New Alcatraz (2001)
By: Lauren Monaghan on August 9, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Magna Pacific (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (Non-anamorphic). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. 97 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Phillip J. Roth Starring: Dean Cain, Elizabeth Lackey, Mark A. Sheppard, Dean Biasucci, Craig Wasson
Screenplay: Terry Neish, Paul Joshua Rubins
Music: Rich McHugh
Tagline: "Frozen from the outside… frozen with fear inside!"
Country: USA
There's something to be said about Phillip J. Roth's New Alcatraz (or Boa, if you're watching the Region 1 release) – namely that it isn't very good. But then again, what can you expect from a film pitting one-time Superman beefcake Dean Cain against a giant prehistoric snake? While locked in a high security prison? In the middle of Antarctica? Aided only by a handful of international criminals and armed only with plucky determination?

Now if you ask me, this film has a lot of things going for it: a crazy-ass giant snake for starters (and really, who didn't secretly enjoy Anaconda?), but also a divinely wacky backdrop and a cast of eager B-graders, rounded off by Aussie actress Elizabeth Lackey and the illustrious Craig Wasson, who you'll remember as Dr Neil Gordon from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and… Dr Neil Gordon from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3.

Unfortunately, while these ingredients could have made for a fun, self-depreciating romp through a landscape of bad CGI and so-bad-it's-good storytelling, New Alcatraz proves little more than a painful exercise in bad fake accentory, unfunnily atrocious CGI and so-stupid-I-want-to-tear-my-hair-out logic.

Long story short, in the New Alcatraz-verse the world has decided to ship the worst of its criminals off to Antarctica, the land where there is ice aplenty and not a trace of sense in sight. Despite having grave safety concerns and possessing general common sense, workers at the chilly prison are forced into drilling through a hollow portion of the ice, tragically home to a big pocket of nitrogen and an even bigger gaseous problem – the computer-tech brain fart that is the film's star: a giant, unrealistic and kind of dog-sounding boa constrictor. The unleashed serpent proceeds to chow down on the prison staff, no doubt cranky about his long hibernation and the prospect of having to share screen time with Superman. Speaking of whom, instead of calling in, I don't know, maybe a ginormous squad of military types to deal with the snakey problem, the big guns brought out are a couple of university professors, Cain and Lackey (don't worry though, they're fully equipped – with knowledge!). Unperturbed by all the booksmarts flying around, the snake proceeds to chase everyone up and down the same corridor a few times before we thankfully arrive at the film's climax. A surprisingly clever climax for such a shoddy movie, and one that would no doubt have Samuel L. Jackson spouting a few choice words about motherfucking boas slithering around where they shouldn't.

A small part of me wants to say that the ending of New Alcatraz is almost redemptive, worthy of its resurrection from the abyss of one-star territory even – but alas, however ingenious and hilarious I found those last few moments to be (in case you didn't get it, think along the lines of something that sounds suspiciously like "Cakes on a Train"), the amusement comes too little, too late. Really, for a guy who has a thing for giant reptiles, Roth just can't seem to translate his strange fixation into a decent movie.

Fun-filled ending aside, New Alcatraz is the type of film you feel like you've watched a million times before, right down to the nitty gritty details of shot framing and set elements. And Mr Roth? If your audience is thinking there's something all too familiar about your "giant snake preserved in nitrogen awakes in a frozen international prison, terrorises Dean Cain and gets to go parachuting" film, you're doing something wrong.
Video
For a movie that was made only a couple of years ago, New Alcatraz looks weirdly dated… kind of a tad faded, and a tiny touch on the grainy side. This is a 1.85:1 presentation, and is not 16:9 enhanced.
Audio
Like the Region 1 release, you can listen to the growly snake do its thing in either 5.1 or 2.0 Dolby Digital. Neither of the tracks is particularly impressive.
Extra Features
I always find it somewhat amusing that DVDs list "scene selections" under the heading of special features like some kind of exciting gift, but that's what this film boasts – scene selections and as an added bonus, a single trailer for the film itself. At least the Region 1 disc gives you a bit more variety in the features department, though not by much.
The Verdict
If by some poor twist of fate you find yourself laden with a copy of New Alcatraz, do yourself a favour and use that special scene selecting feature to get to the last few minutes of the film, have yourself a bit of a giggle and be done with it.
Movie Score
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