Blu-ray Review: Branded

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Our friends out at Lionsgate sent over something a little unusual today, folks…a little slice of science fiction of a sort called “Branded”. This one’s not going to be your standard piece of work, but as we all well know, an unusual plot only goes so far. You’ll be able to catch this one January 15, and you’ll definitely want to.

“Branded” will be nothing if not unusual; it takes us out to a near-future dystopia version of Russia where giant corporations have a lot of say in how things run.  The giant corporations in question have something of a master plan in mind for the regular people, and it’s not exactly a positive plan at all. It’s a plan that involves mind control on a positively epic scale. But one man has discovered this massive conspiracy, and means to get to the bottom of it in a bid to take it out for good. What he will find as he digs through the various layers to reach that bottom, though, will not only tell him some things about the world he thought he knew, but about himself. And these will not be things he wants to know.

Sure, we’ve seen corporations as evil entities before, but this may well be one of the first movies I’ve ever seen where the bad guy is “particularly aggressive marketing”. Sometimes on television, sure; “The Simpsons” did it at least once. A “Treehouse of Horror” special, in fact, turned marketing mascots into rampaging horrors that disassembled Springfield. “Max Headroom” had his blipverts, but this isn’t so much a science fiction dystopia so much as it is a movie in which marketing is the lynchpin of a conspiracy that goes into the top echelons of government and beyond. Way beyond.

That, frankly, is bizarre. This is nothing like most any other movie ever released ever. A unique plot is almost always good in and of itself, by virtue of its sheer novelty. In an environment where many movies start to resemble each other, a movie that is unlike any other is a downright treat, even if it doesn’t turn out very well. “Branded”, meanwhile, will turn out just spectacularly. It’s almost disturbingly believable, the logic behind it has a particularly frightening and utterly plausible quality that will be just astonishing. The performances are spectacular; seeing Max Von Sydow alone come back as a marketing guru–the man who played master salesman Leland Gaunt in “Needful Things”–was well worth the price of admission. “Branded” is just entirely too good to pass up. This is truly, truly fantastic stuff. It may get kind of a slow start, but the last twenty minutes or so will be mind-blowing.

As for special features here, we’ll get a set of audio options, your choice of English or Spanish subtitles, a commentary track with the writers, directors and producers, as well as a pair of trailers for “Branded” as well as trailers for “The Darkest Hour”, “Source Code”, “Total Recall (the original version re-released to Blu-ray)”, “Mimic”,  and a preview reel for Epix.

While “Branded” will play better with those who get the references, those who understand marketing, there will be plenty of fun here for anyone who things that advertising in general has been getting a little out of control these days. And in general, “Branded” will be so utterly unusual and so well put-together a concept that it’s well worth watching.

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  • Gill

    Thank you for posting your review of Branded, Steve! I watched Branded last night on the recommendation of a friend that I work with at DISH. Shortly before leaving my office, I went online and ordered Branded to download to my DISH Hopper DVR so that the movie would be ready to watch when I got home. Branded had its faults, but there was a lot to like about this movie. The creatures were particularly interesting. However, I do think that this movie was a little full of itself. I guess it’s hard to point fingers at consumerism when that’s the very thing you are trying to profit off of.