RED MOB (1993) "Half Way to Black Friday" Limited Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: Vsevolod Plotkin
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome steps behind the iron curtain to liberate a bit of American-inspired action with their Blu-ray/DVD combo of RED MOB.

Sick of his mother and his new stepfather, young Yura (Mitya Volkov) travels to stay with his father, Afghanistan veteran Oleg Andreevich (Vladimir Menshov, director of the 1981 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award-winner MOSCOW DOES NOT BELIEVE IN TEARS) has retired from the army and is now running a survival camp for city folks with his buddy Nick (Sergey Veksler, ANTIKILLER). Yura does not take to Oleg's strict routine either and takes off with the supply van. Nick goes after him only to be nabbed by the men who work for Jaffar (Alexander Rosenbaum), a Shiite militant who wants to recruit him to lead a caravan transporting a cache of weapons stolen from his fellow Shiites for a deal with the mob after their original guide Igor (Andrey Shcherbovich-Vecher) – who also works at Oleg's camp – is wounded in their ambush. When Nick refuses, they send him back to make the offer to Oleg in exchange for Yura. Oleg agrees to lead the caravan. He sends Nick back to look after Yura but Jaffar's men try to kill him instead. Nick escapes and meets up with Oleg to wage an all-out war on Jaffar to rescue Yura.

RED MOB's English-language trailer promises "seventeen real helicopters and forty-two vehicles totally demolished in thrilling scenes of non-stop action." Although we did not actually count, this American/European/Russian co-production endeavors to deliver with gusto everything fans in multiple territories would ask of action film. Patterned after eighties American genre entries with Middle Eastern villains (although the film makes sure to emphasize that these characters are Soviet-born and do not consider themselves any different from other Russians), a loved one held hostage, as well as plenty of shootouts and explosions. The film stages a number of extended action set-pieces – including a fifteen minute siege on Jaffar's gravel works hideout – but their thrills are somewhat undercut by ragged editing, particularly in the case of the helicopter finale which would have been more tightly edited in an American eighties example. Although produced in 1992, the film looks very different from its contemporaries like the South Africa-lensed Nu Image DTV flicks or even the American productions that came to Russia to make cheap use of the Mosfilm studios, resources, and crew. Although the film sold overseas in multiple territories, it went undistributed in the United States, partially due to the poor dubbing of the English-language version – with editorial supervision by Jim Markovic (FORCED ENTRY) and dubbing directed by actor/voice actor Peter Fernandez (SPEED RACER) who supervised the English dubbing of some Italian and Spanish genre films during the seventies and eighties as well as loftier stuff like SWANN IN LOVE, CINEMA PARADISO, and TOKYO DECADENCE – in which Volkov's young character comes across as particularly insufferable. The film was the feature debut of TV director Vsevolod Plotkin whose subsequent feature LIFT (2006) sounds like it may have been ripped off by M. Night Shyamalan for the trapped-in-an-elevator film DEVIL.

Unreleased on home video in English-friendly form (at least legitimately), RED MOB comes to limited edition Blu-ray/DVD combo in a 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen presentation from the film's 35mm interpositive. The film is not particularly slick-looking, with some negative scratches, some heavily grainy night scenes and underexposed shadows (as well as some horrendously grainy second unit shots during the action scenes) in the sunny exteriors but the film's explosions and bloodshed are vibrant against the earthy backdrops. The film's English-language dub is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo, boasting clear post-synched voices, not particularly directional effects, and a rather unadventurous synth and percussion score. Optional English SDH subtitles are also provided. The BD50 also includes the film's Russian cut (110:54 versus the English version's 113:34) reconstructed from the same HD master with a Russian Dolby Digital 1.0 track and optional English and Russian SDH subtitle tracks.

Besides the film's English-language trailer (2:28) and a stills gallery, the disc also includes two video interviews with American associate producer Arthur Schweitzer (EVIL LAUGH). In "Producing RED MOB" (18:02), Schweitzer reveals that the project was brought to him by investors Norwegian because Russia had not produced a Western-style action film before. He recalls the shoot in Russia in conjunction with acclaimed filmmaker Rolan Bykov (Tarkovsky's ANDREI RUBLEV) whose chumminess with Boris Yeltsin afforded them resources with the assistance of the defense department and the KGB (lead actor Menshov was rumored to be a KGB agent who collected intelligence while screening his films at international festivals). He recalls the pro-America and -Western culture attitude among the locals despite the international situation, buying the film's helicopters for cash from the army's surplus as if they were used cars, and creative differences that extended to the film's post-production in the United States. He discusses the editing phase as they endeavored to tailor the film to both the Russian domestic and international audiences but does not go into specifics.

In "Shooting from the Hip" (23:41), Schweitzer recalls getting into film through photography and design, winning an award through Kodak and Scholastic which lead to a production assistant job at age fifteen. He moved onto cutting trailers and commercials before going to work in promotion for United Film Distribution Company and risking his job on DAWN OF THE DEAD (the company had successful midnight showings of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD) which turned out to be a success but did not lead to a promotion, so he moved onto working at 21st Century Film Corporation and was instrumental on building their back catalog for video and television sales by acquiring the bankrupt Dimension Pictures library. The fallout from Giancarlo Parretti's acquisition of the company and his criminal investigation lead to Schweitzer moving on to form his own company Cinevest, acquiring for its first release Romano Scavolini's DOG TAGS which needed to be edited. He recalls Scavolini's displeasure over his editorial decisions on NIGHTMARE and moving post-production to England for DOG TAGS when he had more disagreements with Scavolini. He does not discuss any of the company's other productions and acquisitions but does recall picking up the Wildman Steve vehicle THE SIX THOUSAND DOLLAR NIGGER (previously released on DVD by Vinegar Syndrome and AGFA) and having to retitle it for distribution in other parts of the country. The limited edition Blu-ray/DVD combo – limited to 1,000 copies – comes with a reversible cover and a sturdy slipcover. (Eric Cotenas)