New Blu-ray Releases You Should Check Out: 'Wrath of Man', 'House of Wax', 'Deep Cover', 'Nobody', and 'Mortal Kombat'

Here we are again, with another round-up of recent Blu-ray releases worth checking out. Below, I take a look at the surprisingly great Wrath of Man, the underrated House of Wax, the excellent ’90s noir Deep Cover, and the disappointing one-two punch of Nobody and Mortal Kombat.

Wrath of Man

I try very hard not to pre-judge movies before I see them, but let’s get real: it happens. We all do it. We’re human, after all. So I take no pleasure in telling you that before I saw Wrath of Man, the reunion between director Guy Ritchie and star Jason Statham, I had low expectations. I don’t exactly hate Ritchie’s work, but I haven’t enjoyed it in a long, long time. And the trailers and marketing for Wrath of Man made it look like generic tough-guy stuff that I was in no rush to watch. Well, friends, I am humble enough to admit when I’m wrong, and I was wrong here: Wrath of Man is fantastic. It’s one of Ritchie’s best movies, and if he made more movies like this, we’d all be a lot better off.

When Wrath of Man begins, Statham’s mostly silent bruiser has just taken a job at an armored truck company. His chatty coworkers – a group of rough, burly guys constantly questioning each other’s manhood – don’t quite know what to make of him. They’re even more stumped when Statham foils a robbery and brutally murders the thieves. Everyone suspects that Statham has some secrets – and they’re right. But the twisty, out-of-sequence script by Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, and
Marn Davies is in no hurry to give us all the answers. We learn them over time, and in the process, we bear witness to a symphony of brutality. Along the way, the film introduces us to a team of ex-military men who are bored with their normal lives. They could settle down and live healthy existences, but they miss the thrill of the action, the sudden rush of pulling a trigger. What’s a group of trained killers to do? Become thieves, of course.

Stark, mean, and unrelentingly vicious, Wrath of Man is bound to turn many viewers off. But those on the same wavelength as this nasty little gem are going to be in for a big surprise.

Own or Rent?

I really want to say you should own this one because it’s so damn good, but gosh is it frustrating that the disc has zero special features. It’s even weirder when you realize special features were made – they’re all over YouTube, and I’ve linked two of them here. Why not throw them on the disc? I don’t know. But I do know that Wrath of Man is a surprisingly great film, and well worth your time.

Special Features Include:

Nothing! Not even a stinking trailer! C’mon, folks. This deserves better.

 

House of Wax

When House of Wax arrived in 2005, it was primarily known as being a movie starring Paris Hilton, and not much else. It flopped at the box office and received mixed reviews, but over the years, a cult following has sprung up around the film – and rightfully so. It’s an absolute blast – a nasty, gory little slasher with some killer production design. While the title is taken from the 1953 movie starring Vincent Price, House of Wax is more of a remake of the gonzo ’70s horror flick Tourist Trap.

The premise here is familiar: a group of youths ends up in the wrong place in the middle of nowhere, only to be stalked and killed. What elevates House of Wax, though, is the sharp, stylish direction from Jaume Collet-Serra. Collet-Serra, whose credits include The Shallows, Orphan, and more, is a master of what I call art-trash – movies that are simultaneously sleazy and gorgeous, and House of Wax is no exception. Every inch of this thing is sumptuous, even the moments of gore and death. There are some stumbling blocks – the film clocks in at nearly a full two hours, and that’s way too long – but overall, House of Wax is a treat. And hey, you know what? Paris Hilton’s acting is perfectly fine here. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but she’s no worse than the rest of her cast members.

Own or Rent?

Buy this bad boy. House of Wax absolutely rules, and this collector’s edition from the fine folks at Scream Factory is a must-have for anyone who is a fan of this damn fine flick. You can’t go wrong here.

Special Features Include:

  • NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
  • NEW Die, My Darling – An Interview With Actress Paris Hilton
  • NEW The Tale Of Blake And Paige – An Interview With Actor Robert Ri’chard
  • NEW Organ Grinder – An Interview With Composer John Ottman
  • NEW To Me, They Live And Breathe – An Interview With Makeup Effects Artist Jason Baird
  • B-Roll And Bloopers Video Cast Commentary
  • From Location: Joel Silver Reveals The House Of Wax
  • Wax On: The Design Of House Of Wax
  • The House Built On Wax: The Visual Effects Of House Of Wax
  • Alternate Opening: Jennifer Killed
  • Gag Reel
  • Vintage Interviews With Cast And Crew From The Electronic Press Kit
  • Vintage Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer

 

Deep Cover

A blend of Blaxploitation and film noir dropped into a ’90s setting, Deep Cover is a crackling crime drama from director Bill DukeLaurence Fishburne (who is billed here as Larry Fishburne) plays a DEA agent who goes undercover and ends up befriending a cocaine dealer on the rise, played with the perfect amount of twitchy banal evil by Jeff Goldblum. While we know that Fishburne’s character is a cop, he spends the majority of the film going deeper and deeper into the criminal underworld and growing disillusioned with everything in the process.

Deep Cover feels ahead of its time in the way it portrays law enforcement as a vulgar institution wrought with corruption. Of course, that’s nothing new, and movies about that were around in the years since. But they weren’t so prevalent in the ’90s, and they’re even less prevalent now. This is no mere crime caper, it’s an indictment of an entire system, with capitalism looming as a kind of big bad. As Goldblum’s character says at one point, “I think you know that there’s no such thing as an American anymore. No Hispanics, no Japanese, no Blacks, no whites, no nothing. It’s just rich people and poor people.”

Own or Rent?

Buy this. I’m embarrassed to say that it took me this long to finally watch Deep Cover, but now that I have, I very much want to spread the word. It’s fantastic that this film has found its way to Criterion, and I hope it finds a new audience now.

Special Features Include:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with director Bill Duke
  • AFI Conservatory seminar from 2018 featuring Duke and actor Laurence Fishburne, moderated by film critic Elvis Mitchell
  • New conversation between film scholars Racquel J. Gates and Michael B. Gillespie about Deep Cover’s place within both the Black film boom of the early 1990s and the noir genre
  • New conversation between scholar Claudrena N. Harold and professor, DJ, and podcaster Oliver Wang about the film’s title track and its importance to the history of hip-hop
  • Trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by Gillespie

 

Nobody

The biggest disappointment of the year so far (at least in terms of movies, I have plenty of other disappointments elsewhere) is Nobody. I was pumped for this pic that was poised to turn Bob Odenkirk into an action hero. Odenkirk has come a long way over the years, going from a comedic actor to someone with serious dramatic chops, as highlighted by his starring role in Better Call Saul.

So why not let him be an action hero, too? Odenkirk underwent rigorous training for the film, and all the pieces were in place here for something special. The trailers were great and the film had a script via John Wick creator Derek Kolstad. And yet…Nobody is curiously limp. Odenkirk is great, and unquestionably the best element of the entire film, playing a sad sack suburbanite who used to be a trained assassin. A home invasion rouses Odenkirk from his slumber of normalcy and sends him down a path where he runs afoul of Russian gangsters (it’s always Russian gangsters in these movies).

All of that is good on paper. But the execution is seriously lacking. The action scenes are well-staged, but the film’s script feels inert – odd for a movie that has its main character constantly on the move. I hope Odenkirk gets to be an action hero again in a much better movie, because both he deserves that (and we deserve to see it).

Own or Rent?

I’m in the minority here, but I’m going to go with rental for this one. I really wanted to love Nobody, but aside from a great performance from Bob Odenkirk, this is a bit of a disappointment. It’s worth watching at least once, but I don’t think this will have the same staying power as the John Wick franchise that inspired it.

Special Features Include:

  • DELETED SCENES
  • HUTCH HITS HARD – Discover how Bob Odenkirk trained to bring his character “Hutch Mansell” to life.
  • BREAKING DOWN THE ACTION (Bus Fight, Home Invasion, Car Chase and Tool & Die Sequences) – A behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the film’s explosive set pieces.
  • JUST A NOBODY – A look at the personal beginning of the story for Bob Odenkirk and the unique style and sensibility that director Ilya Naishuller brought to the film.
  • FEATURE COMMENTARY WITH ACTOR/PRODUCER BOB ODENKIRK AND DIRECTOR ILYA NAISHULLER
  • FEATURE COMMENTARY WITH DIRECTOR ILYA NAISHULLER

 

Mortal Kombat

A new, R-rated take on Mortal Kombat sure sounds fun, right? So what the hell happened here? This year’s Mortal Kombat reboot gets to embrace the blood and gore that the 1995 movie lacked, but so what? At least that ’90s effort was entertaining, in a silly sort of way. This Mortal Kombat, in contrast, is deadly serious. On top of that, it’s all set up. The film makes the mistake made by so many modern reboots of classic IP: it saves everything for a sequel that might not even happen. Everyone knows Mortal Kombat is about a tournament, but this movie spends its entire runtime talking about the tournament and never actually getting there. “We’ll give you the stuff you really want in the sequel!” everyone here seems to be saying, and you know what? That’s absolute bullshit. I know everyone in Hollywood wants to focus on world-building and franchises now because that’s where the money is. But you have to earn that, you can’t just force it. Hopefully one day soon producers will finally take a hint.

Own or Rent?

Rental for sure. Hell, I’m not even positive if you should do that. Maybe skip this entirely.

Special Features Include:

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