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)

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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.


WAY OF THE WICKED

(MATT KELLY FILMS/ODYSSEY MEDIA/IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT (92 minutes/Unrated); 2014)

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Director Kevin Carraway’s WAY OF THE WICKED is a supernatural thriller, kind of a cross between THE OMEN and SCANNERS; WAY OF THE WICKED is a tale of obsession, with a priest (Christian Slater, in a small, but pivotal role) trying to stop a troubled youth he believes to be the spawn of Satan (a kid named Robbie – played to the brooding hilt by Jake Croker – recently returned to the town he grew up in and just wanting to be left alone by the arrogant, judgmental popular kids); WAY OF THE WICKED is a study in teenage societal mores, somewhere between LORD OF THE FLIES and MEAN GIRLS; WAY OF THE WICKED is a love story, like TWILIGHT without the shiny vampires, out-sized werewolves and cloying sentimentality; most of all, though, WAY OF THE WICKED is a movie about a father’s love for his daughter (Robbie’s best… make that, only… friend from his middle school days, current snob and property of the Big Man On Campus). The father (Vinnie Jones), a police detective trying to overcome the guilt he feels over his wife’s death, has become doting and overprotective of his daughter, Heather (Emily Tennant). This, of course, leads to Heather rebelling as only a 16 year old can: sneaking out of the house late at night, getting drunk, lying about everything and, generally, acting like she’s better than everyone else. Until Robbie drives back into her life and challenges the status quo at the school, Heather is content to snub her nose at the peons, make fun of all the losers and be treated like chattel by the King of Asses, Greg (Aren Buchholz).

WAY OF THE WICKED (Emily Tennant and Aren Buccholz) (publicity still)

WAY OF THE WICKED (Emily Tennant and Aren Buccholz) (publicity still)

Heather’s posse begins treating Robbie poorly for having the unmitigated audacity to speak to Greg’s woman and bad things start happening to the stooges. Father Henry, skulking in the shrubbery, has seen enough and contacts Detective Elliott to relate his fears regarding Robbie’s Satanic parentage. Elliott, of course, dismisses the cleric and his theories, having suffered a crisis of faith when his wife died and… well… the guy just sounds nuts! That, however, doesn’t stop him from confronting the beleaguered youth, who he sees as a moral threat and a bad influence for his little girl. Weird things continue to take place, including the ultimate comeuppance of uber-tool Greg, giving credence to the priest’s theory and pause to the detective. All the while, we are made aware that there’s more than one person with a secret to keep in the sleepy, out of the way little town. There are more than enough surprises and twists to keep the plot fresh and the story interesting (though, at one point, I did suspect what the outcome would be, only to be turned in a completely different direction by another swerve). Of course, as in all supernatural movies worth their salt, the climax takes place in a cemetery.

WAY OF THE WICKED (Christian Slater) (publicity still)

WAY OF THE WICKED (Christian Slater) (publicity still)

The relationships, particularly John and Heather Elliott, as well as Heather and Robbie (their story is fleshed out nicely through flashbacks), fuel the story more than the supernatural aspects and add a certain amount of believability to the plot. If Jones seems to be a little over the top in his overbearing attitude toward the daughter, I’m willing to give him a bit of a pass. I mean, he’s not exactly a cute and cuddly kind of guy and that deep, sandpaper-raw voice doesn’t lend itself well to syrupy dialogue, so I accept the compromises he makes to bring the story to life. Croker, as the ultimate outsider, reminds me of a younger version of Slater (both in his brooding demeanor and his physical appearance). The intensity that he brings to the role of Robbie can only be described as “smoldering.” Unfortunately, Slater and Croker only share one scene in the movie and, even then, the characters really don’t interact.

WAY OF THE WICKED (Vinnie Jones and Jake Croker) (publicity still)

WAY OF THE WICKED (Vinnie Jones and Jake Croker) (publicity still)

So, to wrap things up with a nice big bow and without blowing the whole thing by relating any more of the story or plot twists, what can we take away from WAY OF THE WICKED? Well, you don’t have to be a fan of supernatural or horror movies to like this one, although the violence could be a turn-off: While there are great, loving relationships and a good deal of emphasis is placed on a rather ROMEO AND JULIET type love story, you should probably keep the kiddies away from it. The story may not be new, but it is very well done and features enough twists (as well as some fine acting) to make it worth checking out. It’s available pretty much everywhere on both DVD and Blu-Ray; digital copies are also available.