Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A review of "Death Machine"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “Death Machine”

By: Brian Cotnoir


     Welcome one and all to the start of “Brad Dourif Appreciation Month” where we will be taking a look at films starring the acting talents of Mr. Brad Dourif.  Hey, you want to know what one of my favorite things about this blog is?  Every now and then I select a film to watch that I think is going to be a total lost cause, and it turns out to be really good and enjoyable.  And I’m not talking about “a film so bad that it’s actually good”, no I am talking about films that I sincerely enjoyed and consider to be good films.  Film’s like the one I’m reviewing today.  “Death Machine” is a Sci-Fi-Action-Adventure that I would describe as a Fanboy Action film that combines elements form “Alien”, “RoboCop” and “Diehard”.     
“Death Machine” is set in the “near future” of the year 2003 and the world is up-in-arms over the controversial human experiments being performed by the CHAANK Corporation, a weapons manufacture.  The corporations new Chief Executive, Hayden Cale, is investigating a mysterious malfunctioning project that has left dozens dead and injured.  The companies CEO and other top officials try to keep all knowledge of the failing project kept secret, so Cale turns to the company’s top Weapon Designer, a mysterious man named Jack Dante (Dourif).  Dante is peculiar person who has an unhealthy infatuation with Ms. Cale.  It isn’t until the horrific death of CHAANK Corp’s. CEO, Scott Ridley, that Dante’s employment is terminated by Cale.  Cale’s timing could not be worst as CHAANK Corp. is invaded by a group of Eco-Terrorists, known as the Humanist Alliance, who are bent on destroying CHAANK’s Headquarters so that they can no longer make destructive weapons.  Dante leads the group of terrorists to Vault 10, where he unleashes his most destructive weapon ever: a death-machine that feeds off of peoples fear.  Now it’s up to Hayden Cale and the head of the remaining members of the Humanist Alliance to stop the death machine and escape with their lives.                                                      
What is it with Villains and watching cartoons???
     There are a number of things that make this a great film.  Let’s look at the story first.  Before making “Death Machine” the films writer and director, Stephen Norrington, worked as a special effects artist on the film “Aliens”.  This film makes numerous references to the “Alien” franchise such as naming characters after references from the “Alien” films, such as Weyland and Yutani  The film also pays homage to the film directors that inspired Norrington, such as naming some of his characters Jack Dante (a reference to Joe Dante), Sam Raimi, John Carpenter, and Scott Ridley (a reference to Ridley Scott, director of “Alien”).  What a wonderful way to pay homage to some of your greatest heroes and influences.                      
Our Villain and his creation :)
Now let’s look at the characters:  Without a doubt the star of this film is Brad Dourif’s character Jack Dante.  He is a weapons designer and master computer hacker that has many character traits that resemble that of a total sociopath.  When he’s not busy designing weapons or looking at pictures of naked ladies, he is wandering around CHAANK Corp, observing peoples mannerisms and performing his own form of psychoanalysis on them.  I am absolutely convinced that Christopher Nolan had to base some of his Joker character from “The Dark Knight” on Dourif’s performance.  There are some similarities between Dourif’s role of Jack Dante and Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker:  Both characters are sociopaths, when a gun is pulled on them both characters grab the gun by the barrel and instruct the person holding the gun to go ahead and pull the trigger, both characters want to “turn order into chaos”, both characters use a pencil to make a terrifying point about their insanity!  Hell, there’ even a quote in this film about how “the needs of many, outweigh the means of a few”.  The similarities are just a little too uncanny to be a mere coincidence.  Christopher Nolan had to have seen this film and somewhat based Ledger’s Joker off of Dourif’s character.  Brad Dourif is just so good in this film and really gives one of the best performances of his career.       
Man, you gonna die!
    As for the other characters, they’re all pretty enjoyable as well. Actress Ely Pouget plays the role of the films heroine Hayden Cale.  Hayden Cale is pretty much the same character as Ellen Ripley from the “Alien” Franchise.  She doesn’t play the role as good as Sigourney Weaver, but she still does a decent job.  Actor John Sharian plays the role of Humanist Alliance leader Sam Raimi, and at the beginning of the film he kind of reminds me of Robert De Niro from “Taxi Driver”, but once he puts on the Project HARDMAN suit to battle the death machine he becomes more like RoboCop, and he also does a great job with his role. Richard Brake plays the role of CHAANK Corp. CEO Scott Ridley, and his performance is just so over-the-top in this film that it’s hilarious.  I honestly think that Brake is trying out-Cage, Nicolas Cage in the film he’s that over-the-top funny.
Hayden Cale and Raimi taking on the Death Machine w/ big guns
    Now, let’s talk about the Death Machine.  Early on in the film we only get to see death machine through Point-of-view shots.  Towards the end of the film we actually get to see the death machine, and its okay.  I mean it’s nothing spectacular to look at it, but it does have the equipment to do what its name suggests.                                          
    I definitely recommend that you check out the film “Death Machine” is you find that you are not able to enjoy this film for its story and great acting, then you can at least appreciate it for its Fan-boy homage’s and quirky character references.  It truly is a hidden gem among forgotten Sci-Fi-Action/Thrillers.      

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