Decommissioned DVD Review

  • Actors: Michael Pare, James Remar, Johnny Messner, Vinnie Jones
  • Disc Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • DVD Release Date: December 6, 2016
  • Run Time: 80 minutes

        There is a rich tradition for drama and comedy in the world of low budget independent filmmaking; all you really need is a script, some actors, and a camera. Films have been shot entirely on cell phones with this simple formula. Even genre films have their place among independents, with many horror films made with a little innovation and creativity. But action films are another beast entirely, and it takes a sturdy set of stones to tackle the expected spectacle of the genre. Timothy Woodward Jr. has established himself as one of the few filmmakers bold enough to embrace this challenge, filming the ambitious narrative of Decommissioned for a cool million, with mixed results.

        The storyline is clearly borrowed from a collection of larger studio films, most resembling the latest addition to The Bourne Identity franchise, Jason Bourne. This begins with a conspiracy within the American government, conspiring to dispatch of a newly elected liberal president (Richard Burgi). Though this president’s politics seem to resemble Obama far more than the cheese-puff-dusted president-elect, there is a level of corruption and deceit in the political process that does feel relevant to our current climate. But all of this is given the backseat to a typical action film trope in which retired CIA agent John Niles (Johnny Messner) is forced out of the shadows by conspiracy to assassinate the president.

        When Niles’s wife (Estella Warren) and son are taken, his only hope of seeing them alive is by following the orders to assist in the assassination attempt. He reaches out to his former mentor in the CIA (Vinnie Jones), providing an obvious excuse to put the British actor into the film despite his accent never making much sense for an American government agent. The roles Jones plays is supporting, removed from the sequences of action despite the misleading DVD art which features him alone in front of an American flag, holding a pistol never used in the film.

        Even though Jones is mostly just a cameo used for phone conversations with the protagonist, Niles does have some backup in the form of a detective who happens to stumble on the conspiracy. Tom Weston (Michael ParĂ©) joins Niles for the final showdown against the shadowy figure pulling the strings (James Remar). The ambition in the action sequences is where the film thrives, constructing most through action choreography and practical effects. There is some use of CGI that occasionally fails to mesh with the performances, such as grenades exploding that are unconvincing when paired alongside actors that hardly react. It is also noticeable when the CGI is missing, such as a couple shots of gunfire without any muzzle fire or movement from the actors. Sound effects alone are not enough to make these moments convincing.

        But thankfully most of the action doesn’t rely on computer effects, but instead on the performances. This is an asset during the action, though not all of the performers are as capable of handling the film’s dialogue. There are more than a few supporting actors who have trouble getting lines out believably, many of which overcompensate with melodramatic performances. Perhaps a bit more humor would make these shortcomings easier to bear. Many of the 1980s action films that Woodward Jr. seems to have grown up on have just as many shortcomings, but they overcame these issues by embracing the campy elements as an element of the entertainment. Rather than hiding the budgetary limits (which Woodward does surprisingly well for the amount of money spent on the production), it may have benefited the film to spend a little more time embracing these restrictions.

        The DVD comes without special features, save a few trailers before the film.

Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 5/10
Historical Significance:  4/10
Special Features: 0/10

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