Sam Elliott is a fine actor, but he is almost always typecast as a cowboy. He is an excellent cowboy, tall and thin with a weathered face and a deep drawl. The thing is, he is a fine actor in more traditional roles as well. While I frequently enjoy his work as a cowboy, I have always felt that he may have turned in his finest performance as White House Chief of Staff Kermit Newman in The Contender.
He breaks out of his traditional role yet again with The Avenger, a TNT original film that stars Elliott as a mercenary hired to find a lost aid worker in Serbia, and discovers much more than he is looking for in the process. The typical plot lines of powerful men in high places plotting in smoke-filled rooms are plentiful, but it is enjoyable trash all the same. There was a time in the not-too-distant past that “made for TV” equaled “don’t waste your time”. Networks such as TNT and HBO have tried their best to change that mindset, and I am happy to find that the stereotype is shifting toward the positive.
I’m not typically a big fan of mercenary movies. Stuff like Rambo always struck me as silly, and judging from the cover of this one, I was expecting more of the same. If I had to guess, I’d say the film was right out of the 80’s. After watching it, however, I was pleasantly surprised. It is certainly not going to win any awards, but it is well-made and fairly entertaining. I was afraid that the story was going to feel “soft” because it was made to be suitable for television broadcast, but it was crafted well, and I barely even noticed the lack of blood and hard language. The film plays very much like an extra-long episode of NCIS or The Unit. That’s not a bad thing.
This disc actually has a pretty nice audio presentation. Music cues are full and moving, and dialog is clear. The surrounds are also used to nice effect, though they might carry just a bit too much of the score. I am of the belief that the surround speakers should add ambient noise and help to fill out the audio, without playing an overtly active part in the presentation. However, it is not a great nuisance, and the audio is quite well done for the majority of the film. Bass tones are also handled well; powerful yet not overbearing. This is a clean audio mix, and it takes advantage of the many options that a 5.1 track has to offer.
Simply shocking. I had absolutely no expectation of this disc looking anywhere near as good as it does. I assumed the film would look as good as your average TV-on-DVD product, but I was dead wrong. The black levels are perfect; deep and consistent. Colors are also spot-on, as is the film’s clarity. There is very little to absolutely no grain in the presentation, depending on the scene. The only problems that I could find after scrutinizing the entire film was a very minor problem with some digital artifacts on very small details in some shots. Certainly that is nothing to complain about. Warner Brothers really did a great job with the quality of this TNT film’s transfer.
No extra features are included here. I am actually pretty surprised about that. I know there had to have been some promotional materials created to sell this product to a cable television audience when it was originally broadcast. TNT would never spend the money to shoot a feature film, and then not let viewers know when it was going to be on. At least those promotional spots could have been included on this disc. Something is always better than nothing.
This disc is much better than I was expecting it to be, but I’m still not quite sure I can recommend it for purchase. It is an entertaining film, but it is certainly not going to break any new cinematic ground. The fact that there is not a single special feature here doesn’t help its case, either. This is a pretty safe rental for those of you that like mystery/thriller type films, but it’s really nothing more than quality Saturday afternoon filler.