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Blu-ray Review: Brother’s Justice

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Brothers Justice is a mockumentary created by and starring actor Dax Shepard.  It chronicles his journey to retire from his career as a supporting comedic actor in pursuit of his dream to became a martial arts movie star. More specifically he wants to write, direct, produce and star in his original story, Brother’s Justice.  As you can well imagine, hijinks ensue.  The film is littered with fellow actors appearing as themselves to either offer Dax the friendly encouragement that maybe he shouldn’t quit his day job, or to occasionally join up with him on the journey.

The Movie

Real-life Dax Shepard plays slightly-spoofed Dax Shepard, an actor who’s had just enough success in his genre niche to want to branch out. He recruits his long-time partner in crime – best friend and producer Nate Tuck – to drop everything else and finally make happen his dream of being a martial arts movie star.

The premise could either become ample fodder for a hilarious sendup of Hollywood dreams gone awry, or something that’s best left with the midnight pizza boxes where the idea was forged.  Although there are occasional glimpses of the former, unfortunately the film largely treads in the latter.  Dax creates (or reveals?) himself as an interesting protagonist, but appears to leave too much of the story up to improvisation, something for which the cast is unable to flesh out in any meaningful or sufficiently humorous way.  Everyone appears to be having a good time making this weekend movie, and there are moments where their obvious enthusiasm for the project threaten to be enough.  But the feeling is always short-lived.

Part of the issue may be that by now the mockumentary genre has been thoroughly mined; it’s no longer a novelty unless you can raise your project to within marathon distance of a Christopher Guest vehicle. Otherwise, it’s tough to see it as anything but an also-ran.

Throughout, short mini-movies present other concepts that Dax has started in a similar fashion. The mini-movies actually upstage his current martial arts project, making you long for more of this slapstick, ham-fisted melodrama and less of the current journey. This is largely because the mini-movies are obviously spoofs, while the main mockumentary is almost too realistically awkward. His friends keep telling him that he should stick to what he’s good at instead of ditching it all for this crazy new movie idea; the utter irony of it in relation to this actual picture doesn’t quite seem to hit home.

Video / Audio

The Blu-ray package comes with both a Blu-ray disc and a standard DVD, but due to the nature of the filming, you get little added benefit from the high definition half.  The footage appears to be a slight step up from consumer grade video equipment, and while the Blu-ray does offer more detail, the footage itself just doesn’t justify much quality bump. The picture has all the drab hues of unlit and unprocessed shots, and often with drifting focus.  It’s handheld, guerrilla filming, and even when colors and detailed are balanced, they’re usually either falling victim to graininess or motion issues.  All of this is perfectly understandable and forgivable for the genre of film, however, and mainly is just a note that this style doesn’t naturally lend itself to crisp imaging.

The sound options are actually the same for both disc formats, delivering a lossless but serviceable Dolby Digital 5.1 track. This doesn’t really detract from the low-grade, conversation-heavy nature of the film.

Bonus Material

The main bonus feature on the disc is the surprisingly enjoyable commentary track delivered by Dax, producer and co-star Nate Tuck, and co-director David Palmer.  Dax and Nate commandeer most of the track, and their enthusiasm for the project is fairly contagious, but it’s always a bad sign when a commentary track outshines the film itself. As an oddity, it should be noted that the audio for the commentary drifted out of sync with the picture on the Blu-ray disc, but was perfectly fine on the DVD.

A collection of deleted scenes (HD, 13:59) are included, plus an extended version of the mini movie “Drillin’ Deep” (HD, 7:31), and also the film’s trailer (HD, 2:12). All bonus features are present on both the Blu-ray and DVD discs.

Conclusion

Although the film has a fun premise and an extensive cast of interesting actors, the story itself is under-developed, and lacks the essential ingredient that all mockumentaries should have: more than sporadic humor.  While perfectly serviceable for pizza and beer night where expectations are kept well in check, this is best explored as a rental first.

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About David R Perry