American Muscle Blu-ray Review
When a film’s producers are making an obvious push toward being categorized as a “tongue n’ cheek,” “grindhouse” style of over-the-top plethora of violence, nudity and stereotypes on steroids, it is usually allotted ample amount of leeway when it comes time to critique the plot’s points of realism. However, even with a story that’s only concerned with creating as much “shock” and “awe” as possible, it still needs to maintain the one essential attribute that no film of any genre can avoid … entertainment value. Unfortunately for AMERICAN MUSCLE, it retains very little after trying so hard to convince its audience that it’s more “hard core” than a polished Tarentino or Rodriguez project.
John Falcon (Nick Principe, LAID TO REST) thinks of nothing but revenge while serving a decade in prison due to the betrayal of his brother Sam (Todd Farmer, DRIVE ANGRY). Out on parole, Falcon spends the next 24 hours getting revenge on every single person even remotely connected to his incarceration and satisfying 10 year’s worth of pent-up sexual urges while pinning away for his wife Darling (Robin Sydney, THE GINGERBREAD MAN).
Gratuitous sex and violence is not exactly everyone’s cup of movie time tea. But any self-respecting connoisseur of sensory overload still has standards that control where they spend their entertainment dollars. Films like DEATH PROOF, PLANET TERROR and MACHETE are not making anyone’s “Oscar” list anytime soon; however they still maintain a professional structure of polished filmmaking. This is not to equate high quality with a high budget. Movies like CLERKS, PI, and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT were all made for a pittance compared to hundreds of films whose titles have been long forgotten. The reason their notoriety lives on has very little to do with them being either a “good” or “bad” film; they were simply entertaining enough to transcend well beyond their niche audience. AMERICAN MUSCLE, unapologetically, does not make even a paltry attempt at this feat. Not everything has to appeal to all people, but if you’re going to tell a revenge story it should at least be more than a boring rampage that culminates in a lesson of obvious misplaced loyalty.
There are a few minor points of merit, as Nick Principe is a refreshing kind of “man on the warpath” type of anti-hero. As a pure actor, his abilities seem to be quite limited; however his presence and appearance ring truer to this type of role than say a Nicholas Cage or Jason Statham. Principe comes off more like a real-life convict, with a body type that is more attuned to a decade of eating prison food and lifting heavy weights than an action star with multiple personal trainers. First-time director Ravi Dhar should’ve incorporated this quality into the fight scenes as well, as the characters look ridiculous attempting to execute choreographed, Hollywood-style martial arts.
Ultimately, AMERICAN MUSCLE’s fatal flaw is that it does not even achieve any memorable shock factors, which is really the only stronghold the film was relying on. The fight scenes are extremely amateurish and most of the gunfire is either laughably fake or at times too realistic to leave a lasting impression. Though, the biggest holes in screenplay are the bridging scenes between the action. The film is one long slow walk as Falcon confronts his former partners in crime with a pace that has you half-way expecting him to drop a magic ring into a volcano at the end … and then shoot the volcano.
Video: 1080p, 1.85:1 Widescreen: The video quality for AMERICAN MUSCLE does absolutely nothing to compensate for its abysmal screenplay. Day scenes are passable, but the obvious banding and compression artifacts during night or low-lit shots are embarrassing and something that even film students on a budget are able to avoid.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1: Adding more insult to multiple injuries, the audio track is as much of a mess as the rest of the production. Effects are inconsistent at both the low and high end of the spectrum and much of the dialogue is either too low, muffled or gets drowned out by the surrounding noise.
Audio Commentary with the Director and Producer: From the commentary it seems at least the cast and crew had a good time making AMERICAN MUSCLE, unfortunately all that’s left after the final “cut” is to watch it.