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Taking place between the games Red Faction: Guerilla and Red Faction: Armageddon, Mars is split between the Red Faction (miners) and Marauders (humans that side with the game's native Martians), whose cultures and customs clash. While investigating a piece of a crashed EDF ship in a neutral zone between the two colonies, Jake Mason, son of Red Faction hero Alec Mason, is shocked to discover that not only is his abducted and long thought dead sister Lyra alive, she's working with a group of mysterious soldiers stealing pieces of tech from the remains of a crashed ship. By breaking regulation to find her, however, Jake not only puts himself at risk, but discovers the mysterious group's intentions.
I've not played much of the Red Faction games, to be honest, though the story reminds me a bit of what went on in TOTAL RECALL. Well, the rebels fighting against the big bad corporation part. Anyways, I never thought the games to be a good choice for film, but what do I know? Enter RED FACTION: ORIGINS, which made its premiere on SyFy. Now before you dismiss the film as being another one of "those films", RED FACTION is, despite the unoriginal story, a fun time-waster.
What makes this film is the cast. Everyone is committed, it seems, to the project at hand. It's made all the more clear with the commentary, but that's getting ahead of things. It really shows through with the performances. Brian J. Smith takes a clichéd character and runs with it, adding more layers to the character than it has any right to have. Robert Patrick shows up and does Robert Patrick, which is great. Danielle Nicolet tended to veer towards being annoying, but thankfully she stayed fun to look at and listen to, providing a touch of humor to lighten things up.
RED FACTION falters in the obviously unoriginal storyline, but in the fact that it feels more like a TV pilot than an actual movie. The production values aren't the greatest, and some of the "science" isn't all that well explained. Plus, given the film's origins as a first-person shooter, there's a distinct lack of shootouts. Really, as far as the action is concerned, it involves a few hand-to-hand fights and a few short skirmishes in the sky. Also, the antagonists are decidedly over-the-top to the point that it's frankly ridiculous. But that's also part of the fun, I guess.
While RED FACTION isn't the greatest film based on a video game, it's decidedly not the worst, despite being on SyFy. The cast really worked well, and despite the "been there, done that" specifics, it's still watchable. Maybe it's the fact that I walked in with low expectations, but it provided a nice amusing break. Check it out for the potential surprise factor it holds.
Video: The film's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is good, given its made-for-TV origins. Colours are strong with some good detail, but those CG backgrounds aren't fooling anyone.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is, again, typically made-for-TV (ie. low budget), but the dialogue is clear and the channels do get some directional workout.
First up is an audio commentary with director Michael Nankin, Universal Cable's director of development Tom Lieber, and actors Brian J. Smith, Danielle Nicolet, and Devon Graye It's an good listen with a variety of topics such as the film's production, ties to the games and Robert Patrick impersonations (yes, you read that right). Everyone seems to be in full commitment mode. Unfortunately, director Michael Nankin mentions cuts to the film that aren't included in the featurette or anywhere else on the disc.
Warring Factions: The Making of Red Faction is your typical EPK spot that has cast and crew talking up the film that really doesn't offer a whole lot of information.
Finally, there's your typical Photo Gallery and trailers for TV shows and SyFy originals.
While it won't compare to those video game adaptations with higher polish, it's not the worst thing in the world. RED FACTION boasted some good acting with a cast that really did feel like they believed in the project. It also helps that this feeling carried over into the commentary, which was informative as it was fun.