There’s no doubt about the passion-project quality of The Fifth Commandment; Rick Yune — who also takes separate producer and executive producer credits, amusingly — wrote the action-oriented flick, stars in it, and heck, even serves as post-production supervisor as well. One can apportion blame or credit accordingly, then.
Well… sort of. The truth is, the level of skill behind movies like The Fifth Commandment is often somewhat difficult to judge, given the enormous hurdles of constrained time and limited means that the filmmakers are typically facing. Here, the slam-bang elements of the story itself are fairly boilerplate, with a few halfway-imagined add-ons (an assassin teaming up with a sibling), and the overall execution only so-so, but it’s the outside, on-location production value that provides this straight-to-video title with a little pop missing in many other movies of its ilk.
After witnessing the brutal murder of his parents when he was just a young boy, Chance Templeton (Yune) is taken in by a ruthless killer, Max (Keith David), and raised to follow in his footsteps. An assassin’s trade is necessarily solitary, but Chance shares a tight bond with his adopted brother Miles (Bokeem Woodbine), who’s split from his past and chosen a more honorable occupational path, working as a bodyguard for sultry pop star Angel (Dania Ramirez). When Chance is then contracted to gun down his brother’s client, he balks, feeling he’s reached a line he cannot cross. Uniting with Miles to stave off Angel’s execution, Chance quickly finds himself targeted by various elite peers as he struggles to protect a woman who wants nothing to do with his services.
Shot in mostly too-tight fashion by director Jesse Johnson — a recommendation of Vic Armstrong, the second unit director on Die Another Day, and Yune’s original choice for a helmer — The Fifth Commandment has a pinch of Smokin’ Aces, though not that film’s wild, over-the-top tone. Fear not, though, for those wanting to see a woman in a kimono wield a semi-automatic machine gun (a subset that probably includes Quentin Tarantino, if I’m guessing right), this movie still delivers. While its staging and framing are nothing impressive, the film’s Bangkok location shooting provides some nice backdrops for the action, and 37-year-old Yune — who parlayed an out-of-left-field appearance in 1999’s Snow Falling on Cedars into later roles in The Fast and the Furious, Die Another Day and, gulp, the straight-to-video sequel to Uwe Boll’s Alone in the Dark — gives an entirely serviceable lead turn as Chance, bringing both a robust physicality and entirely recognizable vulnerability to his character. Those who want more than not to be impressed quite likely will be.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, The Fifth Commandment comes to DVD in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a static menu screen, English, Spanish and French language Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio tracks, and optional subtitles in Chinese, English, Korean, French and Spanish. Supplemental extras consist of two featurettes. The first is a 25-minute look at the movie’s stunts and action, which intercuts film clips with a sit-down chat with director Johnson and stunt coordinator Garrett Warren. Next up is a more comprehensive making-of mini-doc that clocks in at 19 minutes, and is essentially a solo interview with Yune interspersed with a handful of material from the movie.
It may sound dry and boring, but this latter chat is actually quite fascinating, as Yune name-checks “Rambo and Schwarzenegger films” as being among his favorite movies growing up, and says that they, along with the original Star Wars, had “moments that helped me find a way to be a better person.” He also gets into the nitty-gritty of the actual making of the movie, touching on everything from hitting up his hedge fund manager pals for production money (Yune’s own background, since he went to business school before getting into acting) to the hassles of Bangkok filming (“The word I heard most on this film was ‘renegotiate,'” he says) and an explosive scene in which too much primer cord was used, leading to a bigger-than-expected fireball, with concussive consequences. Also included are trailers for The Devil’s Tomb and a clutch of other Sony home video releases, as well as a red-band trailer for Gregor Jordan’s forthcoming adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ The Informers, which means a good bit of naked Amber Heard, set to A Flock of Seagulls. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C (Movie) B- (Disc)