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Studio Home Entertainment presents
"DRA-MAN IS DA BOSS...DRA-MAN IS FEARED...DRA-MAN IS DEATH...DRA-MAN IS UNSTOPPABLE...DRA-MAN IS BOSS OF BOSSES...CHICAGOWANTS DRA-MAN PUTDOWN...CHICAGO HIRES THE WRECKING CREW"
DVD ReviewOver my years of watching movies, a few have made me doubt my own sanity. However, I must admit it's been a very long time since I've seen anything as head-scratchingly odd and laugh-out-loud funny as The Wrecking Crew. Crew follows in the tradition of the typical, ho-hum "gangsta" movie where lots of underused, underpayed black actors dress up in oversized leather jackets, cuss a lot, and hold guns sideways for extended periods of time. This is, of course, accompanied by a non-stop rap soundtrack and sometimes, if you're lucky, an actual rap star will make an appearance.
Apparently, some drug lord called Dra-man (Snoop Doggy Dog) is a rapper/drug lord. Two street gangs (The Locs and the 111) are fighting each other hoping to come to a truce, and Ice-T is "Menace," the leader of "The Wrecking Crew", a special police force that routinely kills gangs by the truckload. The plot evolves into something about the two gangs wanting to team up with "The Cartel." Although before they're able to join "The Cartel", the Wrecking Crew starts killing off everyone. Essentially, the Wrecking Crew decide to kill off both the gangs as they try and make peace, which causes the gangs to turn on each other. Of course, the tears in my eyes from belly-laughing so much probably clouded my accurate perception of things.
Where do we begin? Well, first off, the film is horrendously low-budget. Shot on video, the movie has a distinct lack of effort put into sets, lighting, effects—or acting. Presumably, the majority of the budget went into licensing all the rap music and the remainder was shoestring. This isn't always bad (I've seen great indie films that cost less than $10,000 in modern money), but in Crew the whole thing looks sloppy at best.
Most of the film takes place in abandoned warehouses and crumbling buildings which, I assume, were real locations. If they weren't, then I'll give the set design credit for the believable decay. Most of the sets are used over and over again, much like an old 50's era Roger Corman production. The distinct lack of a solid plot makes the film very minimalist. It's just a series of scenes where not a whole lot happens, a few characters mumble dialogue and try to look cool, and people get shot. The dramatic element is represented by characters getting into arguments a lot and using the F-word more.
What really makes me laugh (even while I write this review) is the keepcase description of the film. I quote: "Overlord Snoop-Dogg controls the Hong Kong-style action and martial arts set against state-of-the-art special effects." I think maybe once or twice in the film, some guy uses a roundhouse kick. The "state-of- the-art" special effects mainly consist of digitally made squibs on the actors. Yes, that's right, not even the simple effect of a bullet wound (referred to in the industry as a squib) is real. Instead, computer graphics were used to create little red explosion points on the actors as they are shot by little white lines. Actually, this makes many of the shootout scenes look like lasers are being fired, rather than guns. A few scenes even have digital blood coming from dead bodies. The technique is interesting, but the results look extremely bad. Snoop Dogg isn't "controlling" anything, by the way. He isn't even in the movie. He appears for a total of about 2 minutes at the opening of the film in some sort of flashback, then disappears.
To make things even more hilarious, much of the action is off-screen. Take, for example, a shoot-out scene about 45 minutes in. Three guys run down a hallway shooting wildly at anything they see. Except, what we get to see is actors pumping endless rounds into open doorways and towards the camera. Most of the carnage is implied. Now that's low budget. The problems don't end here, though. A slew of pathetic dialogue, terrible editing, and ridiculous plot twists drown this film into a sea of complete mediocrity. I think you should trust me when I say you will be laughing yourself silly during this whole thing.
Rating for Style: D-
Rating for Substance: D-
Image Transfer Review: As I previously mentioned, Crew was obviously shot on video, presumably some form of high grade that can crop to 1:78:1. Unfortunately, some sort of strange, grainy film effects were done in post-production to make the film look gritty. Done on purpose or not, it still looks awful and is extremely annoying. Because of this effect, the entire film looks covered in compression artifacts. Black level, edge detail, and many other hallmarks of DVD are totally compromised because of this single attempt at artistic style. Now, I'm not saying that filmmakers should avoid cinematography that's experimental or strange, but in this case the effect is pointless and adds nothing to an already problem-plagued production.
Image Transfer Grade: D
Audio Transfer Review: Crew puts all of its audio track priorities on the rap music soundtrack, which is almost nonstop. The dialogue was recorded with on-set mics which means it's very hard to hear with the exaggerated music in the background. Some scenes are simply so music oriented you cannot hear the dialogue at all. The 5.1 mix has some simple imaging during the gunfights, and a lot of the dialogue echoes into the surrounds, but it's not terribly accurate to the on-screen action. The audio wouldn't be so annoying if it had been toned down so you could hear the actual sound from the movie.
The 2.0 track enhances all of the bad points in the soundtrack. Without the advantage of the clarity and multi-channel action of the 5.1 mix to repair the poor dialogue and on-screen sound, the 2.0 is muffled and lacks good low-end. Regardless of your home system, use the 5.1 downconverted mix.
Audio Transfer Grade: D+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
10 Other Trailer(s) featuring Space Truckers, Letters from a Killer, Corrupt, New Rose Hotel, and more
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by 1: Albert Pyun, 2: Ernie Hudson Jr. and David Askew
The commentary track by director Albert Pyun is pretty funny. He talks very seriously about the movie, but the movie is so laughable, it's very hard to take. In all seriousness, though, the commentary track is informative and well-done, for what it's worth. Pyun does stop talking for long gaps, though.
The actor commentary with Ernie Hudson Jr. and David Askew is more conversational than Pyun's. They apparently liked the movie a lot, so in that sense their conviction that they're really into what they're doing is cool. I can respect that, despite what I think of the movie.
The isolated score is a 2.0 stereo version of all the music in the film. It doesn't sound all that great compared to the 5.1 normal mix, but if you're really into the music, you most likely won't care.
Along with a trailer for this film is an extensive collection of 10 other trailers from other Sterling releases, including other Albert Pyun/Ice-T collaborations Urban Menace and Corrupt.
The trivia game starts you off with a screen that says "Try to come correct, but don't slip, or you might end up playa' hating!" Umm....OK. The game asks questions about the plot of the film, so good luck. I didn't bother to get good enough to actually win the trivia, but I assume you get some video sequence for winning.
The bios section is pretty well written and put together, but a few actors are left off.
The behind-the-scenes featurette isn't that great. It's mostly footage from the film with a few glimpses of working on the set. The whole thing is about 5 minutes long and contains almost nothing of any interest.
I didn't bother to locate the "hidden" featurette. After a minute or two of making educating guesses where it might be "hidden", I gave up. I presume if you emailed Sterling enough about it, they'd tell you where it was.
While I don't have a DVD-ROM computer, I assume the screenplay-to-scene access is pretty much the same as the other discs with this feature. Wait, there was a screenplay?
Presentation-wise, Wrecking Crew earns a few points for nice, animated menus. The keepcase insert is simply a one-sided listing of the chapter stops.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsAs an action movie, Wrecking Crew is moderately entertaining in a vapid sort of way. Despite all my ragging on how humorously terrible the film is, at the same time there is a sadness around this movie. The sadness is that so many new black actors have to demean themselves portraying awful, racist stereotypes to get acting work. Wrecking Crew is trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator. These kinds of plotless "gangsta" films are always coming out it seems, but few ever have much depth—just a lot of killing and marketing of soundtracks. Often times, the filmmakers will hide behind the cliche` of "It shows how bad gangs are," but that's a cheap cop out. If you're going to glamorize this kind of garbage so that people buy it, at least have the guts to admit it. All that aside, though, The Wrecking Crew demands at least one viewing for its sheer level of laughability. If Mystery Science Theatre 3000 was still on the air, this would be a great addition to their selections. Of course, every 5th word would have to be bleeped. I would recommend people rent this flick for its humor value, but not for much else.
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