Movie Review: Wrong Side Of Town
The flamboyant world of professional wrestling often acts as a springboard to launch its performers into the slightly-more reputable universe of Hollywood's movie industry. For better or for worse, an incalculable amount of these warriors of the "squared circle" have seeped their way into feature-length films, from Hulk Hogan's portrayal of Thunderlips in Rocky III to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's latest performance as a hockey-playing pixie in last January's critically-ostracized Tooth Fairy. While the intricacies of what it takes to prosper as a successful actor or pro wrestler aren't too remarkably dissimilar -- assume the role of a character, communicate to the audience your beliefs and ambitions, and strive to achieve your goals by any means necessary -- some of these gladiators would be better off sticking to what brought them into the spotlight in the first place and leave the acting to Hollywood's true thespians.
Wrong Side Of Town follows the adventures of retired Navy Seal Bobby Kalinowski (TNA's latest addition Rob Van Dam) as he spends the majority of the movie tearing through a gauntlet of Los Angeles's biggest and baddest street hooligans (several of whom oddly enough aren't too familiar with the second amendment) out to collect a $100,000 bounty placed on his head by vicious nightclub owner Seth Bordas (Jerry Katz). You see, Bobby got into an altercation with Seth's thug-wannabe brother Ethan (Ross Britz) after the hood rat tried to get fresh with his wife (Lara Grice), leading to Ethan accidentally doing himself in by falling onto his own knife. Bobby is released from the police station with a perfectly-legitimate self-defense case protecting him from a prison sentence but not from the far-reaching clutches of Seth, who apparently has dozens of hired delinquents hiding away in the city's alleyways and underpasses poised to enact some revenge.
My main issue with Wrong Side Of Town is that it's just so painfully conventional, never once attempting to break any new ground and show the audience something they've yet to see in an action film. Elements of the derivative plot have been better utilized in countless movies in the past, most notably the obligatory "bad guy kidnaps the hero's kid" scene that sheepishly presents itself in the third act.
The characters generally show about as much emotional range as a second coat of paint, occupying their time on-screen as cardboard cutouts just waiting for the credits to start rolling. Van Dam coasts through his first starring role with such a nonexistent concern for the events unfolding around him, smirking at his opponents each time they point a gun at his face as if the bullets would pass right through him without causing bodily harm. His reprehensible cockiness doesn't even budge when the criminals have their weapons aimed at his daughter, as if to tell the viewer, "You already know how this is going to end. Why not just shut off your DVD player now and go outside for a walk?" Bobby also has an annoying habit of continually putting himself into harm's way for no good reason other than to trigger a chain of clumsily-choreographed fight scenes that only add more dead weight to an already-suffering hodgepodge of cheesy dialog and porn star quality acting.
Perhaps the most misleading aspect of this entire production involves the movie's advertising campaign heavily promoting the appearances of current WWE Champion Dave Batista and rapper Ja Rule prior to its direct-to-video release. Unfortunately, two names that had the potential to boost this film's rewatchability from "piss poor" to "maybe after a six pack" end up sharing about twenty minutes of combined screen time. That's less exposure than Seth's incompetent bodyguards, one of which was featured in Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay as the prisoner who forces his victims to take a bite of his "cock-meat sandwich." This discouraging fact is just one of the numerous impediments that restrains Wrong Side of Town from becoming anything more than just another sure-fire future addition to the Wal-Mart DVD bargain bin.
The Verdict: I wasn't expecting the next Die Hard when I queued up Wrong Side Of Town on my Netflix account, but even with a shoestring budget and an assortment of D-list celebrities filling out the cast, there's still no excuse for the complete lack of ingenuity that resonates from start to finish of this 85-minute bore-fest. I'll give Wrong Side Of Town a 2 out of 10. What can I say? I'm in a generous mood today.