Deserter is a catalog title. You’re thinking, “But, it comes out July 17th, 2012 -after this review is written- and I’ve never heard of it.” Yes, all good points, but Deserter was originally known as Simon: An English Legionnaire. That’s none to catchy to the American audience, so someone sat on it since 2002 until co-star Tom Hardy broke out here in the States. Now, with Hardy plastered on the cover, a name drop to Dark Knight Rises, this one is marketable.
The cover of this release from Inception Media is fun. There are three helicopters doing their thing, none of them actually featured in the movie. Well, there is one in the movie, but it’s not depicted within the cover art. There are two tanks pushing through a series of explosions, despite the fact that the singular tank in the feature doesn’t do much of anything short of break down a parking barrier. Then there’s a shot of Hardy, holding up a certainly modern pistol despite this period piece pushing back into the 1950s. Go figure.
At this point, you’re wondering why someone needed to jazz this feature up with such improper artwork, and that’s because Deserter doesn’t have moments worthy of box art. Slow, intolerable, sluggish, choppy, barren [insert related adjective here] sums it up succinctly.
Deserter focuses on Simon Murray (Paul Fox), joining the Legionaries in their war over Middle Eastern land. He’s a smart, young upstart, eager to join a fight he clearly doesn’t understand. In the mix of trainees is Pascal (Hardy), a shadier past forcing his hand in terms of recruitment. Deserter wants to be about their bond, how they match up and work through the arduous training regiment. They’re beaten, starved, and stifled at the lightest moment of entertainment. It’s a point Deserter is all too eager to make.
Devoid of production values and sapped of energy, the film limps along, overexerting itself in a quest to pull sympathy from a small fleet of actors. The set up should resonate as the war reaches the desert, a minor scuffle or two never concerned with their place or time. Once the guns begin popping, Deserter falls off the rails. There is zero sense as to the pacing or structure once the action ignites, each scene squandered as it tries to pull the viewer in with jumpy emotions.
Eventual broken bonds carry no substantial weight, nor does the underlying narrative. Most of it seems forgotten until Deserter has nothing better to do. Motivations are stifled, lost in the sound of machine gun fire which the piece struggles to make relevant to this wandering story. Plot threads feel introduced as often as they’re dropped, ancillary characters or elements dispatched to drum up interest, sacked when it’s decided they’re pointless. [xrr rating=1/5 label=Movie]
Irregular struggles with a light yet abrasive grain structure hamper Deserter with inconsistent regularity. Edits seem to randomly introduce patches of noise and obvious compression from this AVC encode, although the back half is a cut above the first. Deserter’s opening is flushed with issues that are abrasive, and certainly not conducive to something of this age (or done on a budget).
Congratulations are in order though for the black levels which shine as a memorable hallmark. Although taking their job a little too seriously and sapping a handful of shadow detail, their depth and density is remarkable. Not a single shot is botched -even slightly- by lessening dimensionality, nighttime glorious in how they capture the barrenness of the deserts.
Better yet, Deserter doesn’t play with much in the way of color timing. Flesh tones keep their hues, and night stays black, not any gaudy, intrusive shade of blue. With the sun bearing down, flesh tones still maintain their composure, and environments are heated without a sense of warmth that overwhelms the image. The point is still made.
Despite the relative cheapness, cinematography captures a number of sharp locales in the middle of nowhere, rich in texture and depth. Close-ups are strong in their resolution of fine detail, texture gleaming from the screen at the height of focus. The only limitation lies squarely on the spikes in grain and/or compression or a loose lens that dims sharpness. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]
Flattened and crummy, the audio mix carries troubles that are beyond the compression of Dolby Digital. Inception doesn’t liven this one up with any uncompressed options, but this mess has far more to be concerned about. You can begin with the score which is drained of all power, never reaching a precise peak to make those emotional swells heightened.
You could begin there, but a better choice is a weird grenade explosion at 15:30. It pops without so much as a mild burst of subwoofer activity, and the positionals don’t seem to have a clue what to do with it. The sound begins in the right front but cuts out to switch to the right rear without any reason to do so. It’s not an echo, but a legitimate switch in channel without any edit.
It’s possible Deserter was mixed originally in stereo. That would explain the almost intrusive sound of gunfire hitting an impossible amount of objects, which honestly makes it sound as if there are more rounds hitting than are fired. They almost assuredly added sounds at a later time, away from the original design. It’s even out of sync, guns clearly showing a muzzle flash without any audio accompaniment. If nothing else, it’s balanced well. That’s something. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Audio]
A trailer stands are the sole bonus feature. [xrr rating=1/5 label=Extra]
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