First of all, I freely admit that I haven't seen a huge number of direct-to-video releases this year. But of all the ones I did see, Logan Miller's defiantly old-school, yet unconventional Western was the best by far. Set on the New Mexico Plains at the tail-end of the 19th Century, Sweetwater follows January Jones' ex-prostitute, trying to rebuild her life with her husband when they fall foul of Jason Isaacs' Prophet Josiah. Featuring some stunning cinematography that belies the low budget, the slow-burning revenge tale takes a while to get going but the result is a violent, blood-soaked third act that harks back to the golden age of Western film-making. The dialogue and plot machinations can come dangerously close to the ridiculous at times, but the movie is well-acted by an able supporting cast that includes Eduardo Noriega, Stephen Root and country singer Jason Aldean. However, top marks go to Ed Harris as a wildly eccentric Sheriff and particularly Isaacs (who really deserves to be in more good movies) who delivers a powerfully charismatic, sadistic and borderline-unhinged performance as the main antagonist. Well worth a watch. Runner-Up: Frankenstein's Army
The direct-to-video market is saturated with dozens of interchangeable low-budget genre flicks, but in terms of sheer demented fun Richard Raaphorst's action/horror/sci-fi hybrid is 90 minutes of the year's most ludicrous entertainment. You know where you stand immediately when you hear the set-up; during World War II, a group of Russian soldiers are lured into Victor Frankenstein's lab and find themselves up against the titular army. Never taking itself too seriously, Frankenstein's Army features inventive set-pieces, ingeniously designed steam-punk monsters and came highly recommended to me by several people. If these movies are your kind of thing, I recommend it, too.
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