14th Jul2020

‘The Eastern Front’ DVD Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Mhairi Calvey, Laura Jean Marsh, Chris Wilson, Neal Ward | Written by Cheryl Neve, Rick Roberts | Directed by Rick Roberts

The Eastern Front is the story of some German soldiers whose unit has been all but decimated (we are told). The men are making their retreat (I think) from the Russians back to there homelands on the Eastern Front. Somewhere on the way they have picked up some pretty tasty (I mean fighting wise you perverts) Russian dames, and because there are females in the mix everything is going to fall apart for our band of merry Nazis. [Full disclosure before we crack on, this movie took me about 4 attempts to finish both due to the 2-Hour length and I have been working quite a lot lately]

Over the last few years I have come to find that behind the scenes on these movies, especially lower budget indie stuff, their is a team of hardworking individuals that are trying to create something they can be proud of when they send out into the world. This movie is absolutely no exception. There is clearly a hardworking make-up and design department here because everyone looks the part, I am no professional on these things so if they tell me these are German uniforms im going to believe that (because they look real enough to me) and if they tell me the Germans rocked a damn fine slick back crew cut (Neal Ward) well I am going to believe that too. The effects team are trying their absolute level best to stretch the budget and it doesn’t look terrible to be fair. This is the main reason I don’t like to come in with a shitty review, because it serves no one. People in the industry often say they don’t read reviews but they bloody well do and I would rather be constructive than destructive. Saying that while I thought pretty much everything was passable I would like to point out the writing which goes hand in hand with the direction.

The problem is there are three genres that if your going to tackle you better not fuck it up. Sci-Fi is something that if you get it wrong the merds will hack your emails and porn spam the life out of you. Then there are the horror hounds, probably the most fanatic about their flicks. The irony being both those genres are pretty much run and gun make it up as you go but with a war film you MUST make sure you know what your doing or you will be crucified for every little thing!

Now as I said above I am no expert in this genre, not by a long shot but what I feel I do know something about is my engagement with a piece. If the story is weak and your dragging it out over 2 hours well your going to lose me along the way. This was a group of guys who had just been totally battered, but I had to be told this because I wasn’t getting it from what I was seeing. Now a lot of people would throw this to the actors and their portrayals but you could deliver this particular dialogue in a million ways and it would still evoke the same emotion… VERY LITTLE. My main issue was that for the most part I was just confused from a structural stance – we had some flashbacks and cutaway scenes that for a minute had me thinking “shit this is pretty cool” but it didn’t link to anything that resonated… It just looked cool for the sake of looking cool. Spoiler Alert: German killing baby scene for me was a case in point. Shit wait no that reads wrong, It was an adult German killing a baby not a German baby killing people… Although maybe a better movie, hey Rick Roberts write that (I’ll only take 10%).

Quick note: on the whole “looking cool” thing, a big shout out goes to DOP Richard Oakes because once again he turned a gentle stroll in the British countryside into something that was pretty gorgeous at times and could transport you back to that era in time. Again his hat goes deeper… watch out for Hosts coming soon!

Now I am going to pull it back around for some positives. As mentioned above The Eastern Front does look pretty good; I’m guessing there was a very low budget but again Oakes could shoot this on a Nokia 3330 and it would look dope. Acting wise, I had no real complaints. Neal Ward plays a world class douche bag and they are my favorite types of villain. Ward was actually one of the few characters that got anything out of me in terms of reaction. This was something I expected because I have seen him in other movies and he always pulls it out of the bag. He takes this lackluster dialogue and story and shines that sumbitch up real nice with a performance deserving of a better movie really. The female leads are great too but I have to be honest, at no point did I EVER think they were not in control of this whole situation and I think they were supposed to be in some sort of danger? Big props to Laura Jean Marsh (keep your eye on her, I see a bright future) and Mhairi Calvey in particular on this front both playing the hand they are dealt superbly. Honestly everyone was spot on, it was just other areas of the film that let them down.

You know what though, this is a movie (stick that on the box) and it is genuinely watchable, it took me a few sittings but I got there in the end. You could watch way worse flicks than The Eastern Front, believe me I have. I just would of loved to have felt a little bit more engagement and not been sat there thinking “Why does this scene not contain Neal Ward?” Why two hours though? There is easily 20 minutes that could be cut from this and it’s still the same film… just because its a war piece doesn’t mean it has to be epic in length every time! But I digress, because while this is not the strongest recommend I have ever made it is still a pretty decent flick.

I am going to keep an eye on the folks behind The Eastern Front because you never know what has gone on behind the camera, while shooting or in post but I do get the sense there is maybe a better movie here and this crew could pull off something better. Lets see what Roberts and co do next… I am intrigued.

The Eastern Front is out now on DVD from Reel2Reel.

Review originally posted on 365FlicksPod.com

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