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Category:    Home > Reviews > Crime > Drama > Murder > Heist > Robbery > Banks > Canada > Action > Bad Karma (2012/Anchor Bay DVD)/Citizen Gangster (2011/IFC/MPI DVD)/Safe (2011/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Stealing Las Vegas (2012/Anchor Bay DVD)

Bad Karma (2012/Anchor Bay DVD)/Citizen Gangster (2011/IFC/MPI DVD)/Safe (2011/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Stealing Las Vegas (2012/Anchor Bay DVD)


Picture: C/C+/B-/C     Sound: C+/C+/B/C+     Extras: D/B-/C/D     Films: C-/B-/C/D



The Gangster genre is so battered and played out, it is getting as ridiculous as Zombie films.  However, through the package deals and duds this time, we found a little gem.



We start with Suri Krishnamma’s Bad Karma (2012) with Ray Liotta playing to type as a bum and former criminal who has a chance to get involved with a new caper, but is not certain he should, has heart issues and is just not 100% himself.  The chance turns up when his old crime partner (Dominic Purcell) shows up and eventually pushes him back into that life, but this turns out to be a very bad variant of Liotta’s own Johnathan Demme film Something Wild except he is the victim and people shoot each other all the time, showing the scripts desperation.


It started out with some promise, but started to tank early and never recovered.  The actors are even good, but these clichés are obnoxious and you are better skipping it.  There are no extras either.



That brings us to Nathan Morlando’s Citizen Gangster (2011) a real Canadian film (made in the country by its actors about its hard history) about a Canadian WWI veteran (Scott Speedman (the Underworld films) in a fine performance and pretty much his best yet) who has a family and thinks he can make big money by becoming an actor.  Instead, after several rejections, he decides to rob a bank and gets on a roll until he is caught.  However, this only introduces him to more criminals including a tough ringleader type (Kevin Durand of Wolverine and the underrated 3:10 To Yuma remake) who helps him and some of his friends break out of jail!


What follows is a huge bank robbery spree where the gang (including Brendan Fletcher (Roller Coaster, Rampage) in a role more to his superior acting talents) and a spree that made crime history in the country.  There are some great subtleties throughout, making this a real nice slice of gritty Canadian life and though there are a few down moments and a little predictability, that is all minor as compared to the sweep of the film which is one of the best Gangster/Crime films in a while.  I will not say anything else as not to ruin this, but this is the kind of solid storytelling and performances we can never see enough.  Even the great Bryan Cox also stars.


Extras include an Interviews featurette and Theatrical Trailer.



Boaz Yakin’s Safe (2011) is the latest Jason Statham shoot ‘em/hit ‘em/kick ‘em up slap-together project and since it is not made in England, you know you are in for an incoherent mess.  In this case, we still get that tired shaky camera work, but also a child-in-jeopardy script, but there are also some good fights, a watchable car chase, goofy dialogue, Chinese and Russian Gangsters trying to get a secret code for the genius female child and everyone disliking Statham’s character who messed up a fixed fight and made illicit money people mad.


Add a few unintentionally funny moments and it is one of his more watchable releases by default.  Unfortunately, it is still a mess, but at least is not a total bore and the great veteran actor James Hong plays the Triad boss.  Extras include Digital; Copy for PC and PC portable devices, Ultraviolet Copy, three making of featurettes and odd feature length audio commentary by Yakin.



We save the worst for last with Francisco Menendez’s Stealing Las Vegas (2012) has Eric Roberts yawning and grinning his way (when he shows up) as a money mogul whose beating up a young guy to find out where a small stolen fortune is begin kept, then we get a prolonged (and I mean long!) flashback to show how the heist happened.  This is lame, goofy, couldn’t put a patch on Scorsese’s Casino (1995) and has more clichés than any such release since the last time 50 Cent made one.  Yes, that’s how bad it is.  Oh, and there are no extras.



The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Vegas and anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Karma are cheap, very soft and the worst-looking of the four releases on the list.  With too much styling, bad editing, shaking cameras and color that never works, they are as hard to watch visually as anything else.  The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Citizen may be styled to look like it is from the near past, but it is not slap-happy stupid about it and is the best-looking of the DVDs here.  I liked the look and locations, making wish this one was a Blu-ray, but the DVD is about as good as it can look.  That leaves the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Safe as the default champion in playback, but shaky camera work, bad editing and some other detail issues hold back the performance.


The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes on all three DVDs have soundfield inconsistencies and other sonic limits, but they will suffice.  However, none of them can compete with the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix on Safe with a consistent use of all the speakers, even though the dialogue can sometimes be more in the center of the soundfield than I would have liked.  Otherwise, it is pretty good.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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