Just so you won’t accidentally pick this up one drunken night with “When Doves Cry” drifting around your head, Bobby Z is an action movie about a man pretending to be a drug dealer. It is not a documentary about the keyboard player who was in Prince’s band and wore a surgical mask.
Paul Walker is not going to make anyone forget Robert DeNiro, but he has shown that he is not a complete waste of space. He’s given decent performances in films as varied as Joy Ride and Eight Below. He can certainly hold his own in an undemanding action or action-comedy script. Unfortunately, if he picks more movies like the direct-to-DVD suckfest Bobby Z to star in, he’s going to find himself becoming the new C. Thomas Howell.
Walker plays former Marine and current convict Tim Kearney who is about to be sentenced to life in prison for slicing the throat of soap dropping white supremacist “Mad Dog” (Chuck Liddell) in self-defense. Mr. Dog’s associates want to hack Kearney up in retaliation but he bears an uncanny resemblance to famous California dope dealer Bobby Z. This makes him valuable to DEA Agent Gruzsa (Laurence Fishburne) who wants to trade Bobby Z for an agent being held by a drug cartel in Mexico. Unfortunately, Bobby Z had a heart attack, so the DEA hopes to trade Kearny instead. Conveniently, although the drug gang wants Bobby Z, no one has ever met him in person.
Naturally, things go wrong in the exchange and Kearney is soon on the run with Bobby Z’s twelve year old son in tow (the kid has never met his dad.) The white supremacists still want him and now the Mexican drug gang is after him as well, represented by Johnson (Keith Carradine.) The chases, which takes place on horseback, motorcycles, boats, cars, and foot, are the backbone of the movie. The plot barely holds on in an attempt to either get Walker into some staged action sequence or next to a pool so twenty bikini clad models can prance around. Chief among the bikini models is Elizabeth (“The OC”s Olivia Wilde) an ex-girlfriend of Bobby Z’s who recognizes Kearney as a fake but helps him for her own reasons.
Walker and the young boy playing Bobby Z’s son Kit, J.R. Villarreal, are the only actors who seem to have shown up for this movie for anything other than a paycheck. Wilde is a real beauty but acts like a stump and seems to be destined for hot-chick roles in nighttime TV soaps until her looks fade. Fishburne and Carradine are textbook examples of phoning it in and, while the stunts aren’t bad, the complete lack of an interesting plot makes it tedious to wait for them. Director John Herzfeld, who has two failed films (Two of Us and 15 Minutes) along with some TV work in his history doesn’t seem able to get anything out of the script other than a slightly better budgeted “Walker, Texas Ranger” episode.
Paul Walker fans might get a little bit out of his decent performance. Anyone else should heed the fact that this clunker had no theatrical release and is being dumped on the DVD market with little fanfare. Best to steer clear.
This direct-to-DVD release is not completely bare bones, but it is the next best thing. Failing to generate much interest in the movie either in the United States or around the world, there wasn’t much reason to spend money on a bevy of extras. Anyone who actually rents or (heaven forbid) buys this thing is just looking for a little ass-kicking until the next UFC pay-per-view event shows up and anything about the production would be lost on them anyway.
Other than previews, the only extra is “The Making of Bobby Z,” a ten-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. While it doesn’t break new film-doc ground, it is unintentionally hilarious in a few parts. For some reason, Bruce Dern was hired to play a stoned out beach bum who talks in a crazy-man voice about the return of the legend, Bobby Z, to kick off and close out the featurette. I hope they only paid him in sandwiches as he actually lowers the credibility of the film, if that’s possible.
The other humorous part is the level at which those involved in the project ignore how bad the movie is while hyping it for the documentary. Obviously they aren’t going to tell you the movie sucks, but anything over “well, we have some pretty well done action scenes” can be considered hyperbole. The best one is Producer Heidi Jo Markel who states that the story of Bobby Z will be told over and over again and that the movie is destined to be “a classic.” Right The Godfather, Citizen Kane, and Bobby Z. I can see it.
They did put a few dollars into shooting this movie and the transfer and sound are decent. They also give the option for viewing in either widescreen or full screen, which is a nice touch, although it makes you wonder why they didn’t use all that extra disc space for some more extras. It’s a step above the usual B-movie action product that you might see on HBO 2 some late night in terms of production values. It just isn’t a very good movie and the lack of anything to raise it up in terms of extras makes it a not very good DVD.