking into the double homicide as well as Jack Reiley (Randy Couture), the dirty police detective from whom he takes over the investigation. Maxwell's girlfriend, undercover agent Beverly Royce (Carly Pope), infiltrates Frank and Eddie's gang, posing as a heartbroken accountant up for a wild time. Then there's Frank and Eddie's higher-up, an Englishman (Vinnie Jones) who's irate his merchandise has gone missing.

All of these characters' paths cross sooner or later, culminating with a random rainy night mano a mano rooftop fight. Needless to say, Ambushed is short on brains. Its plot is basic, inconsequential cops and crooks stuff. It doesn't bother to push us towards sympathizing with any of the parties involved. While Frank doesn't seem deserving of an early retirement or a good-hearted love, he's not as bad as Reiley, who's overly tough on a hooker and isn't above killing a suspect and making it look like a shootout. Presumably, we're supposed to root for the law, but Maxwell is barely defined and rarely onscreen.

Frankly, I don't know if one-named Spanish-Cuban screenwriter Agustin has given his story that much thought. He's written scenes of action, violence, and scantily-clad women. Does a direct-to-video Dolph Lundgren movie need anything more than that? That is a question best answered by a Lundgren fan. While I can't pretend to be one of those, I will grant that Lundgren, weird American accent and all, is the brightest spot of this dim thriller. He doesn't get much more to do than deliver a monologue about his motivation for busting drug pushers, but it's the closest we get to a character and a performance here.

Belgian-Italian director Giorgio Serafini injects the proceedings with some style, like splitting the screen on transitions. A little bit of flair can't hide the lack of substance, his insufficient camera coverage, or the limited acting abilities of cast members like retired MMA fighter and Expendables support Couture.

Detective Jack Reiley is a tough and dirty cop, or at least that's what Randy Couture is going for. Vinnie Jones appears briefly as a boss named Vinnie to rough some people up over missing merchandise.

Serafini (who credits his cameo with a parenthetical "cameo") and Agustin borrow from the masters of contemporary crime cinema. Besides the aforementioned Scorsese-style voiceover, which falls flat as it tries to argue for the value of the drug business, efforts are taken to channel Quentin Tarantino's knack for witty dialogue. A scene in which Frank and Eddie swap memories of their favorite Looney Tunes shorts, cross-cut with some armed hostage taking, is particularly painful.
Ambushed is over soon enough and forgotten shortly after. Its climax is a conspicuous mess, unclear in whom it kills off and saves and then uncertain about on whom and how to close.

At 97 minutes, Ambushed runs a good quarter-hour longer than it should. Then again, who says a short feature length was in order, when this has the feel of a hopeless television pilot that no channel more sophisticated than Spike would ever consider commissioning?

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though Ambushed's budget can't be very high, its great Blu-ray presentation has all the polish of its contemporaries. The 2.35:1 digital video is vibrant and stylish at times and always clean and sharp. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack likewise does not disappoint. You may need to consult the provided English SDH subtitles to clarify the occasional muttered line, but the dialogue is generally crisp. Music, which ranges from techno score to a prominent creative/corny rap (and has surprisingly even commanded a soundtrack CD, is well-presented and tastefully distributed.

Would-be chemical engineer Dolph Lundgren takes a moment from unspecified computing to talk about the film. Frank (Daniel Bonjour) thinks about his life at a bathroom mirror on the DVD's main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The only extra is "Behind the Scenes: Ambushed" (15:02, HD on the BD),
a making-of featurette that shares the usual film clips, production B roll footage, and enthusiastic cast & crew interviews (which talk up moments, characters, and influences). It's a fitting but routine inclusion.

The discs open with menu-inaccessible trailers for Pawn Shop Chronicles and Pawn.

The standard menu places a strip of listings (sluggishly navigated on Blu-ray) at the bottom of a bordered montage. Anchor Bay continues to equip its Blu-rays with bookmarking capabilities, but not the ability to resume unfinished playback.

The plain silver DVD and color-labeled Blu-ray take opposite sides of an otherwise empty eco-friendly blue keepcase.

DEA agents Royce (Carly Pope) and Maxwell (Dolph Lundgren) are all in for a big bust in "Ambushed."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Despite assembling what the UK's moribund magazine Loaded calls "The Dream Team of Action Cinema", Ambushed is terrible. The question is: does anybody enter the film expecting or wanting otherwise? (Carly Pope's agent?) I'm not really sure what a viewer could hope to get out of this, but unless it's random headshot kills, views of breast implants, or a close-up of Randy Couture's cauliflower ear, they probably won't find it in this ill-conceived, poorly executed crime thriller. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray combo pack is basic, fine, and undeserving of anyone's time.

Buy Ambushed from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD / DVD / Instant Video

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Reviewed November 7, 2013.



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