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Free Fall (Blu-ray Review)

Free Fall TNAkkad is a name that’s been so very familiar to me for many moons.  My very favorite film of all time begins with the words “Moustapha Akkad Presents”.  That name is forever the keeper of The Shape of our nightmares, Michael Myers.  Many know and remember the last Moustapha, but the keys are now in his son, Malek Akkad’s hands now.  Malek began following in his father’s footsteps being a production assistant on Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers.  Beginning with Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers, he was a producer from then out and now the main man when it comes to all things Haddonfield.  The series now begins with “Malek Akkad Presents”.  Why all the Halloween talk?  Because he’s now taken to the director’s chair (First time since 2002) for Free Fall.  Free Fall isn’t his first directorial work, but its his first feature film.  I was immediately drawn to the prospect of seeing what he could do here.

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Film 

A Gault Capital employee has unexpectedly plunged himself from the top of the building.  His good friend Jane is in mourning but is promoted to his old position.  While going through his belongings to prepare for his wife, Jane discovers a key.  She finds out that there is some massively incriminating financial fraud going on by Mr. Gault himself and realizes her friend’s death may not have been a suicide.  She reports the incident, but a “clean up” man is sent to the building to destroy all the records and to make Jane disappear for good.  Through Jane’s escape, she winds up trapped in an elevator unable to go up or down, only to be a sitting duck.

While this is a pretty generic and pretty hollow film, I can’t put that blame on Malek Akkad.  That’s all on the screenplay.  I actually thought Akkad did a pretty good job with his work here.  He’s an old soul when it comes to his approach and its quite refreshing.  The man has patience and really knows how to frame a shot.  This could have easily been some quick, gritty looking shaky cam production to save money, but no, Free Fall has steady, set up shots and some really nice camera movements to help to tell the story and not rely on gimmicks to fake intensity.  Akkad gets the best use he can out of every frame and this film looks like a much better production than it deserved to be.

Brian White and I are both Sarah Butler fans (Although she is not forgiven for The Condemned which I had to almost Clockwork Orange myself to get through last year).  She’s pretty solid in this film and while vocally she’s merely solid and passable here, her strength comes in her physical performance.  I couldn’t really see if there was use of a stunt double or not, but it appeared to me that she was doing all her own work with the stunts in this film and I really gotta give that to her.  And like I said, this film’s faults lie in its weightless script moreso than its production.  Yes, a production she enhance the material, but with this low budget affair there’s only so much they could do.

D B “Toepick” Sweeney shows up as our big bad hitman here and the guy is having plenty of fun with the role.  He’s basically there to terrorize Jane as she gets trapped in the elevator.  The movie feature plenty of his hunting after her and firing bullets.  Akkad also has a little tip of the hat to his family’s bread and butter as he shoots him a few times similarly to their pale white faced cash cow.  Malcolm McDowell is in this movie, but isn’t really a big part and has a very light amount of screentime.  He probably was doing a solid for his old buddy Malek and gave him a couple days shoot.  His presence is that what you’d expect of the aged McDowell being in a film.

I’m not sure where I’d put any sort of recommend on this movie.  There’s some talented people involved, but this story is just so generic and uninvolving itself.  We are pretty much given the most basic possible setup for this thing with no real detail or background to make the audience really engaged.  Hollow is the perfect wording for it.  The film isn’t really “bad” per se but being a glorious failure can be more entertaining than something that is just basic and safe.  If you’re a Sarah Butler fan, or if you’re curious of Malek Akkad behind the lens, check it out, but you’re probably few and far between of a crowd to really make this impactful.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Clarity/Detail:   This is a super clean and well detailed image.  As patient as the cinematography is in the picture is reflected in the image on the transfer perfectly.  Detail is present everywhere and the image is crisp and sharp.

Depth: Sort of average.  There are some good moments in the elevator shaft.

Black Levels:  Blacks are natural and deep, not causing and sort of crushing at all.

Color Reproduction:  There’s not a whole lot of color to this one.  Lots of whites, blacks and grays.  Blue is one that likely pops most as there’s a little more heavy dosage of it in the aesthetic.

Flesh Tones:  Flesh tones are natural and consistent.  Facial detail is very high.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean as a whistle.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA (The case lists it as Dolby TrueHD, but it indeed DTS-HD MA)

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  This is a really nice audio track that could have been as generic as the script but really has some weight to it.  There’s a nice balance of sound between voice, score and effects present.  The effects are really the highlight as they are prominent and make themselves known sounding like you’re right in the middle of the action.

Low Frequency Extension: You’ll notice right away that DB Sweeney’s gun goes BOOM and gets a superb lift from your subwoofer.  Also crashing and deep elevator sounds make their mark rumbling in your room.

Surround Sound Presentation: There is actually some action that comes from the rear speakers.  While this isn’t an “action everywhere” type of movie, its nice to see the rear speakers weren’t ignored.  The front gets plenty of good volume placement and left/right interplay as well.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp, clean, centered and very audible at all times.

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Extras 

Free Fall comes with a featurette and that’s pretty much it.

Free Fall: Behind The Scenes (HD, 25:06) – This impressively covers the whole gamut of the production of the film.  From character motivations, to budgeting, to shooting and story points you’ll be the most knowledgeable kid on the playground about Free Fall after this.

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Summary 

While I found the script for Free Fall to be a total snoozer, some aspect of the film I did appreciate plenty.  Malek Akkad dusting off his old director’s chair showed he has some old school talent that I think the current film climate could use.  Unfortunately, this movie still found itself being “just there”.  However, Anchor Bay has given it a rock solid presentation and a pretty in depth bonus featurette to make this release worthy of purchase if you’re a fan.  I say to pass though, but if you’re curious, please rent it first before making the investment.

Free Fall Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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