Well, there's 90 minutes of my life I'll never get back...
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 08/10/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"That's exactly how I felt last night after watching the film Red Serpent (2002)...I think the medical term is `viewer's remorse'...this is one of those movies where I was constantly checking the displayed running time on the DVD player to see how much more of the film was left to go, something I don't do often, especially if what I'm watching is entertaining, which Red Serpent wasn't, in any way...and let me get this out of the way now...this isn't a monster film, it that's the impression you got from the artwork on the DVD case. The title refers to a codename for a character and/or his criminal organization...that aspect wasn't entirely clear...stupid movie...directed by Gino Tanasescu (his first movie), the film stars Roy `What the Hell Happened to Me?' Scheider (Jaws, Sorcerer), Michael `Sparkling' Paré (Moon 44, Lunarcop), and Oleg Taktarov (Rollerball, Bad Boys II).
The movie, set in Russia, begins as a group of armed men, under orders from criminal mastermind named Hassan (Scheider), stop a freight train and proceed to offload its precious cargo (drugs, I think)...what the men don't know is there's a crack gooberment squad (consisting of all of three KGB agents), called Alpha-One, led by Captain Sergei Popov (Taktarov), onboard the train, waiting to surprise the criminals. The trap is sprung, but things go down poorly, and Sergei's family gets killed (where did they come from you ask? I'm not going to bother going into it, but if you must know, you can watch the film). Anyway, six months pass, and we learn Sergei has since retired, `pursuing his longtime dream of working with animals', i.e. sweeping elephant dung at the circus. Around this time an American businessman named Steve Nichols (Paré) arrives in Russia, with his annoying daughter in tow, to oversee the handling of his shipment of raw materials used in making drugs (not the illegal kind). Hassan and his thugs, tipped off to Nichols' arrival, kidnap his daughter with the intent on using her to force Nichols to put their illegal drugs in with his shipment and transport them to America. Nichols, soon learning the local authorities are all corrupt (aren't they always), finds help in the form of Sergei, who we know from the beginning of the film has a score to settle with Hassan. Sergei assembles his old team (you know, the other two guys), and the four of them face the insurmountable task of taking on Hassan and his small army of ruthless, heavily armed thugs...the Cold War may be over, but things are about to heat up...oh bruther...the actual tagline for this film is `You'll Never Know When He'll Strike."...yes, someone got paid to come up with that...
While this is Tanasescu's first film, it's not his first directing gig as he's worked on such televisions series as "The Slap Maxwell Story", "Baby Boom", and "Drexell's Class", so you'd think he'd know his way around a camera, but evidentially not...I'd venture to guess with this film Tanasescu finally saw an opportunity to explore the more creative aspects of his profession sans the restraints of a television production, much to the dismay of just about anyone who ends up seeing this film, which crawls along at a snails pace, is boring as hell, peppered with pointless slow motion shots, annoying visuals, awkward transitions, and incomplete sequences...there was one worthwhile hand to hand fight scene between two, muscle-bound secondary characters that ended way too soon...we cut back to the pair later to see the aftermath wondering exactly what happened. Another aspect that really annoyed me was near the beginning a rather cheap trick was used to introduce the main characters by still framing their faces and using computer graphics to produce an electronic profile highlighting the character's background and such, like a file Interpol might produce. Problem is the files flashed on the screen so quickly the viewer doesn't get a chance to fully read them, unless they pause the film, which I did, and even then, it was difficult to discern the bad guys from the good guys (stupid film). The acting is awful, the worst being the girl who played Nichols' daughter...normally I hate to pick on little kids, but she was just rotten, standing out like a throbbing hangnail...and that's not to say any of the others were any better, just not as bad. You know, Michael Paré has been appearing in films for over twenty years now, and yeah, most are crummy direct-to-video releases, but you'd think he would have picked up something being in the biz for as long as he has, but that's not the case. He's actually gotten worse, if you can wrap your mind around that concept. Here's something else, he rarely participates in the action that is in the film. Most of the time his character, who is supposed to have a double PhD (this is the part where Jack Palance comes in and say `Believe it...or not!'), stands around being threatened. There is one point where he shoots a gun, one that must have had magic bullets in it because he was able to take down a helicopter. As far as Roy Scheider, I don't know how he ended up where he did in terms of his career, but obviously he's paying for some serious indiscretions from a past life. It just amazes me how someone who could appear in one of the greatest character driven films to date, that of Jaws (1975), could sink to the level of having to work in dreck like this...and then there's Oleg Taktarov, a man who got into acting via being a contestant in The Ultimate Fighting Championship competition, nicknamed The Russian Bear (best known for his submission holds)...he makes a good secondary character (preferable in a non speaking role), but shouldn't be starring in a movie until his skills improve. The dialog is moronic and annoying, the story unwieldy (nothing like taking a relatively simplistic and straightforward plot and unnecessarily complicating the hell out of it), and the technical elements hideous. There are some nice scenic shots of Russia (much of the movie was filmed there), and there is some brief nekkidness (in a poorly shot flashback), but that's about it for the things I liked...and get a load of the incredibly inane and ridiculous twist at the end. It made no sense in terms of the rest of the film, specifically because it inferred that Paré's character's actions throughout were intentional, especially in terms of putting his `daughter' in harm's way.
The picture quality, presented in fullscreen on this Platinum Disc/MTI DVD release, looks decent. The biggest flaw, besides the film itself, is in the audio as it is so inconsistent. One moment it's loud, another it's soft, resulting in the viewer having to constantly (like every ten seconds) adjust the volume. The back of the DVD case claims special features like a trailer, a behind the scenes featurette, and a director's commentary track, but all that was actually on the DVD was the trailer, no featurette or director's commentary...seems like false advertising to me...perhaps I got the one DVD where they forgot to include those items, but I'd doubt it. If you must see this idiotic and poorly made film, borrow it if you can, cause it ain't worth plunking down any of your hard earned dough for this turdburger.
By the way, I very rarely give out one star ratings, usually only when something is so utterly bereft of any entertainment value as is the case here.
Just not my cup of tea.
Susannah St Clair Foxy Loxy | North Bend Washington | 07/04/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this being a Pare` fan but it is just a lousy movie. There is a major premise in the script that you only find out in the end ( and I won't spoil it just in case you rent this or buy it) once known makes you go" why the heck would he do that?". It does not move well and the actual "star" is the Russian that befriends him when his daughter is kidnapped by "The Red Serpent" to force Pare` 's character into being a drug "mule" for him. A lot of real snow and cold and not much meat.. so to speak. Only watch this on a day you are REALLY bored.."