Blu-ray Review: RECOIL

The most recognizable name in profession wrestling is arguably Hulk Hogan. He was the largest attraction of the 1980’s during the height of the rock ‘n’ wrestling era when Vince McMahon’s WWF enjoyed unheralded mainstream attention. No one ever came close to capturing that same popularity until the late-90’s with Steve Austin. Once known as “Stunning” Steve Austin, the blonde haired pretty boy remade himself into “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, a beer-guzzling, foul mouthed redneck with a hair trigger temper. After retiring from wrestling, Austin transitioned to the equally colorful world of action movies. Aside from supporting roles in The Longest Yard and The Expendables, his only starring vehicle released theatrically was the WWE-produced The Condemned. Austin has mostly stuck with direct-to-video films like The Stranger, Hunt to Kill, and Tactical Force. His latest picture is Recoil, which co-stars another renowned tough guy in Danny Trejo. Trejo spent over a decade in prison where he became a boxing champion before meeting another reformed convict in Eddie Bunker, who is probably best known for his bit role as Mr. Blue in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. Bunker co-wrote and acted in 1985’s Runaway Train where Trejo made his acting debut while training Eric Roberts to box. Since then, Trejo has had a prolific career thanks to his gruff voice, craggy face, and tattooed body.

Austin stars as Ryan Varrett, a former cop, who has become a vigilante since the brutal murder of his family. He travels across the country in a 1968 Plymouth GTX exacting his own brand of justice on killers who have escaped the long arm of the law. While hunting down a serial rapist nicknamed the Highwayman, he arrives in the tiny town of Hope. This seemingly sleepy burg is controlled by the Circle, a ruthless biker gang run by Drayke (Trejo). The few citizens still living in Hope have none as they live in fear of Drayke, who uses the town as the hub of his drug trafficking ring. Varrett decides to clean the place up with the help of a sympathetic sheriff’s deputy (Adam Greydon Reid) and the lovely Darcy (Serinda Swan), a widower running a generally empty motel.

Recoil follows the basic formula of a classic Western with Austin as the taciturn stranger, who rides into a frontier town to make it safe once again for law-abiding citizens. The screenplay by John Sullivan isn’t Shakespeare or even Shane Black. It’s riddled with corny dialogue and tough guy clichés (the hero walks away from an explosion in slow motion). The plot is incredibly thin with Austin mainly kicking someone’s ass, waiting around, and then kicking someone else’s ass again before we finally get the one-on-one confrontation between Austin and Trejo.

The fight scenes aren’t anything to crow about, but they are competently staged. Austin isn’t a martial arts expert nor does he move around with a lot of grace. That works for him as Austin is portrayed as a force of nature. He’s a human wrecking machine tearing through a legion of bad guys that appear to have wandered off the set of Sons of Anarchy. Is he a subtle and nuanced actor? No, but he can do the stoic badass with an icy stare with ease. As for Trejo, he appears to have a lot of fun playing the lead villain rather than the henchman for a change. There’s even a sly Machete reference where Trejo contemplates using his signature weapon before derisively tossing it aside.

Video/Audio: 8
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The transfer is sold with clean and crisp picture quality. Colors are bold and it doesn’t suffer from the flat digital look that plagues other DTV releases.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The sound is even, but surprisingly subdued for an action film. The explosions and gunshots don’t have the impact you would expect.

Extras: 2
The Making of Recoil (7:50) is a brief behind-the-scenes featurette as the cast and crew discuss the film’s famous stars and the action sequences.

Also included are about five minutes of deleted scenes and the film’s theatrical trailer.

Film Value: 3
Recoil is your standard low-budget action fare that’s elevated solely by the presence of Steve Austin and Danny Trejo. It can be a fun time if you check your brain at the door and lower your expectations.

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