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Maximum Conviction: DVD + Blu-ray Combo Pack Review

Maximum Conviction (2012) Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Maximum Conviction

Video Debut: November 6, 2012 / Running Time: 98 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Keoni Waxman / Writer: Richard Beattie

Cast: Steven Seagal (Cross), Steve Austin (Manning), Michael Parι (Christopher Blake), Ian Robison (Warden Samuels), Aliyah O'Brien (Charlotte Walker), Steph Song (Samantha Mendez), Michael Adamthwaite (Collins), Bren Foster (Bradley), Toby Levins (Davie), Dean Redman (Jones), Richard Stroh (MP Terrence Davis), Teach Grant (Max), Cindy Maines (Esmerelda), Zak Santiago (MP Fields), Richard Jollymore (Kaidonov), Kimani Ray Smith (Cesar), Gouchy Boy (Roach), Lauro Chartrand (Nathan)

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic); BD: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish / Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Two single-sided, single-layered discs (BD-25 & DVD-5) / Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available as standalone DVD ($26.98 SRP)

Buy Maximum Conviction from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD • DVD

In 1992, Steven Seagal cracked movie exhibitors' annual list of the top ten moneymaking stars. The same year, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin reclaimed the title of World Championship Wrestling's World Television Champion. If the two icons had gotten together then or shortly thereafter, it certainly would have been a big deal for the large fan overlap of action movies and professional wrestling.
Instead, they waited twenty years to team up. They do so now, naturally on Seagal's turf, which Austin himself has called home since retiring from the ring and appearing in Adam Sandler's The Longest Yard (2005). Their collaboration, Maximum Conviction, will be met with little fanfare when it unsurprisingly premieres direct-to-video next month.

Just as generic as that title suggests, this mindless action film is set in a top secret military prison in Northern Oregon that employs former black ops Cross (Seagal) and Manning (Austin). The two find themselves working overtime one Friday night, when rogue agents posing as federal marshals execute a targeted extraction mission. The target is an intelligence agency courier (Steph Song) with a chip containing sensitive data implanted in her torso. If she dies, the data is erased. Thus, the operation, led by a man named Blake (Michael Parι), requires some calculation and a malleable warden (Ian Robison).

Steven Seagal and Steve Austin join forces in "Maximum Conviction."

As you would never in a million years guess, Maximum Conviction is violent and stupid. It's also not always very clear about what's going on, nor does it seem concerned about that. The film is random and selective in what it shows and wastes nary a minute on something realistic or relatable. The plot doesn't even really begin to take shape until about halfway into the excessive 98-minute runtime. Sharing that information provides a tiny bit of storytelling value. But this isn't the kind of movie you watch for story and characters. If you watch it at all, you're watching it for action.

Seagal's ballooning weight makes him a good deal less suited to his specialty than he presumably once was. That renders his heroics unconvincing. He also puts on a weird, vaguely Cajun voice, talking like no one else ever does part of the time. Still, the 60-year-old at least has screen presence, which is more than can be said for Austin, who at 47 is in understandably better shape, but is completely void of personality. Simply delivering his lines intelligibly seems a challenge to the former wrestler. Giving them any inflection is beyond him. So many tough-looking men could have done something more interesting with the part, but they probably do not have the fame that thirteen years of throwing people around on television gave Austin.

Christopher Blake (Michael Parι) is calling the shots this Friday night and his vest should read "Mercenary" instead of "Marshal." Aliyah O'Brien and Steph Song play mysterious female inmates at the center of the film's targeted extraction plot.

There is no good reason to expect anything special from Maximum Conviction, whose writer Richard Beattie and director Keoni Waxman somehow have over forty years of filmmaking experience between them. They both follow Seagal from his undercover cop action series "True Justice", which began airing in the US on something called ReelzChannel last spring. The two leads are surrounded by no-name actors who nonetheless rival them in screentime.

The film repeatedly assumes the angles and look of surveillance cameras with rainbow ghosting effects. Very little else of note happens. A finger is chopped off. An arm is broken so that the bone protrudes.
And the two women at the center of it all (the other being Aliyah O'Brien) strip down to tight white tank tops for their climactic action. Although the casualties pile up, the movie still has the audacity to imply sequel potential that's sure to be unrealized.

After supposedly reaching Germany yesterday, Maximum Conviction comes to North America on November 6th on DVD and in the two-disc DVD + Blu-ray Combo Pack reviewed here.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Video quality on Anchor Bay's 1.78:1 presentation is terrific. While the movie is dark and visually unimaginative, the element stays sharp, spotless, and well-defined. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack also satisfies, with rear channels being put to prominent use on scenes of enveloping gunfire. Most of the dialogue may be meaningless and disposable, but it's audible and crisp. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are provided.

Supporting actor Bren Foster discusses his unusual status as soap opera star/martial artist in a brief interview. Stuff goes down in the "Maximum Conviction" DVD main menu montage.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

First up from the Set Up menu is a certain candidate for the A.V. Club's Commentary Tracks of the Damned column. It is -- you guessed it -- an audio commentary,
recorded by director/executive producer Keoni Waxman and co-executive producer Binh Dang. It's interesting that these two take responsibility here when you know the typical viewer will place the blame squarely on Seagal and Austin, both of whom also receive producer credits. Waxman and Dang talk about shooting in Vancouver until Man of Steel kicked them out, share praise and anecdotes about cast members as they appear, discuss props and problems, and point out continuity errors and other goofs. They also mention CGI visual effects and sequel plans (seemingly seriously), while repeatedly mentioning The Expendables with a touch of budget envy. It's full of information, though nothing you are likely to care much about.

Four video features follow, each presented in high definition and with a title that begins with "Maximum Conviction:."

"Behind the Scenes" (10:00) is an ordinary making-of featurette that collects crew and cast remarks on the film's characters, story, action, and stunts. It also shares some B-roll. Curiously, Seagal hardly says anything.

In brief interviews, Steve Austin (1:47) and Bren Foster (1:21) open up on their acting approach and martial arts experiences, respectively. In between those, "Icons" (1:41) celebrates the stars with more movie clips and comments from Waxman, Austin, and self-proclaimed "king of improv" Seagal.

As usual, Anchor Bay wisely offers the same extras on both Blu-ray and DVD.

The discs open with trailers for WWE's The Day and Steve Austin's Hunt to Kill and The Stranger. These aren't accessible from any menu, so be sure not to skip ahead if you'd like a taste of the fine body of cinematic work that Austin has been building over the past few years.

The menu places animated horizontal lines over clips from the film. The Blu-ray doesn't resume playback, but it does let you place bookmarks on the film.

The full color Blu-ray and plain silver DVD claim opposite sides of a standard eco-friendly Blu-ray case, which features no insert or slipcover.

Sure, it's dark, but not too dark to make out Steve Austin and Steven Seagal joining forces to save the day. At least I think that what's happening.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

In its better moments, Maximum Conviction was more watchable than I expected it to be, but it still has very little going for it on the whole. Dark, violent, tough to warm to, and occasionally hard to follow, this will play to a very narrow audience. Really, the only appeal will lie with those with a taste for low-budget action movies that have to be scouted out and discovered. For Seagal to be able to continue making these movies suggests somebody out there must buy them. From watching this, though, I don't know why anybody would. Seems to me if you were missing Seagal's cinema, you'd be better off simply revisiting Under Siege and the like. A movie like Maximum Conviction is just a sad substitute for that.

Buy Maximum Conviction from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD / DVD

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Reviewed October 26, 2012.



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