Overview: After getting caught in the crossfire of an Eastern European coup, it’s up to one ex-CIA agent to defeat the bad guys and save democracy. XLrator Media; 2016; Not Yet Rated; 86 minutes.
A Brief Word About Trash Cinema: …And people say Cannon Films died in the 90s. The infamous production company of zero budget shlock titles may be gone, but its spirit lives on in the digital age thanks to XLrator Meda. Specializing in direct-to-video cheese, the studio seems completely at home with its library of character actor vehicles (Zoë Bell in Josh C. Waller’s Camino ; Henry Rollins in Mike Mendez’s The Last Heist ), Z-grade horror (Alistair Legrand’s The Diabolical ; John Suits’ Pandemic ), bizarro foreign imports (Afonso Poyart’s 2 Rabbits ; Sion Sono’s Tokyo Tribe ), and oddly respectable indie documentaries (Mike Nicoll’s At All Costs ; Jon Reiner & Brad Rothschild’s Tree Man ). As those hyperlinks suggest, I’ve had a long, illustrious relationship with the fine folks at XLrator. But for all the bad reviews I give their terrible movies, I can’t help but feel a twinge of happiness whenever I see their logo appear before a film. There’s something admirable in being devoted to your work, especially if said work is stuff most film critics wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. (Especially when you find a genuine diamond in their catalogue, like Giles Borg’s Flutter .) These people love their work. And I love them for it.
Die Hard…: Of all the titles in their catalogue, few remind me of the golden days of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus as much as Paul Tanter’s Kill Ratio. If not for the obnoxious CGI explosions, muzzle flashes, and blood splurts, it could very easily be mistaken for a piece of 80s actionsploitation. Continuing in the grand tradition of Die Hard clones—Under Siege is Die Hard…on a battleship; Speed (1994) is Die Hard…on a bus; Crackerjack (1994) is Die Hard…in a ski resort??—the film could be summarized as Die Hard…in a hotel. Said hotel is located in the Dnestrian Autonomous Republic, a generic Eastern European nation where the inhabitants can’t seem to decide if their accents should be Slavic or Russian. After their phonetically confused citizens choose their first ever democratically elected president, a local strongman instigates a coup and sets up headquarters in a lavish hotel. A fatal mistake; it turns out that one of the hotel’s guests is James Henderson (Tom Hopper), a corporate “liaison” protecting an American business executive, who also just so happens to be ex-CIA. And James wasn’t your run-of-the-mill field agent. Back in the day he was assigned a blank kill-ratio, meaning that he was officially given clearance to kill as many people as necessary to complete his missions. So while James clears out the armed thugs like NYPD Detective John McClane, he’s clearly modeled more on James Bond. He even has the latter character’s misogyny—he abandons a Russian woman he sleeps with to a horrific death during the coup for unexplained reasons. Unfortunately, he has none of Bond’s charm, cool gadgets, or memorable supporting cast.
Overall: Kill Ratio does little to transcend its Die Hard framework. There are brief flashes of inspiration which last for a scene or two only to vanish under a morass of clichés. Nowhere is this clearer than a scene where James talks his way out of being captured by one of the secondary antagonists by convincing him that he’s actually a double agent for the main villain. There are moments of preposterous camp—in one firefight James makes an impromptu silencer by wrapping the barrel of an automatic rifle with a pillow; the movie climaxes with an old school sword fight after James convinces the strongman to fight him like a man—but they aren’t frequent enough to make Kill Ratio anything other than a contrived slog.
Featured Image: XLrator Media