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MTI Home Video presents
Waterborne (2005)

"You take away the comforts of life, and people are just like any other animal."
- Zach (Christopher Masterson)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: February 21, 2006

Stars: Christopher Masterson, Ajay Naidu
Other Stars: Shabana Azmi, Jake Muxworthy, Jon Gries, Christopher Berry, Mageina Tovah, Lindsay Price, Noah Segan, Don Swayze
Director: Ben Rekhi

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language)
Run Time: 01h:17m:52s
Release Date: February 21, 2006
UPC: 039414520620
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-B-B- D-

DVD Review

Here's another small budget film sort of shot in the foot based on its own cover art, which from a casual glance brings the promise of a biological hazard, swarms of military and maybe even a healthy dose of crazed, widespread panic. Instead, this one moves along a slightly different track, opting for more dialogue and a basic absence of traditional action, all the while trying to combine the basic premise of a terrorist thriller with more a character-based ensemble story, something more akin to Crash. We get a few different subplots, all of which seem somehow destined to overlap, something that writer/director Ben Rekhi eventually does.

Terrorists have poisoned the Los Angeles water supply, and people have begun to die, causing the expected panicky havoc. Water is banned, highways are jammed, people are thirsty and tempers quickly go into the hot zone. A college student (Malcolm in the Middle's Christopher Masterson) and his stoner cousin (Jake Muxworthy) try desperately to escape LA; a National Guardsman (Jon Gries) has to leave his wife (Lindsay Price) and young daughter alone while he pairs up with a hot-headed soldier (Christopher Berry); and a Punjabi (Ajay Naidu) and his Jewish girlfriend (Mageina Tovah) cross an array of cultural boundaries with his stern mother (Shabana Azmi), whose "head is in the old world."

The second half of Waterborne almost runs the risk of becoming a "message" film, as the theme of tolerance in our post 9/11 world gets batted around in sometimes broad strokes. But the saving grace is the presence of Ajay Naidu, who carries himself with a likeable, natural ease in every scene he's in, even when he's uncharacteristically berating his doe-eyed girlfriend about not understanding what it's like to be him. For a film with a number of very watchable performances (Tovah and Azmi, particularly), it is Naidu that more than carries this one.

Rekhi uses a lot of close-up, shaky camera shots to hide the fact that the rest of LA isn't really in a panic, and if you pay close attention it sort of looks like business as usual in the background. That's a small movie nerd kind of beef, a nitpick really, but it diffuses some of the intended tensions of what we're told is a near-catastrophic terrorist-based water emergency. The flow of dialogue is meant to raise questions about who we might become in a moment of great crisis, and how our biases could color our own judgement of who or what is right or wrong.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: MTI has issued Waterborne in 1.85:1 nonamorphic widescreen, and the transfer looks pretty solid overall. Fleshtones and colors look natural more often than not, though director Rekhi does employ some intentional graininess and color correction to give certain sequences a more frantic, documentary quality. No evidence of nicks or specks on the print, either.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in 2.0 stereo, and while it doesn't offer any overtly dramatic cues, it does deliver clear dialogue consistently. The music elements, like the score from Dredg, sound crisp, though the big tabla beats don't have the expected whump.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only extra is a theatrical trailer, though the press release touts behind-the-scenes footage, interviews and trailers for the commercial version. None of these are found on my screening copy.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

The plot moved in a few directions I didn't initially anticipate, and the Grand Canyon/Crash-like melding of multiple storylines perhaps is now more familiar than edgy, but it works fairly well within the context of this character-driven poisoned-water-supply thriller. It's more about the societal panic effect on us humans, even as the film's second half becomes more about a lesson in tolerance than anything else.

A trio of fine performances from Ajay Naidu, Shabana Azmi, and Mageina Tovah shore up a couple of the thematic loose spots, making this easily worth the cost of a rental.


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