Directed by: John Lyde
Starring: Matthew Reese, Dolph Lundgren, Danielle Chuchran, Chuck Liddell, Nikita Bogolyubov
Jack Stone, a decorated police officer, commits an armed robbery and gets arrested so he can end up in the same prison as the crime kingpin who is responsible for the murder of his wife. Russian mobster Balam is using the prison as his very own fortress with the guards and the warden as his own private army. Luckily, Jack finds an ally inside: William, a quiet-spoken giant who may be more than he appears...
Riot, the latest film from the director of classic low budget actioner Ozombie, is a great vehicle for its three leads. Although not featured on the dvd cover, Matthew Reese is the film's star, with great support from both Dolph Lundgren and Danielle Chuchran.
Reese is a bonafide action star and I really hope that he gets more starring roles like this, on even bigger productions. He's definitely an actor to keep an eye on. He displays some strong acting, internalising a lot of anguish and grim determination, and provides some great badass action throughout the film. The moment he takes down Semyon, Balam's nephew, is where he earns those badass credentials. Then there's the awesome fight with three guards in the laundry room. This is really good because it has the "Jackie Chan factor" - Stone is outnumbered by three guards all wearing body armour, but like those classic Jackie Chan fights, he just doesn't know how to quit.
Dolph Lundgren gets a real chance to stretch his acting range as William. Even though he's built like a brick wall and stands at over 6ft, Dolph is able to make himself look weak and vulnerable in the role, changing his body language, shyly shuffling past people with his mop bucket. He even alters the sound of his voice, making it funny when he eventually uses his usual deeper voice.
Just as she did in Ozombie, Danielle Chuchran steals the show whenever she's onscreen. She plays Alena, an inmate in the female wing of the prison, who gets into a beef with another of Balam's relatives. However like William, there's more going on here and its great to see Alena have her own story arc develop, providing its own moments of high tension and action. In fact the kitchen fight that she's involved in is one of the films true standout moments.
Chuck Liddell plays Balam, the mob-boss living a life of luxury behind bars, effectively making the prison his own personal fortress, controlling his empire from within. Liddell is an ex-UFC fighter and has been building an impressive resume guest-starring on numerous tv shows in the US. He's pretty menacing as Balam, until he loses his cool at the end and stalks the corridors shouting Stone's name.
The film does have a weak spot, and that is the role of Trisha Sinclair, played by Renny Grames. Trisha is investigating Balam on the outside, and kind of blunders through her story arc which is under-written.
Director John Lyde has a real eye for action and stages everything really well, from the bank robbery through all the action in the prison. There's a really good mix of fighting styles and everything is filmed and edited in a classical way: Lyde wants to make sure the viewer appreciates every bone-crunching moment of the action.
Dolph Lundgren films are always worth a look, but this raises the bar and features a trio who all action fans need to start keeping an eye out for in future - director John Lyde, and stars Matthew Reese and Danielle Chuchran. Highly recommended.
9 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)