It’s like clockwork. Every year, a new direct-to-video outing featuring the once-valued star power of Wesley Snipes hits stores — and quickly gets moved to the bottom shelf once the latest Girls Gone Wild release comes out the following week. In the past, Wesley’s b-grade actioneers had been completely financed and filmed within the confines of Eastern Europe; but, following that whole tax thing, it became kind of hard for him to travel abroad. And, so — as hard as this may be for some of you to believe — Mr. Snipes’ latest direct-to-video feature was actually filmed in a mystical land known as Detroit (the IRS didn’t want him fleeing to Eastern Europe for good, after all!).
And what’s really weird about Snipes’ Game Of Death — which was originally known as No, Not That Postmortem Bruce Lee Movie — is that it’s a little easier to sit through than many of the former Blade star’s previous direct-to-video fiascos.
Granted, that’s not saying very much; it’s still too disjointed to gain any sort of following or warrant more than one viewing (if even that many).
In Game Of Death, Snipes plays a CIA agent named Marcus Jones (really?). Mr. Marcus has been assigned to infiltrate an international arms dealer named Smith (Robert Davi) and bring him to justice during the midst of a money exchange with a corporate heavy (one Quinn Duffy — no relation to TV’s Patrick). Unfortunately for Marcus and just about everyone else in the film, Smith suffers a heart-attack en route — just as a pair of disillusioned CIA operatives (Gary Daniels and stuntwoman extraordinaire Zoe Bell) start a full assault on Marcus and Smith alike, determined to walk away with a bus-full of moolah in their pockets and a morgue-full of corpses in their wake.
If that weren’t bad enough for Marcus, these bastards have also decided to frame him for their crimes (hey, why not, eh?). Snipes relays the story via flashback to a kindly (and surprisingly forgiving) priest in a poor neighborhood (portrayed by Ernie Hudson).
One of the reasons Game Of Death doesn’t quite work is its tendency to mistake itself for a video game. The first part of the film has Snipes playing cat and mouse with the movie’s baddies in a hospital that’s on the verge of being abandoned (check out that mental ward hottie!), all the while trying to get to Robert Davi in the ICU. The second part of the film (also the climax) has Snipes following the bad guys to the location wherein Davi was supposed to make the exchange at the beginning of the film. The final confrontation (or Boss Level, if you prefer) has Snipes battling Daniels on rooftop, before somehow managing to elude the entire taskforce — comprised of the Detroit police department, a SWAT team, the National Guard, Santa Claus, Puff the Magic Dragon, and the Easter Bunny, too — that is hot on his trail.
Despite the numerous holes and uninspired writing, Game Of Death’s most annoying aspect for me was director Giorgio Serafini’s tendency to be way-too-artsy for no reason whatsoever. The numerous shootouts during the film’s hospital moments are interlaced with cheesy visual effects. Why? Well, initially, director Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant) was supposed to helm this feature, but backed out to work on another project (so the story goes). And, so, maybe Giorgio was just going off of some old storyboards The Driller Killer director left behind. Hell if I know. I’d be surprised if Signori Serafini knew why either, for that matter.
Game Of Death hits home video on DVD and Blu-ray courtesy Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The DVD presents the movie in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with a pretty decent audio/video transfer. The movie’s main moments have a rather dull color palette goin’ on (it’s Detroit, you know), while the wraparound segments have a much more lush tone to them.
The DVD boasts a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack, and optional subtitles in English (SDH) and Spanish. Several behind-the-scenes featurettes (the lengths of which must’ve been combined and included with the runtime of the film on the DVD’s packaging, since the film is substantially shorter than the disc‘s reverse artwork states) with various cast and crew members are included with this Standard Definition release, and go into the production of the film — should you really have an interest in such.
As I said before, Game Of Death is a lot better than some of the other direct-to-video flicks that’ve crossed our paths in the past. Much like those other films, this movie has very little going on other than a lot of gunplay. And, while such a thing isn’t necessarily bad, this particular flick is far from being a memorable experience — and probably shan’t be of any interest other than to the truly devoted followers of Wesley Snipes.