Survival of the Baddest.
Steven Austin is Jim Rhodes, a U.S. Border Patrol agent, is out camping and hunting with his unwilling teenage daughter Kim (Marie Avgeropoulos). She gets bored and drives to town and gets busted by the sherif for shoplifting. Her unimpressed father comes to bail her out, but at the same time a gang of bank robbers are holding up the sherif station. Killing the sherif for being uncooperative, the family Rhodes are forced to help the bank robbers track their way through the forest to find their bounty, which was stolen by a double-crossing associate.
That's the plot in a nutshell, very simple and straight-forward. The film runs for 90 minutes and generally moves at a fair clip even though most of it is slowly walking through a forest. There are enough detours, deviations and chances for Gil Bellow's trigger-happy Banks to take out those that get in his way to spice things up. It seems a bit odd that these people - who can rob a bank with the aid of non-existent voice synthesising technology to divert an incoming police pursuit - need the help of a ranger so badly, but that's just one of those "Well I guess they needed to make a plot out of something" details that I can (generally) forgive. Along the way, both Rhodes attempt to escape a couple of times, and in the third act we presume that Jim is killed. That's when he comes back Rambo-style, armed with a convenient crossbow!
Gil Bellows (True Justice and a bunch of other TV) was good, albeit predictable, as the main bad guy Banks. He's everything you love to hate in a bad guy boss; he holds a serious grudge that forms the focus of the film, he does not accept incompetence among his own team, and he never stops grinning evilly. Banks was a seriously dislikable character, which means Bellows succeeded in crafting a good baddy. Good enough for 90 minutes of direct-to-video action, anyway. I did give a little cheer when he got his comeuppance.
Gary Daniels plays Jensen, Banks' second-in-command and the most well-balanced and loyal of the team to Banks. Daniels' thick British accent (thicker than usual, it seems) really stands out like a sore thumb. I was disappointed in the lack of action that Daniels' had on screen, actually. Mostly it's just bickering between the rest of the gang, a couple of shots fired and then the final fight with Austin - which at least was worth the price of entry as he gets a few decent roundhouse kicks in to Austin's face. The other gang members (Michael Eklund's "Geary" the techie one, Adrian Holmes' "Crab" the incompetent one, Emiliie Ullerup's "Dominika" the pretty one) are all pretty bland and not really worth discussing. They simply serve as cannon fodder for both Rhodes and a pissed-off Banks.
Director Keoni Waxman is quite prolific among the DTV-action world, particularly with Austin and our favourite Steven Seagal. He directed both of them together in Maximum Conviction, a film I enjoyed more than the rest of the world (it seems), and is helming the upcoming Seagal/Danny Trejo/Ving Rhames vehicle, Force of Execution. On paper that one sounds a blast. Waxman's also, in retrospect, put many cast members from this and his Seagal films into Seagal's television serial True Justice.
You may have noticed that I tagged Eric Roberts but so far have not mentioned him. That's because the son-of-a-bitch is dead before the opening credits roll! In a scene that is only there to show Austin receiving a watch that will come in handy later, he and Roberts take down a meth lab in the middle of nowhere, Texas, and Roberts faces the mean end of a drug dealer's shotgun. That's it. Although he's not on the cover of the DVD or any of the photos on the back, he is listed as #1 on IMDB in the credits list - so I'm calling this a bait-and-switch on technicality.
Overall I thought this was decent enough, if you can ignore the obvious plot faults of a crew of technologically-benefited bank robbers not being able to determine where North is without a 17 year old girl to help them. And if you don't expect to see Eric Roberts for more than a millisecond. Seriously he must have just been driving by the set when Waxman shouted out "Hey Roberts! Want to make fifty bucks?" Check out what our buddy at the DTVC thought of the film as well. I commented on his review two-and-a-half years ago but I'm only just getting to mine now!
Serious spoiler alert! There are two main highlights for me; the eventual one-on-one fight of Austin and Daniels, and the final (drawn out) death-throws of Gil Bellows' Banks character who "dies" not once, not twice, but three times. Eventually after hobbling away from the first two failed attempts at being dispatched by Rhodes, Banks pushes for a third attempt by quipping at Rhodes "Is that all you got, mountain man?! You can't kill me!". To which Rhodes invokes the films title: "When I hunt.. I HUNT TO KILL!" (given in away in the trailer) and ploughs Banks down with a quad bike in a hilarious fashion, before blowing him and the quad up with a flare gun. Champagne stuff and worth seeing the film to the end for.
Region 2 DVD from Anchor Bay. Sharp 16:9 print as you would expect.