Blood of Redemption is another in a long line of shitty straight-to-video action titles that are sold purely on cast. Directed by Giorgio Serafini and Shawn Sourgose, this bargain basement guff flaunts Dolph Lundgren, Billy Zane, Robert Davi and Vinnie Jones, enough names to raise the eyebrow of any action fan. And with a title like Blood of Redemption, you’re guaranteed to sell a few discs. Alas, the finished product is a putrid pile of shit, a cheapo distraction which was manufactured without any thought towards coherent screenwriting, stylish photography, or exciting action scenes. It’s a woeful slog.
Although Blood of Redemption tries to rise above the ordinary with its convoluted plotline involving all manner of double crosses and shady loyalties, it’s hard to make heads or tails of anything that is happening. Lundgren plays a gun-for-hire named Axel, who’s hired by Quinn Forte (Zane) to systematically wipe out the men who landed him in prison. But of course, there are twists, and the movie seems to reject intelligible storytelling. For crying out loud, the flick opens by showing the climactic action scene before flashing back a couple of weeks, to Axel chatting to a girl in his apartment about various people…and from there, the movie flashes back even more. Wait, what’s happening in this movie? It doesn’t help that the dialogue is so fucking lousy, with dreadful narration from Mr. Lundgren that’s meant to be profound and badass, but instead comes off as obvious and amateurish.
The screenplay rejects logic, as well. This is one of those productions which feels to need to zoom in on every actor and freeze-frame while big, bold computer graphics spell out their character’s name. It’s a movie where FBI files are in paper format, and can disappear without a trace by simply burning said files. Apparently the FBI is not advanced enough for a computer database just yet. Oh, and Axel has a bulletin board featuring images of suspects and pieces of information, with push pins and red string to figure out the case…but his laptop remains unused. And when the action scenes do arrive, slow motion is often used for brief periods, because reasons. It’s clear the directors wanted to establish some sense of style, but the movie is not stylish at all – it just looks dumb and incompetent.
Even worse, it’s clear that nobody ever fired a single blank round throughout any of the film’s numerous action sequences, and it’s doubtful any practical fake blood was actually used on set. Every muzzle flash, puff of smoke and bullet hit is purely digital, and blood splashes are so fucking phoney and obvious – clearly the result of a few minutes’ work in Adobe After Effects. Even amateur filmmakers with access to After Effects are capable of more impressive CGI composition. One hole in somebody’s head looks like it was drawn using Microsoft Paint, for crying out loud. Holy shit. Although the R rating is appreciated, there’s no visceral impact to any of the action scenes. You can literally watch superior shootouts for free on YouTube.
With film stock now too expensive for straight-to-video moviemakers, Blood of Redemption was lensed digitally, and the results look undeniably cheap. While the cinematography is crisp and detailed enough, it lacks the professional “pop” of more generously-budgeted productions; as a result, it comes off like a low-grade student movie. At least low-budget actioners from the ’80s and ’90s were shot on celluloid, and featured performers who fired actual blank rounds as well as stuntmen who put their lives on the line for the sake of a shot. There’s something endearing about old-school effects as opposed to phoney digital shit. Now, any talentless amateur can put together a nasty video distraction for a few bucks, and clog the already oversized market with such shit.
The Dolphster gives it his all here, and he’s probably the movie’s sole bright spot. Even despite his age, he remains a charismatic screen presence and a joy to watch in action movies, which is why it’s such a shame that the material fails to serve him. Zane and Jones, meanwhile, are both pretty terrible – Zane puts in zero effort, and Jones leans on his British tough guy shtick that’s growing old. And it’s actually depressing to see Davi here, who’s visibly bored and humiliated about featuring in this garbage. Davi was a sublime action villain back in the ’80s (Licence to Kill), yet he’s horrible here, apparently aiming for a British accent for whatever reason that comes and goes.
Blood of Redemption might run a brisk 85 minutes, but it feels a lot longer; I actually felt myself aging while watching it. I can easily sit back and view a movie like Saving Private Ryan without glancing at my watch once, but Blood of Redemption feels like an eternity despite running for half the length of Saving Private Ryan. The last line of the movie is “Next time, I’ll choose my clients more carefully.” Here’s hoping that Dolph and his pals choose their projects more carefully from now on…