Plot: Balam (Chuck Liddell) is a notorious crime boss, the head of a drug syndicate and a ruthless criminal. He was arrested and put behind bars, but he continues to run his empire from prison and he lives a posh lifestyle, one with all kinds of perks to make him comfortable. His activities are overlooked by the prison authorities and his crew makes sure the prisoners stay in check, in other words his life inside the jail is better than most on the outside. But Jack Stone (Matthew Reese) wants to make sure Balam gets the real justice he deserves and to do so, he gets himself locked up and plots to take down the infamous kingpin. As he happens to be a cop, one that put many of the prisoners behind bars, he has a tough road ahead. Can Stone somehow survive his myriad of enemies inside the prison and get payback on Balam?
Entertainment Value: I should mention that while Dolph Lundgren is front and center on all the promotional materials, he is a minor character in Riot, as Matthew Reese and Chuck Liddell have the prominent roles. So if Lundgren was your main reason for interest here, you might be let down. You also might be let down in a lot of other ways, as Riot is not exactly an action classic and to be honest, doesn’t bring much to the table until the final act. The narrative is well worn, a cop out for vengeance and we’ve even seen the intentional imprisonment angle before, but Riot at least tosses in a few new elements and has an eclectic cast. The movie centers on the Balam vs. Stone showdown, but has some side threads that add interest and it also doesn’t take itself too seriously, which helps a lot. There’s a decent amount of action, mostly small scale fist fights and such, but none of it is all that memorable. The pace is a little slow as well and Riot doesn’t mind devoting a lot of time to dull conversations, which gums up the works and makes some stretches quite drawn out. But if you like low rent action movies or just want to watch Chuck Liddell as a crime boss, give it a shot.
I think the cast is likely the main draw for Riot, as the promotional materials hawk Dolph Lundgren and Chuck Liddell like there’s no tomorrow. As I mentioned above, Dolph has a small role in this one and while he is more present toward the finale, he is still by no means a central presence. He is fun to watch as usual and has some fun moments however, so fans of his might still get some entertainment. The real acting coup here is Chuck Liddell however, who has a large role as a crime boss and he’s Russian, which means Chuck puts on an accent. And let me tell you, Chuck’s hilarious and always outlandish take on a Russian accent is the best element in Riot, a constant source of humor. Aside from that silliness, his performance in on par with his usual work, which is well, what it is. Matthew Reese is the actual lead, but he is rather bland and doesn’t leave much of an impression. He handles the action oriented scenes well enough, but just doesn’t stand out as a capable lead. The cast also includes Michael Flynn, Danielle C. Ryan, and Eve Mauro.