Saturday, 21 November 2009

Matt Battaglia

Born in 1965, Matt Battaglia’s a typical All-American. He’s got the muscles and the square jaw, he even played with the NFL until a broken bone was discovered in his neck and he had to retire from the game. You'd think he'd make for a perfect action hero.

But while the blandly handsome Floridian has had an extensive acting career he's never made much of an impression on audiences. You need look no further than his not-quite-starring role in the B-movie Raven for proof of why this is.

According to the IMDB, Battaglia made his acting debut in two episodes of Burt Reynolds’ TV series B.L. Stryker in 1989 and also turned up in an episode of Evening Shade in 1990, the two share the screen as not-quite-equals in this action 1996 movie.

Raven is confusing for audiences because it is essentially a Burt Reynolds movie, only Burt’s playing the villain and he’s off-screen for a significant period of time. It’s left to Battaglia, playing a retired member of Raven’s mercenary special forces team, to carry the movie when he’s not around. He’s not up to it and only the sex appeal provided by Krista Allen (recently seen in The Final Destination) keeps us amused while we await Reynolds return.

The makers/marketers were obviously keen to exploit Reynolds presence in this low budget production and Battaglia doesn’t get his name or face on the poster. As far as fans are concerned, discovering the ageing icon (in the title role) is not the hero and that we are expected to root for an uncharismatic hero is a huge disappointment.

There’s a profound sense of déjà vu when you watch this film, not simply because it’s formulaic, but because it’s basic plot is so similar to that of John Woo’s Broken Arrow, released the same year. While in that film John Travolta stole a nuclear weapon, in Raven the macguffin is a decoder that gives control of a nuclear arsenal. Coincidence?

One of many B-movies from Stu Segall Productions during the 90s, Raven may have given Battaglia his only heroic role in a feature film but this is not the end of the story. Two years later he landed the lead in two only modestly high profile TV movies based on Jean Claude Van Damme’s Universal Soldier (1992). Reunited with Reynolds, he was profoundly miscast in the role of Luc Deveraux in the dreadful Universal Solider 2: Brothers in Arms and Universal Soldier 3: Unfinished Business. Like the soldiers themselves, audiences memories has since been erased. Van Damme returned for a direct theatrical sequel in 1999 and Battaglia's off-shoots long forgotten.

In the 10+ years since producers tried to turn him into an action hero, Battaglia has had a solid career as a supporting player on television and made numerous film apprearances. He even returned to action to take on Steven Seagal in the prison-set, Under Siege wannabe Half Past Dead in 2002. But his most high profile role to date is one from behind the scenes, as co-producer on the prestigious film Brothers. Starring Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman and directed by Jim Sheridan.

To learn more about Battaglia check out his website at

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