TOKYO TRIBE

(XLRATOR MEDIA/NIKKATSU/FROM FIRST PRODUCTION COMPANY/DJANGO FILM (117 minutes; Unrated); 2015)

TOKYO TRIBE

It is an absolutely inexplicable concept that I would even remotely enjoy a musical movie version of a violent piece of Manga (TOKYO TRIBE 2 by Santa Inoue) about rival gangs on the mean streets of Tokyo, especially one that involves reading… a lot of reading. Buuut… the music is a very appealing mish-mash of Hip-Hop grooves and rock heaviness; the characters are SO over the top that you are allowed to suspend all belief and just let the kaleidoscopic visuals – including some amazingly choreographed fight scenes, including near-comedic levels of ultra-violent acts – assault your optic nerves… in the best way possible. Yeah, sure the whole reading thing is there but, once you get into a groove with that, TOKYO TRIBE isn’t too bad.

TOKYO TRIBE (Makoto Sakaguchi, Nana Seino) (photo courtesy: XLRATOR MEDIA)

TOKYO TRIBE (Makoto Sakaguchi, Nana Seino) (photo courtesy: XLRATOR MEDIA)

Actually, aside from trying to figure out who was who, the flick, written and directed by the legendary Sion Sono, was pretty cool. The whole thing kicks off in a claustrophobic Bukuro Street on a hot Tokyo night that threatens not only rain, but an earthquake, as well. The narrator (played by Shota Sometani, who delivers all of his lines through raps) moves ghost-like through the throngs, introducing us to the various factions and their leaders, all the while giving us a glimpse into a very grim future. In one telling scene early in the movie, a rookie police officer is told by her partner not to get involved in what is very obviously a drug dealer dispensing his wares; when she confronts the dealer, he tears her clothes off, belittles her and, eventually, kills her. Her partner tells the police dispatcher that everything is okay… nothing going on. According to the raps, there are 23 separate tribes in the city, each working their own territory in an effort to maintain a tenuous treaty; that treaty is threatened by the Buppa gang, a violent and blood-thirsty tribe who want it all.

TOKYO TRIBE (Riki Takeuchi) (photo courtesy: XLRATOR MEDIA)

TOKYO TRIBE (Riki Takeuchi) (photo courtesy: XLRATOR MEDIA)

The Buppa leader, played by Riki Takeuchi, is cartoonish, a demented and crazy-eyed Wayne Newton look-alike. Bubba’s lusts and desires are fueled by the promise of total power from the High Priest Denden (played by Sion Sono mainstay Denden, the High Priest is either a guiding spirit or one of Bubba’s drug-induced hallucinations); all he has to do is return the High Priest’s daughter, Ericka. One of Bubba’s sons, Nkoi (Yosuke Kubozuka), is a sexual deviant who delights in using his victims as furniture… after, of course, they have outlived their usefulness as prostitutes; he sends a van of thugs to procure a few new chairs and end tables into another tribe’s territory, either convincing them to come to a wild party or flat-out kidnapping them. The other son, Merra (Ryohei Suzuki), is more into inflicting as pain on as many people as possible; he has some unstated beef with the leader of Musashiro Tribe, Kai Deguchi (Young Dais), who practices and preaches love, peace and understanding. Basically, all of the ensuing carnage is due to whatever problem Merra has with Kai (don’t worry… we do find out what has him so upset during the climactic battle and, if I may be so bold, it perfectly personifies the gangsta rap culture and gangs, in general). Oh, plus, Nkoi snatches the High Priest’s daughter (Nana Seino) off the street and tosses her into the Buppa brothel, setting off a completely different type of mayhem: When her picture is posted on the brothel’s website, a particularly horny member of Musashiro is off to partake, with Tera (Ryuta Sato), who is respected by all factions, attempting to stop him and, as that has failed, to keep him out of any serious trouble.

TOKYO TRIBE (Denden) (photo courtesy: XLRATOR MEDIA)

TOKYO TRIBE (Denden) (photo courtesy: XLRATOR MEDIA)

Unbeknownst to either, a trap has been set and, when Kai and the others learn of it, love and peace are out the window. Unfortunately, with 21 other tribes mobilizing, the path is neither easy nor safe. Eventually – because everybody knew it was going to happen – all of the rival gangs come together against Bubba and his hired guns, the Waru, the most vicious gang in all of Japan. The fights are wickedly fun, the choreography and staging wildly imaginative; there are tanks, cannibals, gold-plated pistols, human reading lamps, samurais, earthquakes, giant exhaust fans and… well, you get the idea. There’s even a wizened old waitress, called DJ Grandma (Hisako Ooka), spinning and rapping her doomsday commentary: “Comin’ to ya from the ass-end of Hell/Listen up. This is Hip-Hop!” There is so much that I want to tell you about TOKYO TRIBE, but if I give you any more, I’ll spoil all the fun you have in store when you watch it.

TOKYO TRIBE (Ryohei Suzuki, Young Dais) (photo courtesy: XLRATOR MEDIA)

TOKYO TRIBE (Ryohei Suzuki, Young Dais) (photo courtesy: XLRATOR MEDIA)

Even though there are going to be plenty of kids sixteen and younger that are gonna wanna see this movie, be advised that it – like all of Sono’s previous films – is ultra-violent (generally, in a cartoon fashion but, there are still some fairly brutal scenes) and features quite a few scenes glorifying drug use and even more that objectify young women (though there are also several instances of those young women taking control of their situations and kicking major amounts of butt). Parents, even the trailer is too wild for us to post here so, at the very least, check that out before you decide to let your kids watch.


TO PROTECT AND SERVE: THE DAVID KEITH INTERVIEW

PART ONE: THE INTERVIEW

David Keith (publicity photo)

David Keith (publicity photo)

So, the press release for the independent action flick AWAKEN shows up in my inbox and, I’m thinking, “Okay… the premise sounds promising but, I’m so afraid it’s gonna be nothing more than a distaff version of Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme.” But, then, the clincher… the movie features one of my favorite character actors, David Keith. And… he’s doing interviews! How could I possibly turn this one down?

Obviously, I couldn‘t and… I didn’t. So, before we take an in-depth look at the movie, here’s my conversation with actor David Keith. While Mister Keith may not really be as intense as many of his characters, he is nonetheless a passionate performer and a compassionate human being.

THE MULE: It’s a pleasure to speak to you. Since you’re on a little bit of a schedule here, let’s talk about AWAKEN and then a couple of other questions. How did you become involved in this project?

DAVID: The producer, Natalie Burn, is an old friend of mine and she asked if I would do her a favor and come play a small role in the movie.

AWAKEN (Natalie Burn, David Keith) (publicity photo)

AWAKEN (Natalie Burn, David Keith) (publicity photo)

THE MULE: You said “small role.” It is a rather small role but, in my mind anyway, fairly pivotal to the story.

DAVID: Yeah… you can’t really harvest organs without a surgeon.

THE MULE: Right. I didn’t wanna give anything away. I guess I shoulda read the back of the box… it may very well tell us what the bad guys are kinda up to. I got the feeling that, possibly, your character wasn’t so much into the way things were being done, but you were just there to help where you could.

DAVID: Well, all he’s washed up. He’s probably lost his license, he’s a drunk and he’s just trying to live out the rest of his days, making some money. But, he does want to do it right. If it’s going to be done, he certainly has given up on the moral question of what he’s doing but, he doesn’t want these kids brought in dead, ’cause then the organs die. He wants to harvest the organs while the person’s still breathing. Dead makes it a little worse; that makes his job work better… you take a live organ over somebody who’s dead or beaten up.

THE MULE: So, this whole thing… there are bad-assess wall-to-wall. I mean, from, I guess, former bad-asses to current bad-asses to future bad-asses… everybody just kinda comes in and pretty much kicks butt and worries about the fall-out later. It’s gotta be fun to work on something that’s almost wall-to-wall action.

DAVID: Well, of course, I represent the part where there isn’t much action. Most of the fighting and action that you see went on when I wasn’t on set. Now, there were some fight scenes shot while I was waiting to shoot my scenes, so I saw a couple of those things. I was only there three or four days and those were the days that they were shooting my scenes, which was a lot more dialogue. I was involved in the dialogue scenes more than in the action.

THE MULE: Okay. So, you didn’t get to actually partake, so to speak, of any of the bad-assery.

DAVID: Not really. No.

LAW AND ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT (David Keith) (publicity still)

LAW AND ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT (David Keith) (publicity still)

THE MULE: Speaking of which, I’ve gotta tell you that one of my all-time favorite episodes of LAW AND ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT is the one that you played the character “Hawk.”

DAVID: Yeah… I was kind of hoping they would make a spin-off of that character.

THE MULE: Yeah. It could have been a recurring character or a spin-off.

DAVID: I did do another LAW AND ORDER after that but, it was CRIMINAL INTENT and a completely different character.

HEARTBREAK HOTEL (David Keith) (publicity still)

HEARTBREAK HOTEL (David Keith) (publicity still)

THE MULE: You have done… so many great things through the years and, I guess, what may be the ultimate chick flick, AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN. Do you have any favorite roles or favorite movies or TV series that you’ve worked on through the years?

DAVID: Yes. My favorite role was Elvis Presley in HEARTBREAK HOTEL because I’m a frustrated rock star and I got to the singing myself, go into a recording studio and perform onstage. My two favorite television shows were THE CLASS, which was a sit-com, 2006 and 7 and that was just really a riot… an absolutely hilarious show that didn’t make it. And then, LONE STAR, which was probably the best writing of any project I’ve ever worked on… in any medium. And, that show… a few episodes on Fox and then it got yanked. It was brilliant. Basically, those were the shows that were pearls before swine, in my opinion. They were too smart for the average television audience.

THE MULE: That seems to happen a lot.

DAVID: Um-hm. It has to achieve a certain level of mediocrity in television if you’re going to be successful.

THE MULE: Maybe it’s because people just can’t commit to something like that. Know what I mean?

DAVID: They want to multitask. They need to be able to take phone calls while the show’s on or go get a sandwich. And, if it’s multifaceted and has any sort of depth or texture or tapestry to it, then it demands your full attention. If you make a television show that’s as good as a movie, you’re not gonna want to get up and go get your popcorn. That was the fate of both of those shows, I think. Too smart, too clever.

AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN (David Keith, Louis Gossett Junior) (publicity still)

AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN (David Keith, Louis Gossett Junior) (publicity still)

THE MULE: Too nuanced for their own good. So, where are you headed after this… after AWAKEN? Do you have anything else lined up?

DAVID: Well, I’ve had some minor medical issues that kept me out of show business for the past few months but, there’s always something around the corner. I’m enjoying being a Mister Mom.

THE MULE: That’s a completely different lifestyle, isn’t it?

DAVID: Right. I also work for a charity called National Association To Protect Children or protect.org. That’s basically what I do with most of my time now.

THE MULE: That’s great. I know you have another interview in a few minutes, so I’ll let you go. Just let me say that I like the movie… like watching the old stuff on TV or DVDs and I really appreciate your time.

DAVID: Alrighty. Thanks.

PART TWO: THE REVIEW

AWAKEN

(ARC ENTERTAINMENT/7HEAVEN PRODUCTIONS/ARCHSTONE PICTURES (89 minutes; Rated R); 2015)

Awaken_2D

Billie Kope (played by Natalie Burn, whose most high-profile appearance to date is probably THE EXPENDABLES 3), on a search for her sister, who disappeared in Mexico, finds herself alone and very confused when she wakes up on the beach of a remote island. As she begins to regain her bearings, she is surprised by the screams of a frightened young woman; nearly walking to a trap, she is saved and befriended by a group of people who have also been kidnapped and transported to the island for some nefarious reason. This group is populated by a number of well-known character actors, including Phillip Tan (as Todd), Edward Furlong (as Berto), Augie Duke (as Chloe) and Robert Davi (as Quintin). As Billie soon learns, her abduction (and those of the others) are linked to a sinister group of black ops soldiers, who are seemingly hunting them merely for the sport of it. What’s really happening is an intricate organ harvesting operation involving – and you had to see this one coming – her sister, Kat (Chrisa Campbell).

AWAKEN (Natalie Burn) (publicity still)

AWAKEN (Natalie Burn) (publicity still)

The plot – a twist on the Richard Connell short story, “The Most Dangerous Game” – is one that’s turned up over and over again in movies, television (including an episode of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, with Rory Calhoun starring as “The Hunter”), literature and comic books but, with enough of a spin to keep it interesting. Aside from the actors already mentioned, the cast is filled with recognizable faces (if not names): Vinnie Jones as the ruthless black op leader, Michael Pare as his second in command, Jason London as the head of the organ harvesting cartel and Michael Copon as the love interest/hero of the piece. Daryl Hannah appears as Mao, a “customer” searching for a liver donor with the proper chi for her daughter; her performance is over-the-top and cartoonish, the one weak link in an otherwise solid cast. Conversely, David Keith, as Walsh, the disgraced doctor hired to perform the surgeries, gives a nuanced, believeable performance as he struggles with what his life has become and, ultimately, with saving as many lives as he can to atone for his past (and current) indiscretion. Miss Burn (who is also writer, producer, casting director, as well as doing her own stunts) is definitely easy on the eyes, kinda like a cross between Lucy Lawless and Juliette Lewis, only… softer.

AWAKEN (Daryl Hannah) (publicity still)

AWAKEN (Daryl Hannah) (publicity still)

The action sequences tend to work better than the rest of the story, especially the dialogue which occasionally borders on the soap-ish (as in operas). The one exception is the final shoot-out, which like Miss Hannah’s acting, comes across rather like cartoon violence (but, honestly… I do likes me some mindless cartoon violence). Having said that, AWAKEN does manage to engage and hold your attention; the actors are certainly nice to look at (with the possible exceptions of Jones and Daz Crawford as Stitch). The movie works equally well as an action/adventure dude’s night-in, as a chick flick or even as a date night feature. Some of the concepts may be to advanced for kids younger than twelve and the R rating is due to the violence. My recommendation? Suspend all semblance of believability and strap yourself in for a fun ride. AWAKEN is available in digital, DVD and Video-On-Demand.


DEBUG

(KETCHUP ENTERTAINMENT/COPPERHEART ENTERTAINMENT (86 minutes; Unrated); 2015)

Debug 2D

When actor David Hewlett decided to write a Sci-Fi movie, I’m sure the concept looked pretty good on paper and – you know what? – even with a couple of black holes in the plot and unspoken back stories (due, no doubt, to time and budgetary constraints), the finished product looks pretty good, too. Hewlett’s script is equal parts 2001: A SPACE ODDYSEY, TRON, WAR GAMES and just about every slasher movie ever made; toss in some nifty KILL BILL style fight scenes and a cast of beautiful – if limited – actors and you have a rollicking good time of a space opera with DEBUG.

DEBUG (Tenika Davis, Jason Mamoa) (publicity still)

DEBUG (Tenika Davis, Jason Mamoa) (publicity still)

The concept is relatively simple: Convicts on a work release derelict spaceship clean-up detail (got that?) are dispatched for one final debugging assignment before returning to lock-up; the debugging is of the computer kind, as long dormant vessels with still-functioning systems tend to become infected with various viruses and need to be cleaned before a reboot and a return to active service. We get a glimpse of just how corrupt the system is in a prologue that sees the sole survivor on-board, one of 1,200 prisoners (a terror-fraught cameo by Tenika Davis), stalked by a physical manifestation of the infected security program (malevolently played by future Aquaman, Jason Momoa). Suffice to say, bad things happen. The cleaners are under the supervision of a no nonsense (though somehow good-natured) guard named Capra (Adrian Holmes), who gets hijacked by the virus, doing its gruesome bidding. Capra’s eventual demise is kind of a side-splitter.

DEBUG (Adrian Holmes) (publicity still)

DEBUG (Adrian Holmes) (publicity still)

Of course, each member of the convict crew has their own little secret: Lara (Sidney Leeder) and team leader Mel (Kerr Hewitt) are – if not romantically – sexually involved; Diondra (Jaydn Wong) is looking for a quick score, but ends up with a splitting headache for her troubles; Samson’s exit (and, by extension, CARRIE’s Kyle Mac) was so quick, I’m not too sure I can even tell you what his secret was or what happened to him; tough-as-nails scarey chick Kaida (who really has a heart of gold, much like – I’m sure – the actress who portrays her, Jeananne Goossen) is all business, as she hacks into the rogue system for a bit of virtual butt kicking; James (played by Adam Butcher, Momoa’s co-star in WOLVES) is a former cadet whose dreams were smashed after pleading guilty to a cyber-crime committed by his younger brother. Each, seemingly working against the others, are given their own little vignette, as they are assigned different sections of the ship to work on; most interact with various “creature comfort” programs, all under the control of the evil “I Am” (Momoa), leading to varying degrees of pain and suffering. The final confrontation with the I Am and the ultimate sacrifice by one team member is right up there with other such selfless gestures for which the genre is so well known (Spock’s final moments in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN remain untouchable in that area).

DEBUG (Jeananne Goossen) (publicity still)

DEBUG (Jeananne Goossen) (publicity still)

There are a plethora of direct-to-DVD Science-Fiction movies released every week, most of which are totally forgettable and many of those are utterly regrettable; DEBUG rises above the dross with an imaginative script and cold, antiseptic sets that add to the creepy machines-in-control aspect; the small blasts of color (the convicts’ orange jumpsuits and, yeah… a whole lot of blood) tend to be rather jarring against the bright lights and stark white of the spaceship. This is a movie that would have benefited from another 20 to 30 minutes. That’s something that I very rarely say about any movie but, here, the extra time would have definitely made an already strong feature into a great one, allowing the characters to be fleshed out more fully (we don’t really know why most of the crew are in prison or what motivates their actions on this mission), as well as offering a more in-depth examination of just how the ship’s computers became so corrupt.

DEBUG is unrated but, due to some strong language and some fairly brutal scenes of violence and death (a couple of which are quite imaginative), this one probably shouldn’t be viewed by anyone younger than, say, twelve. It’s not really a great date flick or family movie night fare… in fact, it may not be anything that the female of the species will find appealing at all. Having said that, it’ll play really well for a bunch of guys just hanging out in a man cave somewhere.


THE SQUEEZE

(ARC ENTERTAINMENT/JAM FILMS (95 minutes; Rated PG-13); 2015)

The Squeeze

Can I tell you guys something? I don’t like golf. Never have and, considering my curmudgeon-like obstinacy and advanced years, probably never will. Everything about the sport (at least ’til Tiger came along… and, maybe, John Daly before him) is too quiet, too polite! I’ve only ever played the game (rather accurately dubbed by my father, “Cow Pasture Pool”) once. I shot a 64… I quit after the first hole. Here’s another little secret: I don’t like golf movies; except, of course, CADDYSHACK (and, yeah… I’ll even throw CADDYSHACK II in there, as well). Until now. THE SQUEEZE is more of a caper movie or a gangster movie but, with golf as the central element behind all of the intrigue and death threats, I think we can fairly safely call it a “golf movie.”

THE SQUEEZE (Jeremy Sumpter) (production stills)

THE SQUEEZE (Jeremy Sumpter) (publicity stills)

Most “based on actual events” stories are only marginally based on those events; THE SQUEEZE is no exception. Jeremy Sumpter (who was apparently in a television show called FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS… I’m sure the little girls know the one I’m talking about) plays golf savant Augie Baccas, a character loosely based on a guy named Keith Flatt. Baccas – like Flatt – is the Meadowlark Lemon of his small town’s golf club, winning a one day tournament by a course record fifteen shots. The flick begins, as most do, with Augie indulging in a game of cross country extreme golf with his friends, including his girlfriend, Natalie (played by Jillian Murray, whose resume includes the latest installment of the CABIN FEVER horror franchise). With Augie bemoaning his financial state and his inability to make a better life for his mother and little sister (all three are under the thumb of the abusive Baccas patriarch), golf and Natalie are his only escapes; he dreams of joining the PGA Tour and qualifying for the US Open.

THE SQUEEZE (Jillian Murray, Christopher McDonald, Jeremy Sumpter) (publicity stll)

THE SQUEEZE (Jillian Murray, Christopher McDonald, Jeremy Sumpter) (publicity stll)

After a particularly brutal confrontation with his father, Augie is offered a way to make enough money to remove his family from his drunken lout of a father. That offer comes from a gambler named Riverboat (a sleazy, almost endearing character portrayed by Christopher McDonald) who, driving cross country to Las Vegas for a poker tournament, after hearing a report of Augie’s phenomenal feat on the local radio station, changes course to locate the young man to convince him to come to Vegas and use his talents in high-stakes matches against unsuspecting golfers. Along for the ride is Riverboat’s high-maintenance wife, Jessie (Katherine LaNasa), whose provocative dress and coyly flirtatious demeanor are so distracting to opponents that she is as important to Riverboat’s game plan as are his gambling skills. Naturally, Natalie is concerned and angered that Augie would compromise his reputation and integrity for a quick buck, earned in a rather dubious fashion under the tutelage of an obvious shyster. She has Augie leaning toward turning down the offer until Riverboat waves a stack of hundred dollar bills under his nose. The decision made, Augie asks Natalie to look after his sister and mother and, though she refuses to speak to him, she does agree to keep an eye on his family.

THE SQUEEZE (Jeremy Sumpter, Jillian Murray, Christopher McDonald) (publicity still)

THE SQUEEZE (Jeremy Sumpter, Jillian Murray, Christopher McDonald) (publicity still)

Working their way to Las Vegas, Augie, Riverboat and Jessie play the best of the best at every course along the way, amassing a nice little nest egg for the ultimate Vegas fleecing: Riverboat plans to engage notorious card sharp and mid-level gangster Jimmy Diamonds (Micahel Nouri) in a poker game. After winning big, Riverboat suggests a golf match between Augie and Diamonds, giving the latter a chance to win his money back. Diamonds knows a ringer when he sees one and counters with a ringer of his own, reigning NCAA champion Aaron Bolt (Jason Dohring, who was in some movie about some television series that I never watched), who has made his own deal with a much more violent devil. Diamonds sets Augie up and, breaking in to his hotel room, tells Augie that if he does not lose the next day’s million dollar round to Bolt, he will end up in the deep end of a swimming pool with lead weights tied to his ankles. When Augie tries to get out of his deal with Riverboat, the gambler tells him in no uncertain terms that if he does not WIN the million dollar challenge, HE will kill him. With Augie caught between a rock and very hard place, the final third of the movie features enough twists and turns and all-out action (as well as some questions best left unanswered) to make THE SQUEEZE one cool thrill ride of a caper flick.

THE SQUEEZE (Christopher McDonald; Katherine LaNasa) (publicity stills)

THE SQUEEZE (Christopher McDonald; Katherine LaNasa) (publicity stills)

The attention to detail in the golf sequences is amazing. Sumpter (and, I understand, Dohring, as well) can really play and most of their golf shots – even the trick shots – are real and were generally first takes. Sumpter, in fact, could probably qualify for a spot on the Tour. Of course, the main reason that everything looks so legitimate is because writer/producer/director Terry Jastrow was a junior champion himself and actually caddied for Arnold Palmer; he also became a producer at ABC Sports at the age of 22, winning seven Emmy Awards for his groundbreaking golf coverage. The fact that he’s married to actress Anne Archer is merely a bonus as regards THE SQUEEZE. The family, relationship, gambling and action sequences range from stilted to over-the-top, though, honestly, a couple of the characters call for an over-the-top performance (particularly Jessie and, to a lesser extent, Riverboat); Sumpter’s portrayal of Augie is the most grounded and believable but, overall, the cast does a good job.

THE SQUEEZE (Michael Nouri) (publicity still)

THE SQUEEZE (Michael Nouri) (publicity still)

I’ve seen THE SQUEEZE reviewed as a “Faith-based” production and, I suppose, it does have certain elements that could cause it to be considered a morality play of sorts. However, there are also some dirty, gritty elements (coarse language, some drug use and sexual situations, not to mention the violence) that would probably exclude it from most “Family” movie lists. Having said that, parents shouldn’t necessarily shy away from making it a family movie night option; I wouldn’t be too concerned about allowing a twelve year old to watch it. The film would also make a great date night offering for Mom and Dad. If the actual game of golf was more like a cross between this flick and CADDYSHACK, I might actually find myself a bit more interested in it.


WOLFCOP

(Digital and DVD; IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT/CINE COUP MEDIA/VORTEX WORDS AND PICTURES (79 minutes; Unrated); 2015)

WOLFCOP_DVD_LOC

I ain’t gonna lie… When I first heard about the release of WOLFCOP, I knew the thing was gonna be stupid, possibly even too stupid for me. But, then, I saw the trailer and, as soon as the werewolf cop was identified as Deputy Lou Garou (for those among you who are mythologically deprived regarding such beasts, Google the term “loup garou”), I realized that I was right and knew that I had to watch it. WOLFCOP is gloriously idiotic and I love it!

WOLFCOP (Amy Matysio; Sarah Lind) (publicity stills)

WOLFCOP (Amy Matysio; Sarah Lind) (publicity stills)

Deputy Garou (the magnificently deadpan Leo Fafard), perpetually inebriated and hungover, seemingly doubles as Woodhaven’s town drunk; to say that Lou is a loutish loser, a laughing stock and a poor excuse for an officer of the law would be an understatement. Conversely, Lou’s law-enforcement counterpart, Tina (the deceptively hot Amy Matysio), is all business (and recipient of the department’s “Employee of the Month” award for something like two years running). On this fine day, Garou shows up more than two hours late for his shift and in a barely upright position just as Tina takes a call from Lou’s one and only friend, Willie (a real lugnut, played to the hyper-kinetic hilt by Jonathan Cherry); Willie is certain that he has solved the mysterious disappearances of the pet population of Woodhaven (a malady that has befuddled the locals for quite some time): Satan worshiping teenagers, all hopped up on booze and drugs. When Garou isn’t on duty… heck, even when he is on duty, he frequents the local watering hole, the Tooth and Nail, owned by the voluptuous Jessica (voluptuously portrayed by Sarah Lind). Lou investigates Willie’s disturbance call from a bar stool at Jessica’s place, eventually returning to the Sheriff’s office to sober up before the end of his shift. As the deputy’s shift ends, the Sheriff (a no-nonsense character played by Aiden Devine and who is called “Chief” here – must be a Canadian thing… the deputies are called “officers”) takes another disturbance call; Tina, whose shift is just beginning, volunteers to check it out, but the Chief, tiring of Lou’s antics, is intent on making the bleary-eyed slob investigate. Lou awakens the next morning, after what seems to be a particularly wicked nightmare sees him captured and tortured by a Satanic cult. It was, he soon discovers, no dream, as the pain he is experiencing and the blood on his clothes soon reveal a pentagram carved into his chest. He soon realizes that there is definitely something weird going on… as he shaves, his beard regrows almost immediately; he has super-sensitive hearing and he can smell things in the air that he never could before.

WOLFCOP (Leo Fafard) (publicity still)

WOLFCOP (Leo Fafard) (publicity still)

The entire Sheriff’s Department is called in to investigate the gruesome death of the opponent of Woodhaven’s mayor in the upcoming election. The scene elicits shards of memories of the previous night in Garou’s fevered mind; everything seems so familiar to him. The brutal attack is quickly chalked up to another killing by the “Woodhaven Beast,” prompting the mayor and the city fathers to cancel the “Woodhaven Beast Drink and Shoot,” an annual soiree of booze and bullets. With all of this swirling around in his head, Deputy Lou Garou does something he has never done before: He takes notes and digs into the archives of the city’s newspaper and police files, searching for clues to solve this mysterious death (and, maybe, find some answers about his father’s death decades earlier) – all, of course, with drink in hand. Still unsure of what has happened to him, Lou takes Jessica up on an after-hour rendezvous at the Tooth and Nail that, as these things often do, goes terribly wrong… beginning with one of the most gruesome man-into-wolf turning scenes I’ve ever seen.

WOLFCOP (Jonathan Cherry; Leo Fafard) (publicity stills)

WOLFCOP (Jonathan Cherry; Leo Fafard) (publicity stills)

And then, things start to get weird. Apparently, the cult isn’t so much of the Satanic variety as they’re really a bunch of two-hundred-plus years old shape-shifters who’ve been running the city of Woodhaven and thinning the herd to keep their secret safe. Every once in awhile (say… every 32 years, coinciding with a solar eclipse, which, by the way, is fast approaching), these shape-shifting seniors must enact a bizarre ritual that involves sacrificing a werewolf, freeze-drying the mutt-man’s blood and snorting it. Huh! And here I am, thinking that moisturizer is the ultimate answer. Willie, being in close proximity to the murder and subsequent attack and turning of Lou, confronts the deputy, offering proof of his affliction and vowing to help him through the full moon; Willie locks Lou in a jail cell, sets up a camera to film his change and, to calm him down after he wolfs out, plies him with booze and doughnuts (from the aptly named convenience store, Liquor Donuts), along with a very competitive game of Go Fish. Alone in the department headquarters, Werewolf Lou takes a 911 “robbery in progress” call; having dispatched the criminals and with Willie along for the ride, Lou, exhibiting his heightened strength, tears the driver’s side door off of his car. So, what’s a diligent member of the constabulary to do? Why, modify the cruiser into a weird Green Hornet kinda avenging angel type of thing, of course.

WOLFCOP (Leo Fafard) (publicity still)

WOLFCOP (Leo Fafard) (publicity still)

While cruising the back roads in the modified patrol car, Garou literally follows his nose to the hide-out (and meth lab) of the local gang. Mayhem ensues in one of the wildest fight sequences ever shot in a movie about a werewolf cop. After a bit of random dismemberment (and an epic explosion… I did tell you about the meth lab, right?), Lou and Willie return to headquarters, where they’re met by little red riding hooded Jessica. After a disturbingly bizarre sexual interlude (complete with cheesy faux disco ballad), Jessica’s true nature is revealed, as she changes into the mayor (Corinne Conley) before the knock-out drug she slipped Lou takes effect. Things begin to happen – and changes take place – rather quickly from that point. Lou wakes up chained to the tree of the Reckoning, with less than an hour before the eclipse. He looks at the mayor, disgust in his eyes and in his voice: “I can’t believe I slept with a 200 year old woman!” “Who said I’m a woman?” The cavalry arrives in the form of Tina, who watched surveillance video of the cell area where Lou had sequestered himself the night before. Shots are fired, people are wounded and killed; Lou wolfs out as the eclipse begins, people (lizard-like changelings, actually) are severely damaged. Of course, the good guys (good dog?) win and, as they walk off into the sunset (the eclipse only lasts about eight minutes), Lou says, “I can use a drink.” Tina, wounded in the exchange, replies, “I could use a hospital.” “Okay. Two stops.” Stick around for an after credits scene that ties in a seemingly random sequence from very early in the proceedings. It’s funny and brings everything back around to the front… so to speak.

WOLFCOP (Leo Fafard, Amy Matysio) (publicity still)

WOLFCOP (Leo Fafard, Amy Matysio) (publicity still)

So, does WOLFCOP deserve your hard-earned shekels? Oh, yeah! Sure, the plots dumb but, it never strays and, in the end, delivers a pretty good story. The fact that the movie never takes itself too seriously is a definite plus. There are some nice twists and turns and surprises and, while wolf Lou isn’t as scary as others we’ve seen on film, the make-up and special effects (especially the turning sequences) are way-above average for a small-budget production. The whole thing is well-produced, the music is effective and the fight sequences aren’t horrible… those are things that you can’t always say about a big-budget monster. As you can tell from the stuff I told you about some of the scenes, this movie isn’t intended for kids younger than, say, fifteen; anyone else into the werewolf, horror, crime or comedy genres should get a real kick out of it. And, be warned… WOLFCOP II is on the way! Why not? They’ve already got a cool theme song!


PLASTIC

(DVD and Digital; ARC ENTERTAINMENT/GATEWAY FILMS (101 minutes/Rated R); 2014)

PLASTIC

To be quite honest, I was going to give this one a pass; on first blush, it just didn’t seem to be my particular cup of tea (either Raspberry or Cherry Vanilla… or, maybe, a simple English Breakfast Tea). To say the least, I was dead wrong. PLASTIC is a thrilling roller coaster ride of deceit, theft, violence, sex, drugs and a thumping electronic soundtrack. The film is based on (or inspired by) a true story but, then, aren’t they all?

The story revolves around four university con artists working a brilliant and seemingly flawless credit card scam. Ringleader Sam (played by Ed Speleers, who looks genetically produced from equal parts Eric Stoltz, Topher Grace and Rick Astley; he apparently, occupies an abbey located downtown) has gone to great lengths to insure the loyalty of his three co-conspirators (he hacked into their e-mails and used the information he found to either blackmail them or play on their sympathies). Fordy (Will Poulter), ostensibly, the group’s second in command, is the cool-headed realist, biding his time before he makes a move on Sam; Rafa (Sebastian De Souza) is a big dreamer stuck in a dead-end job; Yatesey (Alfie Allen, who stars in that one show about thrones) is the loose cannon, who would like nothing better than to excise Sam from his life (and, possibly, this earth). Yatesey and Rafa decide to freelance, attacking a man and stealing a briefcase in his possession. The owner of the briefcase, a gangster named Marcel (a delightfully evil Thomas Kretschmann), has gone to great extremes to protect his property, including placing tracking devices and cameras in it, which, of course, leads him (and two very large assistants) right to the boys’ lair (or dorm room, as the case may be). Marcel gives them until the end of the day to acquire a long list (about £60,000 worth) of items with their stolen card information, or else. They manage to fill Marcel’s wish list and discover that the “or else” is a shallow grave in the middle of nowhere. The lads make a deal with Marcel to obtain two million bucks in two weeks in exchange for their lives.

PLASTIC (Sebastian De Souza, Alfie Allen, Emma Rigby, Ed Speleers, Will Poulter) (publicity still)

PLASTIC (Sebastian De Souza, Alfie Allen, Emma Rigby, Ed Speleers, Will Poulter) (publicity still)

That deal sends them looking for help. The help is a girl both Sam and Yatesey had previously met at a bar. Sam remembered that Frankie (Emma Rigby, who is a dead ringer for Jill Ireland… plus, the Red Queen looks really good in a bikini) works for a credit card company as a data processor in overseas accounts. Sam’s plan is to be empathetic to lure Frankie into the scheme; her father is very ill and the family is drowning in medical bills. Once the girl is on board, she tells the guys that the best plan would be to go to America because, according to her inside information, she knows of several high-budget card holders that spend a lot of time and plenty of cash in Miami. So, using other people’s money (as they have since the beginning of the story), they head for the sunny beaches of Florida. Infighting, mistrust, jealousy and greed are at work, eroding the plan virtually from the time they land in Miami; The two low men on the totem pole, Yatesey and Rafa, plot against Sam, looking to get their fair share; initially, the plot takes the form of Yatesey using one of the fake cards at a strip club after Sam specifically tells the team to be careful how they are used. Of course, when the card is refused for “suspicious use,” the junior partners (including Fordy) run afoul of several very large bouncers.

PLASTIC (Emma Rigby) (publicity still)

PLASTIC (Emma Rigby) (publicity still)

From that point, things take a decidedly dark turn. As more and more people and ancillary businesses are drawn into the conspiracy, an international noose begins to tighten around the throats of the five thieves as police and Marcel seek justice in their own ways. From the scene in the strip club, the crosses and double-crosses begin to stack up, eventually pitting too rival criminal cartels against each other, with Sam’s team squarely caught in the middle. Hilarity, as they say, ensues. To say more would be undermining the purpose of this review, which is to get you to watch (purchase) this movie. Let’s say that the climax of PLASTIC is a thrill-a-minute, action-packed and wholly implausible ending… but, then, it based on a true story.

PLASTIC (Graham McTavish and Malese Jow) (publicity still)

PLASTIC (Graham McTavish and Malese Jow) (publicity still)

The R rating is for the violence, strong language, some nudity and drug use. Though it does drag in some parts, the payoff is definitely worth the price of admission. Bonus points are awarded, by the way, for the casting of Malese Jow (she plays Beth, the secretary and arm candy of one of the sleazier business-types that gets sucked into the scam). The role is small, but Malese has a way of commanding every scene she’s in. The DVD has a “Making of… ” special feature which is quite entertaining in its own right. The producers briefly interview a man named Saqib Mumtaz who, in 1997, was a member of the fraudulant group the film is based on; I would guess that, from the interview, the character of Rafa was based on Mister Mumtaz. Overall, a great movie, though you may wanna keep it away from the kiddies.


AUTUMN BLOOD

(DVD and Digital; ARC ENTERTAINMENT/DREAMRUNNER PICTURES/MOUNTAIN FILMS (99 minutes/Rated R); 2014)

Autumn Blood 2D flat

AUTUMN BLOOD is a very quiet, almost pastoral movie, filled with moments of unbelievable brutality, violence and pain. Beautifully filmed in the mountains around Tirol, Austria, the scenery is breathtaking and there is a sense that we may be watching a story set in the untamed wild west of the United States; the only things visible to place the movie in modern times are the vehicles, farm machinery and weaponry. The opening sequence of the film sets the stage as, six years earlier, a farming family’s lives are shattered when the father is killed by the mayor of the nearby village. The inference from what happens prior is that the mayor either raped the mother or they were having an affair. At any rate, the father is dead, leaving the mother to care for her two young children.

AUTUMN BLOOD (Sophie Lowe, Maximilian Harnisch) (publicity still)

AUTUMN BLOOD (Sophie Lowe, Maximilian Harnisch) (publicity still)

The movie shifts to the mother and her now sixteen year old daughter (played with an innocence that seems almost too real to be acting, by Sophie Lowe, an ethereal, waifish beauty who may be best known for her role as Alice in the television series, ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND) and ten year old son (Maximilian Harnisch), who hasn’t spoken a word since witnessing his father’s death. There’s a gentleness and a sense of idyllic contentment, or maybe it’s resignation to their lots in life… whatever it is, the mother does her best to give the children a good life.

AUTUMN BLOOD (Gustaf Skarsgard, Sophie Lowe) (publicity still)

AUTUMN BLOOD (Gustaf Skarsgard, Sophie Lowe) (publicity still)

The girl’s innocence is probably best displayed as she swims/bathes in a secluded pond; she lays, drying on the rocks, completely at one with her surroundings. As she lay there one morning, dreaming, a hunter (the mayor’s son, played by Samuel Vauramo) breaks her reverie. Totally unaffected and unashamed, she doesn’t try to cover herself. It isn’t until the man grabs her and bends in to kiss her that she begins to understand his intentions and tries to fight him off. Beaten and bloody, the girl eventually makes her way home. She is met by her brother who helps her into their house, where more heartache awaits. As the boy was doing chores around the farm and while the girl was being brutalized, their mother had finally succumbed to the loneliness (or guilt, as there are several clues that she was, in fact, somehow involved with the mayor), ending her own life (at least, that’s how I read the scene). As the girl cleanses her wounds and tries to wash away the rape, she makes the decision to quietly bury their mother and keep her death a secret so that she and her brother wouldn’t be taken from their home and, possibly, separated.

AUTUMN BLOOD (Peter Stormare, Sophie Lowe) (publicity still)

AUTUMN BLOOD (Peter Stormare, Sophie Lowe) (publicity still)

On a trip into town, the girl, still showing signs of the beating she took, is waited on by a caring banker who grows suspicious and calls a social worker to check on the family situation. The girl also encounters the mayor (a steely-eyed Peter Stormare) in the local church, as well as being intimidated by the town butcher (played with a sense of monstrous depravity by Gustaf Skarsgard), the hunter and another friend. Later that night, the three men pay the children a visit, threatening to kill the boy and, once again, forcing themselves upon the girl. The mayor suspects his son and the others are, at the very least, up to no good and, possibly, in far more trouble than he has the power to get them out of.

AUTUMN BLOOD (Samuel Vauramo, Peter Stormare) (publicity still)

AUTUMN BLOOD (Samuel Vauramo, Peter Stormare) (publicity still)

Now knowing of the mayor’s suspicions, the three decide to kill the only witnesses to their crimes. As the girl and her brother try to allude their would-be executioners, the film takes on a disturbing DELIVERENCE quality. Amidst the scenic backdrop of the Austrian countryside, the three stalk the siblings for the final third of the movie. As is always the case in such chase scenes, the villains are dispatched, one in a fairly standard fashion, the other two in less obvious ways. The chase sequence, which encompasses two days, is chilling, thrilling and nicely staged. I do, however, question the need for the girl to doff her clothing once she finds a suitable hiding place for the night; it just seems incongruous and more than a bit exploitive. If you’re paying close attention all the way through AUTUMN BLOOD, the final scene offers a little hint as to the relationship between the mother and the mayor and… I ain’t sayin’ no more. You’re going to have to connect the dots yourself.

AUTUMN BLOOD (Tim Morten Uhlenbrock, Gustaf Skarsgard, Samuel Vauramo) (publicity still)

AUTUMN BLOOD (Tim Morten Uhlenbrock, Gustaf Skarsgard, Samuel Vauramo) (publicity still)

As mentioned, the movie has some nudity, violence and two brutal rape scenes, so it has an R rating, though it seems that most teens (say, 12 and over) wouldn’t be too shocked or permanently damaged if they watched it, depending on their sensitivity to such things. I originally felt that the rapes would be dealbreakers for a majority of viewers but, the overall quality of the story eventually won me over. By the way, about those rape and nude scenes… Sophie Lowe was 21 years old when the film began shooting so, everything was above board and legal.


AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY

(NASSER ENTERTAINMENT (90 minutes/Unrated); 2014)

Amber Alert 2D_Flat

This movie (which, apparently, was originally released in January 2009 as DESPERATE HOURS: AN AMBER ALERT) is one-half police procedural, one-half infomercial for the Amber Alert System and… one-half AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL cautionary tale, one-half Lifetime movie melodrama. So, that’s… what? Five-eighths of what this movie’s about. That means that the other two-sevenths of the flick are all about Tom Berenger, who – of course – starred in the greatest movie ever made (make that “The Greatest Movie Ever Made”), RUSTLERS’ RHAPSODY (who you gonna believe… those stuffed shirts at the AFI or yours truly?).

AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY (Tom Berenger) (publicity still)

AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY (Tom Berenger) (publicity still)

Alright… seriously, AMBER ALERT… is co-written and co-produced by reserve police officer Joseph Nasser, so he knows what he’s talking about. Of course, without everything else (teen angst and teen relationships that would embarrass Stephenie Meyer; good looking but woefully misunderstood kids, creepy looking but woefully misunderstood three-time-loser bad guy, highly driven but woefully misunderstood chief of police; horribly dysfunctional family dynamics), this movie would be a very dry educational film for police academy cadets. I’m not gonna kid you; there’s plenty wrong with this movie (mostly in the editing and an overtly melodramatic script) but… I found myself engrossed in the story. I mean… I knew how the thing was gonna play out, I just wasn’t sure how we were gonna get there. I think the fact that someone with police training had a hand in writing and producing the movie gave it a more realistic feel – at least outside of the histrionics heaped upon us by a couple of truly over-the-top performances and one “better check her pulse… she may be dead” performance. So, here’s the who, what and why about the good, the bad and the ugly of AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY:

AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY (Britt McKillip and Genevieve Buechner) (publicity still)

AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY (Britt McKillip and Genevieve Buechner) (publicity still)

Berenger stars as Edward Larsan, the newly paroled loser who, determined to take back what was his (wife, daughter, house, beer), begins his new life by robbing some campers, stealing a car and holding up a convenience store (his haul is two bottles of booze, a carton of smokes, a handful of money, a bouquet of flowers and a rag doll belonging to the clerk’s daughter). He shows up at his ex-wife’s (Dana McLoughlin) door with the flowers and the doll for his daughter… it just happens to be her birthday… her 18th birthday. Rebuked by his ex, Larsan takes to the road again to clear his head. A blow-out seems to be the last straw but, thankfully, he’s still got the booze. Because that fixes everything, right? While drowning his sorrows at a local lovers’ lane kinda teen hangout sorta place, Larsan watches as a couple of girls pull up, hoping to run into a couple of cute guys. These girls have just what ol’ Larsan needs… and, we all know what that is, right? Yup, you got it: A ride. He snatches the driver (Jessica Parker Kennedy) out of the front seat, telling the other girl, Debra (Genevieve Buechner), to get to the back of the vehicle… or else. A lot of whimpering ensues, as the first girl’s mouth and eyes are duct-taped shut and she’s led away, to be duct-taped (man, that stuff sure is handy, huh?) to a fence. Before Larsan can do the same to Debra, another vehicle arrives on the scene: A truck containing Pete and Katie (Tyler Johnston and Britt McKillip). Katie is upset that her mother won’t allow her to go to Italy with her friends over spring break; Pete is pretending to be sympathetic… hey, he is a 17 year old boy, after all. Larsan introduces Pete to his weapon, takes the kid’s money and his girl (after duct-taping him to the steering wheel of his truck and threatening to come back, find him and kill him if the cops are called). But, what 17 year old ever listens to their elders? Certainly not Pete, who somehow manages to dial 911.

AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY (Torri Higginson and Alexander Mendeluk) (publicity still)

AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY (Torri Higginson and Alexander Mendeluk) (publicity still)

An incredulous dispatcher (BJ Harrison) takes the call, prudently deciding that “better safe than sorry” should be the ruling axiom in this instance and dispatches (thus, her title) a squad car. Enter: Police Chief Geiger (played by Torri Higginson, who’s performance is so laconically laid back, it makes Cesare, the somnambulist from THE CABINET OF DOCTOR CALIGARI look like an excited chihuahua by comparison), who agrees with dispatcher Carla that it’s more than likely a prank. Nonetheless, she asks to be kept informed, as any good chief of police would. The cops are shocked… shocked, I tell you… when they find the 911 caller duct-taped to his vehicle. They eventually find the other driver and her duct tape. At this point, Edward Larsan is in possession of a (second) stolen vehicle, this one with the added feature of two teenage girls – one of them only 17 years old – duct-taped and cowering in the back floorboard. Back at the make-out rendezvous, Chief Geiger pulls out all of the stops: Since one of the girls is still under-age, she calls her superiors to get the okay for an Amber Alert. As she’s jumping through some rather obnoxious hoops, Larsan is just discovering the error in judgment of kidnapping two teenage girls. And, I’m not talking about their incessant giggling and air-raid-siren-level squealing whenever their favorite song comes on the radio; nope, upon hearing that an Amber Alert has been issued after the carjacking and kidnapping, he realizes that he may have, indeed, managed to cook his own goose. He curses and beats the steering wheel as one girl whimpers in the back and the other plans his demise and their escape. Needless to say, except for some truly bad acting and unintentionally humorous dialogue, hilarity does not ensue. That’s where I stop telling you what comes next because I don’t wanna blow the ending for you. Except this: In a totally bizarre plot twist/secondary storyline, Chief Geiger has an estranged son (Alexander Mendeluk) who is – I am not making this up – dating Debra but, as far as I can tell, the little light bulb of recognition never goes off over anybody’s head that these people have a connection. So… there ya go: AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY ain’t great but, it ain’t totally without some merits; view at your own risk.


BEYOND THE TROPHY

(ARC ENTERTAINMENT/NEW FILMS INTERNATIONAL (99 minutes/Rated R); 2014)

BEYOND THE TROPHY

BEYOND THE TROPHY is certainly an enjoyable roller coaster ride of a flick, kinda like GOODFELLAS or THE GODFATHER filtered through that bizarre Woody Allen mockumentary, TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN and THE DUKES OF HAZZARD (the TV show, not that stupid movie). Okay… I know that may make the movie sound like an inept free-for-all, with good-intentioned “bad guys” and imbecilic and boorishly corrupt police and, yeah, there is a bit of that going on but, I think it’s more of the general vibe of the film than an actual plot description (although, at one point, one of the characters does say, “I’m told that you have an offer that I cannot refuse”). It is, I suppose, a cautionary tale about power and how far a man will go to obtain that elusive “trophy.”

BEYOND THE TROPHY (Michael Madsen) (publicity still)

BEYOND THE TROPHY (Michael Madsen) (publicity still)

The story begins at the end, with the narrator (Cole Lambert, greasily played by Michael Madsen, the kingpin of the Los Angeles mob) explaining that the little scenario was actually set in motion seven months earlier. Flash back those seven months and, after he introduces himself and his chief rivalas, Lambert intones, “Hey, welcome to Los Angeles, gangster capitol of the Western world. And, I can prove it. Alright, so this is what happened, best as I remember it. This is based on actual events, so… the names and identities have all been changed… to protect the guilty, to protect the innocent or, to protect me.” And so begins the chronicle of a seven month downward spiral of a good cop slowly going bad.

BEYOND THE TROPHY (Stephen Cloud) (publicity still)

BEYOND THE TROPHY (Stephen Cloud) (publicity still)

What follows is a confounding, semi-circular tale of lies, deceit, shady business dealings, gangsters (Lambert’s LA faction and a Las Vegas faction run by Gino, played by Robert Miano), mobsters (of the Russian and Cuban varieties), crooked cops, young idealistic cops, undercover cops, strippers, underage strippers, undercover strippers, car chases, shoot outs and – most confusing of all – cops double-crossing other cops who are busy double-crossing the bad guys who are double-crossing the cops so that they can double-cross the other bad guys who are double-crossing… I think you get the idea. You gotta have uninterrupted time (a little over 90 minutes) to watch BEYOND THE TROPHY or you will never be able to keep all of the underhanded dealings straight in your head. Situations and partners change so quickly that even the slightest distraction will have you lost in the nether-regions of some obscure sub-plot. But, then, that’s half the fun of watching. Most of the characters are so sleazy, you may spend some gray matter thinking up a cool demise for each.

BEYOND THE TROPHY (Stephen Cloud and Michael Masini) (publicity still)

BEYOND THE TROPHY (Stephen Cloud and Michael Masini) (publicity still)

As undercover police officers Danny (Michael Masini) and Terry (Stephen Cloud) are outed to their crime “bosses,” Gino and Cole are forced to team up, taking down the Russian mob czar and several of their own double-dealing underlings in an attempt to get at the cops. In the middle of all of this is Gino’s one true love, Angela (Ali Costello), who he presents to Danny in an effort to get the semi-crooked cop to tip his hand. Of course, as is often the case, Angela and Danny fall for each other, effectively adding another double-cross to the double-cross attempted by Gino. The Russian mob, having been infiltrated by Terry (he’s married to the bosses niece) and Officer Chastity Bachman (Brooke Newton), the daughter of Detective Sergeant Bachman (Eric Roberts), who may or may not be on the take for one or more of the criminal elements involved. By the end of the movie, there is one man left standing, with a surprise ending that – given the backstabbing throughout – no one will see coming (at least, I didn’t).

BEYOND THE TROPHY (Eric Roberts) (publicity still)

BEYOND THE TROPHY (Eric Roberts) (publicity still)

Bottom line for BEYOND THE TROPHY: I wasn’t sure after the first 10 minutes or so if I would even make it through the whole thing. However, I stuck with it and glad I did. The story is an ingenious take on the gangster genre and is thoroughly entertaining. Just don’t get distracted while you’re watching!


POSEIDON REX

(DVD and Digital; ANDERSON DIGITAL/ITN DISTRIBUTION/TITAN GLOBAL ENTERTAINMENT (79 minutes/Unrated); 2014)

Poseidon Rex Key Art

Okay… let’s get this out of the way right now: POSEIDON REX is no SHARKNADO or SHARKTOPUS. Personally, I found those “SyFy Originals” unwatchable, at best. Here, while the acting (particularly by the leads, Brian Krause, Anne McDaniels and Steven Helmkamp) is histrionically over the top (as is the dialogue, which may account for the acting), you can at least conceive of some of this stuff actually happening… well… maybe not. But, still…

POSEIDON REX (publicity still)

POSEIDON REX (publicity still)

The special effects are hit and miss: The CGI gunfire is bad… really bad; the creature – a sea-dwelling cousin of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, though bigger and meaner, with tiny flippers for arms – is, alternately, awesomely believable in the underwater sequences or appears to be a cartoon overlay that never quite matches up with the surrounding terrain when it’s out of the water. And, even though the characters seem to contradict themselves from one line to the next, it’s still better than those horrid movie remakes of STARSKY AND HUTCH, GET SMART and THE DUKES OF HAZZARD. By the way, if the military represented here (some unidentified branch of the United States Armed Forces and the Belize Coast Guard) is the best and brightest, we are all doomed to be eaten by gigantic beasts of some variety. This movie is kinda like a train wreck or watching the Chicago Cubs… as devastating and horrible as it is, you just can’t look away.

POSEIDON REX (Brian Krause and Anne McDaniels put the pinch on a newly hatched P-Rex) (publicity still)

POSEIDON REX (Brian Krause and Anne McDaniels put the pinch on a newly hatched P-Rex) (publicity still)

POSEIDON REX is a great movie to put on when you and your friends are just hanging out, looking for something mind-numbingly incoherent to fill an hour-and-a-half. Like all of those cheesy 1950s monster and science fiction movies, this is the good kind of bad, a bizarre mish-mash of THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (the template for director Mark L Kester), GODZILLA (GOJIRA, the original), KING KONG (the one from 1976, with Charles Grodin in the title role… or was it Jessica Lange? Oh, wait… never mind), JURASSIC PARK, GREMLINS, THE DEEP and CAPTAIN PHILLIPS. There’s even a hint of A-TEAM (the original television series with Mister T) in there as, with plenty of firepower on display, no one is seemingly capable of hitting the broadside of a barn (or a forty foot tall sea behemoth). So… suspend belief (in good acting and dialogue), disengage those brain cells and give POSEIDON REX a try, but… be warned: THERE WILL BE A SEQUEL!