Frank Sledge is the hottest action star in Hollywood. He is equal parts Steven Seagal and Jean Claude Van Damme. This is the story of his rise, fall and resurrection. It also doesn’t even know what it is called as the title screen and DVD cover both give different titles.
Mockumentaries are hit and miss. At one end of the spectrum you have This is Spinal Tap, which rates about an eleven, and at the other end you have Gangsta Rap: The Glockumentary, which I gave a generous 1.9 in my review. Confessions of an Action Star rests solidly in the middle of those two films, both funny and at times very boring.
Confessions of an Action Star is a mockumentary about an action hero that, at the start, bears a very strong resemblance to Steven Seagal. Whereas Seagal started his career as a martial artist, the hero of this film, Frank Sledge, began his career as a dancer. He learned his trait from his mentor Samantha, who took him in as a young child and taught him to dance. He was discovered as a Chippendale’s dancer and was soon cast in his first movie.
Part of the fun is to match the spoofed movie with the original, although the titles make it a bit unoriginal. The first film is Bloodfight 2 and it is in areas like this the movie is entertaining and very original. The argument about recasting the lead from the first movie is met with reluctance by director John Hu (see what they did there?) and when the producer mentions that kung fu is loved by “your people”, The Asian Hu takes exception and says “I don’t get it. What makes you think just because I’m Jewish, I love kung fu?” The decision was made to have a character explain that the lead had extensive facial reconstructive surgery and looks completely different. If the rest of the movie matched these scenes, it would be a success.
Unfortunately, the movie is unevenly paced and drags through much of the middle. Part of that is saved by cameos of familiar people playing themselves. Angelina Jolie, Sean Young, Richard Lewis, Kelly Hu, Eric Roberts and Ernie Hudson all play themselves in the fictional world of Frank Sledge. Sledge himself is played by David Leitch, who also penned the script for the mockumentary. If you have never heard of Leitch, don’t worry too much about that. He got all these big name actors in his movie because in his other profession, Leitch is a stuntman.
Leitch has worked in movies such as Blade, Fight Club, Ocean’s Eleven, Daredevil, The Matrix Revolutions, Troy, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Serenity and The Bourne Ultimatum. The character he creates in this film is equal parts Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, and Wesley Snipes. The action hero the title refers to is the typical B-level action star that will crash and burn as easily as he rode his way to the top. Along the way, he burns bridges with former colleagues such as writer Will, dance coordinator Glenn and even his mentor Samantha. He grows egotistical beyond belief with such movies as Below the Law and Out for Vengeance and then when he hits the top with his new film Jimbo (Rambo), he bottoms out.
The story is the rise and fall of a good man who goes down the wrong path. How does this film deal with that redemption? After a failed attempt at a comeback in Traffic Jam, a Brett Radner film, he begins a training regime. The training is done in a Rocky montage format with a song playing over it that brings memories of Team America: World Police’s montage song. While the sequence is funny, the song is just bizarre and was done much better in Team America. The sequence does pay off with a routine at the end stolen straight from Flashdance. In much the same way the film started strong, it ends on a highly creative note. This is followed by his comeback hit, a movie that can only be described as a mix between The Matrix and You Got Served.
I give the movie a lot of credit for being creative, inventive and, at times, very funny. There is a short included that the film was based on (Sledge) and the story works so much better in that shorter format. There seems to be a lot of added fluff to fill out the running time and, while the performances are all solid and fun to watch, it just seems too long and falls apart somewhere along the plodding middle.
Sledge: The Making Of (16:08) – The feature is pretty informative as Leitch and Martin talk about how they got the celebrities to cameo in the movie and how they got it show for next to nothing. The information given here is much better than what is given in the commentary.
Sledge: The Short Film (30:28) – This is the original short film that the movie was based on. It is interesting to note the appearance of Ben Stiller in the short film since he was nowhere to be seen in the feature length film. Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving both appear in the short, in the exact same shots they appeared in the main film. The short is very interesting as it appears to look much more like a documentary, and less slick, than the feature presentation.
On the Set Production Shots (05:07) – I have been complaining forever about still galleries that you have to scroll through one at a time with nothing but pictures. This DVD finally answers my prayers with a slideshow with music playing over the background. This is how every still gallery should be
Writer/Director/Star Commentary – I hate when the commentary track is the only sounds you hear and the film itself is completely muted. The commentary itself sucks because they just talk about what we are seeing on the screen.