“Bring Him Back Dead” is a backwoods riff on “Reservoir Dogs” full of nostalgia, but can it rise above its low-budget trappings?
Bring Him Back Dead recently arrived on digital (August 2022). Read on to find out if you should Rent it, Stream it, or Skip it.
There’s something rather endearing about the low-budget direct-to-streaming (formerly straight-to-video) action/thriller. Much like horror films, they dotted many a shelf at Blockbuster and Hollywood Video back in the day, looking to ensnare fans who had already watched all the mainstream offerings.
Success on that front was heavily predicated upon one (or more) of the following things: second-string star power, hot chicks in various stages of undress, and/or a unique premise/conceit/location.
Bring Him Back Dead features the foremost of those options, in the form of low-budget action mainstay Gary Daniels, as well as the heftiest of the Baldwin brothers, Mr. Daniel Baldwin.
Directed by Mark Savage, who has roughly twenty directorial credits under his belt, Bring Him Back Dead was released in August of 2022 by Salem House Films.
You’ll see it mentioned quite frequently, and often about horror movies: so bad that it’s good. Getting that kind of backhanded compliment is a sort of badge of honor for many movies. It means that the product got some brand recognition, albeit in a fashion that was probably a little to the left of what the creators intended.
There are a ton of films out there that have achieved that level of cult status. Sadly, regardless of much nostalgia the film might have engendered, Bring Him Back Dead is not one of them.
And this isn’t me harping on a low-budget affair, kicking it while it’s down. Let’s not forget that Reservoir Dogs was made on a shoestring budget as well. Despite what some film critics might think, a low budget certainly does not automatically equate to a bad product.
Look, for what it’s worth, I admire Mark Savage’s moxie.
Never let it be said that he’s not forging a path and doing what he loves (he very clearly is).
I can even respect the route he took with Bring Him Back Dead. There is a blatant love of the “oddball gang of thieves” source material embedded within the film itself, and the actors all seem to be enjoying themselves immensely.
But these things do not, in and of themselves, make for a compelling motion picture.
The main character, Alex, is played by Gary Daniels, who, unlike many of his Hollywood peers, genuinely has a martial arts background. He might be getting up there in years a bit, but the dude still has some moves. And a killer physique to boot. It’s just a shame that the character he is saddled with portraying is so unlikeable.
When another main character bites the bullet (almost literally), one who we think might have been building rapport with Alex, he doesn’t even bat an eye. That’s pretty harsh.
We’re supposed to be invested in Alex’s plight because he’s not a bad guy— but he certainly is a cold and emotionless one.
And just who is Alex? And how does he know how to do a spinning back-kick? It’s a mystery the movie never bothers to address.
Supporting characters range from passable to quite awful.
There is an attempt at fleshing out their personalities with Tarantino-esque banter, but it’s just not enough to make up for the iffy performances.
Katie Keene, no stranger to action movies, is wasted in a largely damsel-in-distress role. Not even a Baldwin brother can elevate this film. And, if I’m being honest, they could have skimped on his character entirely and used that money to shore up other aspects of the film.
Like, for example, the weapons.
Around the movie’s midpoint, our “hero” comes across two inept hunters in the woods. One is armed with a legit hunting rifle, and the other has what is clearly a pellet gun that we are supposed to accept is another rifle. But you can see the pump-action handle for building up air pressure. Also, the tiny scope is just sad. And yet, midway through an action moment, that rifle suddenly becomes the other rifle for a bit before reverting to its underwhelming self.
In another instance, Alex is seen in the getaway car with a hefty .357 magnum (which he just so happens to hold in the movie’s poster), one that he is very studiously loading. He has it in the scene immediately after…even pulling the weapon from his waistband like he intends to use it. And then, it just suddenly and mysteriously vanishes (right when he needs it most), never to be seen again.
Clearly, I’m no filmmaker, so there are intricacies to the editing process that I’m unaware of (I don’t know what I don’t know). But that said, if you’re going to have a few scenes of your main character with some kind of iconic weapon, shouldn’t that weapon then make an appearance later? Or at least have a scene showing that it was dropped or left behind?
Continuity is a film’s best friend, folks.
Maybe most people won’t notice the frequent gaffes, but to me, they were glaringly obvious, detracting from the entire experience.
An ATV gets shot in the gas tank, but then one of the henchmen is ratcheting on the gearbox to fix it? A scope on an admittedly badass crossbow is never actually utilized, and ergo nearly all of the crossbow bolts miss their targets. The slides of semi-auto pistols frequently lock back, indicating an empty magazine, but in the next scene, the wielder is still shooting. Where are all of their extra magazines coming from?
The list goes on and on.
A handful of mistakes is one thing. But when they are back-to-back, they compound and become overly distracting. Again, regardless of budget, these sorts of details can be worked around or addressed.
Flashback scenes are used to establish character motives, but they come and go in a jarring fashion, and the movie honestly could have done without them.
In fact, Alex’s scenes provide some of the most inconsistent messages. He’s supposed to be a good guy underneath it all, or so sayeth his flashback scene, but none of his “happening now” actions support that notion.
Uses of CGI are thankfully few and far between since what is there is subpar at best.
Most of the scenes are competently shot, at least, with well-lit interiors and expansive exteriors. Dialogue is clear, but the weapon sound effects are lackluster. Guns are inherently loud, dammit! As mentioned earlier, the editing needed some love.
Sadly, this is one thriller that simply failed to bring the thrills.