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Three Thrillers from Sony

Crimson Rivers II: Angels of the Apocalypse (November 10/08)

Crimson Rivers II: Angels of the Apocalypse ultimately fares a whole lot worse than its convoluted yet engaging predecessor, with screenwriter Luc Besson offering up a plot that grows more and more impenetrable as the movie unfolds - which effectively ensures that the few positive elements within the proceedings are eventually rendered moot. Besson's attempts at replicating the labyrinthine nature of the first film's epic sensibilities generally fall completely flat, as the viewer's efforts at embracing the admittedly out-there storyline are consistently thwarted by a script that often seems confusing merely for the sake of being confusing. The movie - which follows Jean Reno's Chief Inspector Pierre Niemans as he's once again paired with rule-breaking cop Reda (Benoit Magimel, picking up where Vincent Cassel left off) in an effort to solve a mysterious case with religious overtones - has been punctuated with a number of engrossing, downright thrilling action sequences, with director Olivier Dahan's penchant for over-the-top visuals certainly elevating one's interest on an all-too-periodic basis (highlights include a spectacular foot chase and a tense showdown inside a supermarket). In the end, however, Crimson Rivers II: Angels of the Apocalypse's relentlessly baffling modus operandi cements its place as a hopelessly muddled and downright interminable mess.

out of

Impact Point (November 12/08)

There's little doubt that Impact Point ultimately plays out exactly as advertised by both the premise and the salacious cover art, with writer Brett Merryman enthusiastically (and consistently) playing up the more overtly trashy elements within the unapologetically over-the-top storyline. Melissa Keller stars as Kelly Reyes, an ace volleyball star whose coupling with charming reporter Holden Greg (Brian Austin Green) hits a fairly significant bump after it's revealed that Holden isn't a reporter at all but rather a deranged psychopath. The absence of subtlety or even common sense within Impact Point is hardly as problematic as one might imagine, given that director Hayley Cloake has infused the proceedings with a movie-of-the-week sensibility that proves an ideal companion to Merryman's gleefully tawdry screenplay. It's hard to deny, however, that Holden's muddled motives become increasingly difficult to overlook as the film progresses, as the character's endgame would appear to be nothing more than a relationship with Kelly - yet, after achieving this within minutes of meeting her, Holden spends the remainder of the film harassing her, attacking her friends, and generally behaving like an unhinged maniac (ie why, then, did he go through the trouble of killing a hapless journalist and taking his identity in the first place?) Keller's unusually strong performance certainly assures Impact Point's place as a cut above its sleazy direct-to-video brethren, and although it's impossible to offer up a wholehearted recommendation, the film admittedly does manage to sustain one's interest in a mindless, lazy Sunday sort of way.

out of

Tortured (November 12/08)

Though infused with a storyline that admittedly holds some promise, Tortured is ultimately undone by an egregiously disjointed narrative that only grows more frustrating and more convoluted as the movie progresses. The myriad of subplots and character arcs offered up by filmmaker Nolan Lebovitz effectively diminishes the potency of the movie's individual elements, and there does reach a point at which the viewer is forced to throw up their hands at the writer/director's relentlessly unfocused modus operandi. The film follows undercover FBI agent Kevin Cole (Cole Hauser) as he attempts to balance his personal life with the demands of his dangerous assignment, as he finds himself - at the behest of a mysterious mobster - forced to torture a seemingly innocent (and thoroughly meek) accountant named Archie Green (Laurence Fishburne). There's little doubt that Tortured's surfeit of overtly positive attributes initially set it apart from its direct-to-video brethren, with the impressive cast - which, in addition to Hauser and Fishburne, boasts solid supporting work from James Cromwell, Jon Cryer, and Kevin Pollak - certainly ranking high on the film's list of appealing elements. The lack of consistency within the proceedings inevitably becomes overwhelming, however, as Lebovitz - in his effort at telling an almost epic tale - offers up a far-from-streamlined storyline that's just relentlessly all over the place (ie in one scene Kevin is ripping off Archie's toenails, and in the next he's engaging in a domestic squabble with his girlfriend). One's increasingly hopeless efforts at following the progressively baffling plot exacerbates the movie's various problems, while the flat-out ludicrous twist ending essentially cements Tortured's place as a well-intentioned yet undeniable misfire.

out of

About the DVDs: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents all three titles with anamorphically-enhanced transfers, and while Impact Point and Tortured come equipped only with brief behind-the-scenes featurettes, Crimson Rivers II: Angels of the Apocalypse boasts a feature-length documentary that delves into virtually every aspect of the film's production.
© David Nusair