Sunday, 23 October 2011

Review : Battleground (2011)



Neil Mackay

When a bank heist goes 'south' for Mr Pink, Mr Blonde, Nice Guy Eddie and....oh shit, hold up......

When a bank heist goes south for a random group of career criminals, they find themselves having to hide out overnight in the woodlands surrounding Michigan. What they don't know is that the same woods are home to a war damaged Vietnam-Vet who's watched far too many John Rambo movies. Cue bloodshed, bullet-holes and booby-traps....

You know those annoying, amatuer-ish reviews that spend half their time comparing a film to others in its field, without ever really delving into the film itself? Well, this is one of those. Sorry....

I'm gonna try to keep the comparisons to a minimal, but with a movie that wears its influences on its sleeves so proudly, its gonna be really fucking hard. This in no way means its a bad film. In fact, I rather enjoyed it for what it was. It delivers the, 'slasher/action movie', goods in its own humble way, while paying respectable homage to its admittedly far loftier peers.
BATTLEGROUND plays out like a strange mash-up of RESERVOIR DOGS and FIRST BLOOD. You have the stock criminal characters who bicker like they'd rather be shooting each other than working together, (which apparently, they would), and the fucked up Vietnam Veteran who's taken to living a survivalist lifestyle out in the backwoods on Michigan. Robbers Vs Rambo, is the order of the day, and for a film with such a limited budget, it does okay.

The influences don't stop there though, hell no. Battleground pays homage to many, many films including FRIDAY THE 13TH's remake and THE DEER HUNTER. It  even borrows heavily from PREDATOR, for fucks sake! Yet I have to admit, as lowbrow as the whole thing is, its sort of fun. If your not spending your time spotting the influences, your having fun with the kills, the situation and the characters. Especially the characters....

"I'm tough as fuck!" "Yeah, me too..."
BATTLEGROUND actually has some pretty strong performances under its belt. Most notably its lead,  Bryan Larkin, who plays the leader of the rag-tag group of crooks. He plays the whole thing razor straight, and actually elevates the film a few notches by simply being dedicated to the material, derivative or not. His performance belongs in a far more important movie than this, and hopefully he'll find himself getting more work once the film hits the states. The rest of the crooks are an amusing bunch too..

We have a Bruce Willis lookalike who scowls a lot and looks like he needs a shit 24/7. We have two Italian stereotypes, (at least I think they're Italian), who cant be trusted, and generally fuck up the whole heist and its aftermath. We have the leads best buddy, who's one of the few characters, (alongside said lead), who feels real and, last but certainly not least, we have the huge, silent warrior type, who spends most of the movie wearing reflective shades and a bullet proof vest, (even at night), and generally looking cuddly and amusing, rather than the intended bad-ass and hardcore. You'll know what I mean when you see him.

The small cast is rounded off by a random blond chick they find in the woods who has nothing to do with nothing, and the trap-happy veteran himself. Both do okay with their limited dialogue. The killer could have been a little more sinister, and keeping him in the shadows in true 'slasher tradition' would have helped the film build suspense, but who's complaining? After all, this flick is as much an action movie as it is a Horror movie. 

All these guys are fun to hang around with, and theres a reason these character types have become well established. This isn't AMERICAN BEAUTY we're watching here, folks. Its a bunch of killers taking on a different type of predator on his own turf. Its mindless, good fun. Its hard not to enjoy a movie like BATTLEGROUND, or at least be mildly amused by it.. Its hindered somewhat by its minuscule budget, but everyone pulls their weight and the whole thing flies by.

The gore effects are very sparse, and are very much hit-and-miss. We have a very cool de-skinning of a victims head so his skull can be added to the Vets existing collection, (remind you of anything? A certain space-rasta, perhaps?), and we have some assorted stabs and gunshots that look passable, but we also have blood that looks like strawberry juice and runs down characters faces with the viscosity of water. Again, budget limitations rear their ugly head. If you're watching an indie film of this calibre, you'll know what your in for.

Before I round this shit up, I really have to share a thought I had as I watched the movie...

The killer has underground tunnels, and is a trained survivalist. He's adept with forest traps and even a bow and arrow. If your up on your remakes, (hard not to be when they re rammed down our fucking throats day and night), you'll know that this description fits FRIDAY THE 13TH 2009's Jason Voorhees perfectly. It got me thinking about how much more special that remake would have been had Jason been up against this sort of group rather than the usual teenage dickheads. How about a hardcore slasher with Jason against trained killers? The possibilities are endless. A modern day, gory as all hell FIRST BLOOD. I'd pay to see that shit. Fact! (Any goon from Platinum Dunes reading this, I'll have my cat write the screenplay, and I guarantee it'll be far, far better than A SHITEMARE ON ELM STREET).

So there you have it. BATTLEGROUND  is an instantly forgettable indie flick, but a fun time while it lasts. It's admirably serious in tone and intent, and its a fast paced work. Director Neil Mackay shows a lot of promise and manages to make the whole thing feel more expensive and vital that the material deserves or requires, and he's one to watch. As I always state, these indie films have to be reviewed within their own universe, and for any fan of such films, this ones just above average. It aims for a serious mood, and manages to stay in its intended headspace for most of the run-time. Its a mindless way to pass ninety minutes. You could read into it that the bank robbers are the good guys and veterans are to be feared, and the whole thing is a fascist manifesto, (hello wall street, you fucks), but that's just splitting hairs, man. This is simply a well meaning, middling little Horror/Action crossover that might well keep you vaguely amused, as it did me.

5.5 Portly Rambo's out of 10


  1. glad you got to see this. It keep very entertained.good work as always.

  2. Great flick! I'm a patsy for this type of movie.


  3. It was fun huh! I think of myself as a patsy for these movies too. Have you read Ketchums novel 'COVER'? If not, you may wanna ch3eck it out. Similar theme but handled with KEtchums usual pitch black brilliance.

  4. I just saw the movie and I think it was great, considering the low budget it is suppose to have. Rumor has it that it was shot for less than 30k. An excellent attempt for such a modest budget.

    I loved the characters, especially the HUNTER and TEX, even though you don't give them the credit they deserve. I think Tex was the only one that knew how to physically act! Not everyone can handle firearms, and he proved to do so quite well in my books! Isn't this an action film? Shakespearean actors like Larkin (Mitch, who you seem to have a hard on for) are a dime a dozen..... physical rolls sell tickets and DVD sales, not "To be, or not to be." This is the real question!

  5. ..holy shit. That sounded half and half awesome!

  6. It's worth a watch, definitely. Some good fun to be had.

  7. A hugely enjoyable movie that I will watch again.

    Everyone involved is to be congratulated on having created such a great bit of entertainment on such a low budget.