DVD Review: Battle of the Damned

The concept of Battle of the Damned is a great one that is likely to grab the attention of many an action fan. Director, Christopher Hatton, takes three simple (yet incredibly cool) ingredients: Dolph Lundgren, Zombies (well infected, and subsequently crazed townspeople), and Robots and combines them for what should be a fun watch for genre fans. To a certain extent it is enjoyable, viewing albeit one that is slightly dampened by cheap effects and poorly shot action sequences.

Battle of the Damned follows a town hit by a viral outbreak that turns people incredibly violent (think 28 Days Later style zombies). Private military soldier, Max Gatling (Lundgren) is called in to the contaminated zone to rescue a female survivor backed up by an army of deadly prototype robots.

Had this been made in Dolph’s late-eighties/early-nineties heyday around the time of Red Scorpion, The Punisher, and Showdown in Little Tokyo, Battle of the Damned might have been a more exciting prospect. Fans who are familiar with Dolph’s recent straight-to-DVD output like the poor Hard Rush and Blood of Redemption, or the moderately enjoyable One in the Chamber and Stash House – will know that it is always a very mixed bag and to proceed with caution. Battle of the Damned sits in the middle of the spectrum – never as fun or action-packed as it should be, yet never particularly dull or uninteresting.

There are a variety of occasionally entertaining set-pieces like the opening raid on the infected town and the conclusions’ escape through an abandoned factory, both acting as solid bookends to an otherwise forgettable tale. However, within these are a variety of cheap effects which appear to have all been added in the post-production stages of the film. One scene sees two of the heroes submerged in water surrounded by flames in what should have been a tense moment, however, it is sadly not due to a lack of authenticity – unfortunately CGI flames don’t look as exciting as the real thing. The same can be said for Battle of the Damned’s robots which appear to have drained the film’s effects budget and ultimately look cartoonish. Of course, it would be unrealistic to demand top of the range special effects here, but it would be nice to witness some gritty, back-to-basics effects work over cheap computer wizardry.

Unfortunately, Lundgren’s character occasionally feels eclipsed by the over-ambitious special effects which continually fall short of contemporary standards (even within the straight-to-DVD world). However, the actor does get some slightly impressive moments of action like seeing him take out several infected brutes whilst handcuffed to a lamppost which is a particular highlight. As well as this, it is refreshing to see Dolph actually lead the film, unlike most of his recent appearances which have been slight supporting parts. Fortunately, the Swedish star adds some personality and natural charisma to the proceedings.

Battle of the Damned may be a hit with the least demanding straight to DVD connoisseurs, and there is a certain enjoyment to be found within Hatton’s film. However, this enjoyment is too often eclipsed by shaky action and incredibly cheap computer-effects. A more back-to-basics action approach might have been nice.

RATING: 2.5/5

Stars: Dolph Lundgren, Matt Doran, David Field
Director: Christopher Hatton
Release: 26/12/13
Cert: 15 (UK)

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