Tuesday, February 16, 2010


If there are two areas of American pop culture where I am particularly deficient, it's in the realms of professional wresting and rap music. So, when the Lionsgate action film WRONG SIDE OF TOWN (2010), starring wrestlers David Bautista and Rob Van Dam, and music artists Ja Rule and Omarion showed up on my doorstep, I had no idea who any of them were or what to expect from them.

What I got was a pretty much by-the-numbers DTV action movie, with a plot we've seen a few million times before. A retired Navy SEAL named Bobby Kalinowski (Rob Van Dam), is living a quiet life in the suburbs with his wife and teenage daughter. One evening, his new neighbor invites Bobby and his wife to join him at a downtown nightclub run by a mobster named Seth (Jerry Katz). There, the mobster's brother assaults the wife, and is accidentally killed in a scuffle with Bobby. Although cleared by the cops, Bobby finds himself with a $100K bounty on his head, and half of the city's lowlifes out to collect. Outnumbered, he turns to an old Navy buddy, Big Reggie (David Bautista), for help.

My first thought upon watching the movie was that it had the largest cast I'd ever seen in action flick, and I'm not talking about numbers. It seems like every male in the movie is gigantic, which considering that most of them are pro wrestlers, probably shouldn't have surprised me. But it does create a rather odd "world" for the movie. My second thought was that the script was right out of the 90's, where the lead would have been played by JCVD or Don "The Dragon" Wilson. My third thought was that, considering the talent involved, there should have been more and bigger fights. Finally, I kept trying to figure out why Bautista got top billing, when his part was essentially an extended cameo.

Oh well. It isn't a horrible film. It definitely has some good points. Producer/writer/director David DeFalco manages to keep everything moving along at a decent pace, and Van Dam - while in no way a good, or remotely convincing, actor - is actually quite likable in the lead. Bautista - in his small role - is genuinely charismatic, and I would like to him actually headline an action movie of his own one of these days. Oh, and porn star Stormy Daniels has a topless cameo.

It is quite clearly a low-budget production, though - it's a contemporary "action" movie with no car chases, explosions or even real gunfights. The action is limited to a handful of hand-to-hand confrontations, that, at least for me, were rather underwhelming. As a direct-to-disc action film, it's just about average, with no surprises or truly fun exploitative moments to make it stand out from the crowd.

Lionsgate brings WRONG SIDE OF TOWN to DVD with a perfectly satisfactory 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital audio. There are a handful of short, behind-the-scenes featurettes, the trailer, and trailers for four other Lionsgate action titles. WRONG SIDE OF TOWN streets on the 23rd of this month.

Like I said above, I did find mister Van Dam surprisingly amiable and would like to see Bautista take the lead for real in a more ambitious, more original action vehicle. If you're a fan of the wrestlers or rap artists in this film, it may be worth a rental, otherwise... well, there's a lot better B-action choices out there.

BUY: Wrong Side of Town