BBFC Classification: 15
Director: Christopher Hatton
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Melanie Zanetti, Matt Doran, David Field, Lydia Look
Dolph Lundgren, robots and zombies – three ingredients that, on paper at least, sound like the makings of a genre fan favourite but as we all know, these types of film may have the basics covered when it comes to a lead actor and suitable antagonist but all too often it can fall apart once the cameras start rolling. So how does Battle of the Damned hold up?
During an outbreak of a deadly virus, Major Max Gatling (Dolph Lundgren – Rocky IV/The Expendables) is hired to enter a contaminated zone to rescue a survivor named Jude (Melanie Zanetti) but after making contact he discovers a band of survivors led by the slimy Duke (David Field – Chopper) and soon becomes embroiled in the battle against the hordes of infected roaming the city streets.
So the question was asked about how Battle of the Damned holds up, and the short answer is that it does okay. It must be said that Dolph Lundgren is on terrific form here, slashing, kicking and shooting his way through crowds of oncoming infected like he was reprising his role in The Punisher, but also endearing himself with more than just his physical skills as his natural charisma comes across remarkably well in his line delivery. The only other reasonably familiar face is Matt Doran (The Matrix) as Reese, one of the survivors, and all in all the whole cast do quite well with what they’re given to do, but it is Dolph who manages to draw your attention, even when he isn’t the main focus on the screen.
It’s also worth mentioning that despite the word ‘zombie’ being used in most of the film’s advertising and in the film itself, these are really infected – the fast-running kind from 28 Days Later. The point is made by Reese more than once in the film that these are not zombies as they’re not technically dead, so anybody who gets their knickers in a knot over such trivialities can calm down as this film is well aware of what it is. The infected themselves look pretty good considering the budget limitations and there is plenty of gore flying around as bodies get shot and stabbed left, right and centre, which is what you watch a film like this for in the first place, of course.
But despite Battle of the Damned hitting some of the right beats, it also racks up a few misses and, to be fair, most of them are likely bugetary. The first and most obvious thing that’ll likely rub people up the wrong way is the overall look of the film – yes people, we’re back in 2002 with the washed-out lens filters and hand-held shaky-cam, and isn’t it just so damn annoying? It’s a decision that somebody made – “Yes, we’d like the film to look like 28 Days Later but not be as expensive” – but rather than looking like Danny Boyle’s film it looks more like a between-level cut scene from an Xbox game.
The other thing that really drags the film down a notch is the inclusion of robots. It sounds like a winner when you tell somebody that Doplh Lundgren commands a platoon of military robots but when they actually appear in the film they are a little underwhelming and the simple plot of humans versus infected seems to lose a little of the dynamic it was building. Once they’re engaged in battle they don’t look as bad but when the action slows down they do look clunky and too cartoonish in a film that may not be the most serious ever but didn’t need to be dumbed down any further. You’ve got Doplh, you’ve got the infected so in this case three really is a crowd.
So it’s a bit of a mixed bag but overall Battle of the Damned is a better film than most of the direct-to-DVD zombie fodder that gets vomited out on a regular basis. The presence of Dolph Lundgren is the biggest thing in its favour and the action scenes are all decently staged but after the effort of building something of a plot – albeit a minimal one – there is a slight change in the feel of the film once the robots are introduced, and that early-2000’s look doesn’t get any better as the film goes on, becoming something of a major annoyance by the end. Perhaps if it were given a bigger budget then Battle of the Damned could have been something great but as it is, it’s merely enjoyable trashy fun with a few flaws.
Special Features: None
UK Release Date: 26th December 2013