It’s Sunday so it must be time for another installment of VOD Vault, taking a look at some of this weeks on-demand releases that have hit various VOD platforms. This time round we’re looking at a film only available via YouTube (to buy or view via the sites subscription service YouTube Red), the sci-fi comedy Lazer Team; and action-drama Mercury Plains, starring Scott Eastwood (Fury, Dawn Patrol) and Nick Chinlund (Training Day, Con Air).
Stars: Burnie Burns, Gavin Free, Michael Jones, Colton Dunn, Alexandria DeBerry, Alan Ritchson, Steve Shearer, Kirk C. Johnson, Benjamin Scott, Johnny Walter, Chris Demarais, Jeremy St. James | Directed by Matt Hullum
Part Pixels, part Laserblast, Lazer Team comes from Rooster Teeth, the uber-successful YouTube channel behind long-running web series such as Red vs. Blue and RWBY; and tells the story of four idiots who accidentally shoot down an alien spacecraft with fireworks and then mistakenly find themselves bestowed with weapons that can save the planet… You see, years ago Earth received a message from aliens telling us we are not alone, and that the universe is a dangerous place and that we are going to be attacked. Luckily, the coded message came from a friendly alien race tha protected us over the years – even going as far as to give us the tools to fight back, in the form of power armour. But that armour was built for one man – a champion of earth to trained to wear the suit and defend the earth; and not the four joe-shmoes who actually got it!
Initially crowdfunded (very successfully) on Indiegogo, Lazer Team actually has the distinction of not only being the second-most funded movie on the site, but also one of the first movies to be released via YouTube Red, the monthly-paid subscription service from YouTube. Now, put those two together and a lot of people would expect something along the lines of the risible Angry Video Game Nerd Movie – which, as even fans would tell you, was something of a disappointment and a disaster. Not so this film.
No, it seems Rooster Teeth have learnt a LOT from their years of video production and Lazer Team is instead a fantastic homage to sci-fi movies of the 80s and underdog sports movies. It’s the latter that this film mostly plays on – you end up rooting for this bunch of dysfunctional idiots to actually come together as a team, to work as a unit, and to – eventually – save the planet. Think of this as the Cool Runnings of sci-fi if you will – four men out of their depth who win the respect of their peers and win.
Lazer Team is a fun and funny sci-fi adventure that will not only appeal to fans of Rooster Teeth but also those that grew up on 80s sci-fi. The film is available now on YouTube/YouTube Red.
Stars: Scott Eastwood, Angela Sarafyan, Nick Chinlund, Justin Arnold, Andy Garcia, Margaret Ann Garza, Brinlee Grace, Mark Hanson, Jorge A. Jimenez, Karina Junker, Justin Park | Written and Directed by Charles Burmeister
Mitch (Eastwood) is a troubled young man who leaves his dead-end life behind when he hightails it to Mexico. There, he’s recruited by a mysterious figure to join a group of paramilitary teenagers who take the fight against the drug cartels directly to the source. At their desert camp, Mitch finds himself being groomed to be the team’s top operative at the same time as their campaign against the drug lords ramps up a gear. As the raids become bloodier and the Mexican police are closing in, Mitch realizes that his only way out is to escape back to the USA.
Judging by Mercury Plains it would seem that Scott Eastwood REALLY wants to be his father. This is the kind of slow-burn drama, tinged with a bit of action, that Eastwood senior is best known for. Only Eastwood Jr. doesn’t have the charisma or acting chops of his father and Mercury Plains certainly doesn’t have the kind of polished script of say Unforgiven or even The Dead Pool. Instead we get a brooding melodrama that thinks lingering shots of Eastwood looking menacing and/or smouldering adds dramatic tension. It doesn’t.
When the action finally does come however it seems Mercury Plains wants the audience to believe that militia members, taking things into their own hands,and “fighting the good fight” is a good thing. Only in America right? If there’s any highlight within this films overly long running time (this movie could have easily been shorn of at least 15 minutes), it’s actor Nick Chinlund. His portrayal of The Captain – the films true villain – is the kind of role that an actor undoubtedly relishes; as he gets to unload on everyone and anyone, verbally and physically, in a performance that steals the film.
Mercury Plains is available on VOD now. The film is released, in the UK, on DVD on May 2nd courtesy of Signature Entertainment.