About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Review: Wanted: Dead or Alive


Rutger Hauer stars as Nick Randall a bounty hunter and former CIA man, who’d much rather be on his boat with his gal (Mel Harris). Instead, he’s mostly tracking down Arab terrorist Malak Ah Rahim (Gene Simmons, AKA The God of Thunder). He becomes particularly obsessed with nabbing the international terrorist when his violent deeds hit close to home for Randall. Robert Guillaume is cast as one of the few CIA guys who isn’t an a-hole, Jerry Hardin most certainly does play an a-hole, and William Russ is Randall’s cop buddy.

 

I guess the reason Rutger Hauer’s ascension to the top of the action hero throne was cut short had a lot to do with his choice in film projects. This 1987 Gary Sherman (“Raw Meat”, “Vice Squad”, “Poltergeist III”) directed adaptation (well, kinda) of the Steve McQueen TV series is usually one of the film’s mentioned when discussing Hauer’s plummet from almost-star to direct-to-DVD mainstay. It’s not all that bad, and far from Hauer’s worst, but it’s definitely a prime example of how Hauer (who plays the great-grandson of McQueen’s character) became a fine actor wasted in a film beneath his talents.

 

I guess New World Pictures were trying to muscle in on The Cannon Group’s stronghold of the C-grade action movie genre here, but the film has some pretty big problems. There’s just not enough...of anything going on here and it ends up sorta just...there, without having achieved much of anything. Certainly it lacks a pulse at the very least. Direction and editing are two key elements in any good action film, and this film appears to have neither...at least no one who was conscious during the filmmaking process. It desperately lacks muscle, energy, and particularly a strong villain. Gene Simmons is no actor (watch “KISS Meet the Phantom of the Park” or “Runaway” for evidence of this), but he seems perfectly cast as an Arab terrorist (He’s Israeli-born, for starters). He’s rendered a complete non-entity here through no fault of his own. The film overall ought to have been around 85-90 minutes long, and the pacing and energy would be greatly enhanced. But at 104 minutes it already has a serious lack of Gene Simmons, so I shudder to think how much of a bit player his character would be in a shortened version. And he’s the lead villain!

 

Hauer’s good, and has a sensitive, romantic side that comes out here at times. After a certain point he brings a depth and tragedy to his character, but he can’t do the job all on his own here. Still, he’s always interesting to watch, even when the film isn’t. In fact, this is the kind of lesser material fit for a Wings Hauser, Sam “Flash Gordon” Jones, or Robert Ginty, not someone as clearly talented as Hauer. He also does a much better job of hiding his natural European accent than many other European action stars out there who have had bigger and better careers (and who aren’t nearly as versatile an actor as Hauer). I have no idea why “Benson” (AKA Robert Guillaume) is here as Hauer’s buddy, but he’s solid as a rock. He also gets the one good line towards Jerry Hardin in a film with otherwise rather insubstantial dialogue: ‘Next time you fuck me, Lipton, kiss me first!’. Meanwhile, William Russ enjoys himself as Hauer’s other good buddy, and a good cameo by Dennis Burkley (looking fatter than I’ve ever seen him) as a foul-mouthed arms dealer.

 

The most impressive elements of the film are the cool rock soundtrack (especially in the rowdy “Road House”-style opener) and the cool, slick cinematography and lighting by Alex Nepomniaschy (“Last Resort”, “Mrs. Winterbourne”). The latter occasionally adopts a steel blue look you’d swear was the handiwork of Adam Greenberg (“The Terminator”, “Near Dark”, “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”).

 

Overall this isn’t a terrible film, but it’s not much of a film at all, really. Certainly Hauer is above the material, anyone can see that. Even the least demanding of action lovers might find this one a bit lacking. I don’t know much about the Steve McQueen series, but surely it’s more exciting than this. The screenplay is by Sherman, Michael Patrick Goodman (who has only a couple of indistinct credits), and Brian Taggert (“Visiting Hours”, “Poltergeist III”, “Omen IV: The Awakening”). How can three screenwriters come up with something so lacking in any colour or depth?

 

Rating: C

Review: The Incident


We slowly meet a varied group of NY train passengers who are about to have their courage, patience, and spirits tested by a couple of seemingly hopped-up criminals (cackling sadist Martin Sheen and wild-eyed Tony Musante) who try to break everybody down. Just for the hell of it, seemingly, as everyone’s flaws (and general apathy) are exposed. Gary Merrill is a recovering alcoholic, Robert Fields is an intensely nervous homosexual, Brock Peters is an arrogant black activist married to the more sedate Ruby Dee, Beau Bridges plays an injured good ‘ol boy returned soldier, Thelma Ritter and Jack Gilford are an old married couple, Mike Kellin is a jealous husband to leggy Jan Sterling, Ed McMahon (!) is a cranky tight-arse travelling with his wife and kid, and Donna Mills plays one half of a vapid young couple too busy making out to notice anything going on around them. There’s also a drunken bum asleep on the train too.

 

This startling 1967 Larry Peerce (“Ash Wednesday”, “Two-Minute Warning”, the notorious John Belushi biopic “Wired”) flick was one of the most uncomfortable, irritating, and nerve-wracking experiences I’ve had in a long while. Luckily, that’s the kind of reaction it was aiming for, as it paints a picture of shocking yet true-to-life apathy. Yes, in 2001 some plane passengers were brave enough to band together to try and overcome hijackers, but that’s a rarity. In most cases now, as presumably was the case in the 60s, us human beings are a scared, self-preserving, or at least apathetic lot, by and large. We don’t want any trouble and we don’t want to get involved. The kind of thing that happens in this gritty, grim film still happens today, and is one of the main reasons I’m very anti-train.

 

The characters here may be stock, but the situation and stark B&W photography by Gerald Hirschfeld (“Fail-Safe”, “Young Frankenstein”) resonate, even if the transit from stop to stop seems awfully bloody long. It’s strong, disturbing stuff, with memorable psycho portrayals by Martin Sheen (in his impressive film debut) and wild-eyed Tony Musante, and Beau Bridges is terrific as a likeable good ‘old boy soldier who may be the only one here with a backbone, but also has his arm in a sling. Brock Peters at first seems a tad overboard as the angry black militant, but when push comes to shove, his true colours show and you understand why Peters portrays the character as so initially arrogant and outspoken. He ends up giving a very powerful and quite sad performance as a man who talks tough, but when he comes face to face with a real threat, that’s something entirely different. Admittedly the underrated Jan Sterling (who always seems to play women in or around middle age who are on the edge of losing their looks- or feel like they are), Ruby Dee, and old pro Thelma Ritter could play their roles in their sleep, but no one is coasting here. Ritter is particularly important casting because, based on the roles she tends to play, we’re constantly worried she’s gonna open her big yap and get herself popped. Robert Fields, in particular, is almost as nerve-wracking as the film itself as a seemingly tortured gay man who makes for an easy target for the two thugs, and even TV sidekick Ed McMahon is fine as an angry but protective family man. But almost all of these characters are angry, irritable, frustrated, or hopeless. Gary Merrill adds a layer of weary dignity to his part as a recovering alcoholic trying to get his family back together. But for the most part, this apathetic lot will have you so red-faced and steaming at their inactivity (especially given they clearly have the numbers advantage), unfair as it may be to judge them. It’s certainly not a fun romp.

 

This one’s not very well-known, but even today it still packs a helluva wallop, after a somewhat slow start. It might even make you look inward and force you to face things about yourself you’d rather not think about (I’m lucky, I’m in a wheelchair, so no one expects me to act the hero, surely). I was on edge pretty much from start to finish. And that final shot of the drunken man...brilliance (So too a scene towards the end with Peters. You’ll know it when you see it, and it was probably quite true of the time as well). It’s not hard to tell that the screenplay by Nicholas E. Baehr was based on a teleplay by the same man, but don’t let that stop you from seeing this interesting and still confronting film. It deserves to be much better known.

 

Rating: B

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Review: Sister, Sister


A Louisiana mansion houses Judith Ivey and her emotionally troubled sister Jennifer Jason Leigh. They open up their mansion to guests like a Bed & Breakfast, to get by financially. Ivey is protective of Leigh, but when visiting Congressional aide Eric Stoltz starts hanging around the latter, it’s actually handyman Benjamin Mouton who first warns the young man to stay away. The growing relationship between Leigh and Stoltz continues to raise tensions between Stoltz and Mouton (the latter having a crush on Leigh himself), but also between the two sisters, as Stoltz wants Leigh to get out from under her sister’s thumb. Eventually, dark, long-buried secrets from the family’s past are uncovered. Deadly secrets.

 

Co-written and directed by a debuting Bill Condon (who went on to make the respected “Gods and Monsters”), it’s a miracle his career continued after this pathetic 1987 Gothic murder-mystery/melodrama masquerading as a horror film. Co-written by Joel ‘Not Joel Coen’ Cohen (“Pass the Ammo”, “Toy Story”) and Ginny Cerulla, but it’s almost as if Tennessee Williams and Stephen King had collaborated on a story...that turned out to be a complete turd, so neither author wanted their names attached to it. That isn’t true, but it feels like it at times. It’s like a sucky version of “Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte”.

 

The film suffers from a disastrously slow pace and seemingly zombified performances from a dreadfully miscast Eric Stoltz and terminally depressed Jennifer Jason Leigh. Leigh, in particular, looks anaemic, as though she’s going to faint due to either a lack of essential nutrients, or a lack of sleep. She also adopts the awful Blanche Dubois accent Jessica Lange has used for the last 30 years and to even lesser effect than Lange. She’s so agonisingly low-key, mumbly, and seemingly disengaged throughout one has to wonder if she knew she was in a movie. This kind of thing needs fiery, smouldering actors to sell the Southern Gothic steaminess, but Stoltz and Leigh act like rigour mortis is firmly setting in. There’s no charm, charisma, or sex appeal between them. Stoltz has talent, but not anything compatible with this material. He’s one of the top three ‘Career Pissers’ of all-time. He made good films early on, and then just pissed the rest of his career away with crap like this where it’s not only awful, but an ill-fit. Cast Billy Zane, Rob Lowe or Michael ParĂ© in the Stoltz role, and you’re a little more on track (even though Stoltz is actually a better actor than any of those, he is not a stud).

 

If you’re expecting horror, expect to be bored to death, because this is 80% Gothic melodrama and 10% horror, at best, and that 10% is tacked-on with all the seams showing. The whole thing is seriously underdone, with the Stoltz and Leigh relationship seemingly having a middle without an actual beginning, unless I dozed off for 20 minutes or so. Shithouse ending, too, leaving at least one huge loose end untied.

 

The film does have atmosphere, with a particularly nice, foggy opener wonderfully shot by cinematographer Stephen M. Katz (“Watch It”). It’s a little gauzy in the interior scenes, but those exteriors set the right tone and mood. Unfortunately, Katz didn’t direct the film, nor was he presumably involved in casting the film.

 

A good look can’t save what is an otherwise pathetic film. One of the worst films I’ve ever seen, badly acted, poorly cast, and the material is too thin to be stretched to feature length.

 

Rating: F

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review: The Quiller Memorandum


George Segal stars as Quiller, an MI6 agent (yes, with an American accent) sent by his gentlemanly handler Pol (Sir Alec Guinness) to Berlin to investigate a potential underground group of Neo-Nazis on the rise, and the murder of two British agents. Senta Berger plays Inge, a simple school teacher whom Segal takes a fancy to, whilst Max von Sydow is Oktober, the aristocratic head of the Nazi organisation, who at one point captures Quiller, and drugs him in a bid to prise vital information out of him. Peter Carsten, Sir Robert Helpmann, Robert Flemyng, and George Sanders play a collection of characters on the fringes of the story, whilst Gunter Meissner plays a swimming instructor who has some vital information to Quiller’s investigation.

 

Directed by Michael Anderson (“Around the World in 80 Days”, “Operation Crossbow”, “Logan’s Run”) and scripted by playwright Harold Pinter (“The Last Tycoon”) from a Elleston Trevor (“Flight of the Phoenix”) novel, this 1966 film is one of the better spy flicks in the cold, anti-Bond tradition. An increasingly tired and irritable George Segal is surprisingly good in the lead, but the film is taken from him by scene-stealing turns from gentlemanly villain Max von Sydow and old pro Sir Alec Guinness (who didn’t like his work here, but he’s the only one). The interrogation scene between Segal and von Sydow is particularly riveting and harrowing. Interesting to see perennial Nazi Gunter Meissner (Mr. Slugworth to a generation of kids) playing a relatively non-villainous swimming coach, and Aussie ex-pat dancer/actor Sir Robert Helpmann in a shadowy part, whilst George Sanders gets sweet bugger all to do in a cameo as an upper-crust, elder statesman spy who is happy to send others to do the dirty work. He has pretty much one scene and that’s all.

 

Overall, it’s a good, tension-filled yarn (especially any scene involving von Sydow), only mildly spoiled by one poor supporting performance I won’t spoil here, but they’re so bad they kinda give the ending away. Meanwhile, I couldn’t decide which was more headache-inducing, the way overdone soft focus that renders all of Senta Berger’s scenes foggy, or that ghastly tweed jacket Guinness wears near the end. My TV screen absolutely did not like that wardrobe choice at all. The amazing, ominous set design by Arthur Taksen (“Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines”) is alone worth seeing (especially von Sydow’s bizarre hideout), whilst the music score by veteran Bond composer John Barry (“Robin and Marian”, “Dances With Wolves”) is also excellent. This is a must for grim spy story lovers, it’s definitely one of the best of the 60s (along with “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” and “The Deadly Affair”).

 

Rating: B

Review: Night Patrol


Murray Langston stars as a mild-mannered but whiny cop who has a side gig as a paper bag-wearing stand-up comedian of questionable talent (dubbed ‘The Unknown Comic’). The two jobs end up crossing over when a criminal starts to go around town committing crimes whilst wearing- you guessed it- a paper bag over their head. At one point we start to see a third person in similar garb. Meanwhile, a pretty female police officer (Linda Blair as ‘Sue Perman’) has a none too subtle crush on our protagonist. Jaye B. Morgan turns up as the manager of the Unknown Comic, Billy Barty plays the flatulent dwarf police captain, Jack Riley is an oddball shrink, and Pat Paulson plays Langston’s veteran police partner, who is into cheap, meaningless sex.

 

From the director of “Blood Diner” (a horrible film, by the way), Jackie Kong comes this pathetic 1984 comedy that makes you appreciate that other police comedy from 1984 (“Police Academy”) all the more. Or at least the one “Police Academy” film worth seeing, “Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol” (C’mon, Sharon Stone, Bobcat Goldthwait, and David Spade as a supposed skateboard punk- what’s not to like?). It’s not that the jokes themselves are inherently incompetent in theory, though many certainly are, it’s more that the delivery and timing of every single one of them is horribly botched.

 

The comedic talent involved here is in direct contradiction to the terms comedic and talent. Most of the jokes are in the pun-heavy vein of “Airplane!”/“Flying High!”, but a really cheap, even lower brow version. For starters, Blair’s name is a terrible pun, and then there’s lines like; ‘I’ve known you ever since you were a clerk, Kent’. Ugh. About the only one that came close to making me laugh was a joke about cock fights, and yes, it indeed goes there. Canadian so-called comedian Murray Langston (who along with co-star Jaye B. Morgan appeared on “The Gong Show”) in particular is a complete hack, and his alter-ego The Unknown Comic isn’t any better (though the paper bag disguise is a much better one than the blackface he and Paulson adopt in the climax. Yep, blackface, folks. Ah the 80s...) Linda Blair (in the midst of her exploitation movie phase) bares her breasts briefly at the end, Billy Barty farts a lot, and in an early role, Andrew Dice Clay is a truly terrible stand-up comedian. He also plays one in the film. Meanwhile, subtitles are used for no reason whatsoever (the opening credits are even in French!), and Pat Morita’s entire scene is dubbed by a shrieking female voice to no discernible comedic value whatsoever. What’s worse is that he’s playing a rape victim. Yep, Asian jokes and rape jokes all in the same scene. Classy stuff, but then the film is from the producer of “Flesh Gordon”, so what do you expect?

 

Scripted by Langston, Kong, and William A. Levey (director of the infamous “Blackenstein” and writer-director of the less infamous “Skatetown USA”), the film wants to be another “Airplane!” but the talent, laughs, and budget simply aren’t up to snuff.

 

Rating: D-

Monday, September 2, 2013

Review: Piranha 3DD


Danielle Panabaker plays a marine biology student (The sea was angry that day, my friends!) who returns home to her dad’s water park to find that the horny old man (David Koechner) has turned it into a part water park, part strip-bar (!). He is also illegally pumping water into the park from an underground lake, which goes awry when the prehistoric piranha come from the lake and into the water park/strip joint and start attacking everybody! When Panabaker tries to warn him after a friend is attacked, Koechner doesn’t want to listen because the David Hasselhoff headlining opening is coming up. Christopher Lloyd again plays the resident scientist who seems even crazier than last time. Meanwhile, Ving Rhames’ deputy somehow survived the last film and now has guns for legs. Gary Busey and Clu Gulager play crazy rednecks in the opening scene, whilst Chris Zylka, Matt Bush and Katrina Bowden are the potential teen piranha fodder.

 

This is a bit of a tricky one. This 2012 film from director John Gulager (“Feast” and son of character actor Clu Gulager) probably isn’t a better film than its schlocky predecessor (or the Joe Dante original for that matter), but I think it’s just about as much fun. I’m not sure how one truly quantifies that in terms of a grade, but it probably measures up to somewhere around the same as the first film overall. For some oddball reason, the film is now known as “Piranha DD” on DVD and cable, instead of “Piranha 3DD”. Personally I don’t like either title, but if you’re gonna take the 3D part out of the title for non-3D showings, why not call it “Piranha 2DD”? That makes more sense to me, especially since it’s a sequel to “Piranha” (“Piranha 4DD” maybe?) and there would be a double meaning (Triple meaning, actually if you think about it). Oh, well, I’ll call it “3DD” anyway, it’s a lot less silly than just “DD”.

 

We open with a fun prologue featuring Oscar nominee Gary Busey as a dopey hick, and although his brain damage has ruined his acting ability somewhat, you can see a subtle difference between him here and the nutjob he appears to be on “The Celebrity Apprentice”. He either plays it up for reality TV, or is simply quite competent in short bursts. Still it’s very sad, as the man had genuine talent. Wear a helmet, kids. Meanwhile, David Koechner turns up as a shonky water park owner (the film is like a Spring Break parody of “Jaws”) and may just have found the right outlet for his sleazy redneck, Randy Quaid-like persona. He’s hilarious and maybe even sleazier than Jerry O’Connell in the previous film. That’s a helluva achievement given O’Connell was essentially playing Joe Francis. Koechner’s final scene is brilliantly juvenile. I knew I was going to have a good time with this within the opening ten minutes when you see Koechner’s strip bar/water park combo, and the requisite full-frontal nudity. Lovely. There’s nothing much here you didn’t get the last time except the sex has been downplayed a tad, there’s no Sapphic love (damn!), but the sleaze has been amped up. Yes, if you’ve seen one Spring Break film you’ve probably seen them all, but how can I possibly hate a film with so many pairs of boobs on display? Even moreso than the first film, this one knows it’s sleazy trash. The characters are mostly varying shades of amoral, for instance (Most hissable character in the film? The guy who says he doesn’t like big boobs. What the hell is wrong with you, son?).

 

Christopher Lloyd gets a laugh in his first scene talking about his YouTube hits. It’s a shame he and Busey are essentially reduced to Crazy Ralph roles, but at least with Lloyd you get the feeling he could play other roles if it was his wont. However, if Lloyd’s character is such an expert on piranha, how come he (and presumably the screenwriters) doesn’t know that the correct pluralisation of piranha is piranha? (Koechner is the only one, oddly enough, who gets it right) Still, he’s perfect. Less perfect, and perhaps surprisingly, is the normally lovely Danielle Panabaker. Not only does she look unflattering in digital cinematography, but her performance is surprisingly amateurish.

 

The film is probably more comedic than its predecessor, but that largely works in its favour. If you thought Jerry ‘My Penis is gone!’ O’Connell had it bad, this film has the funniest sex scene of all-time. How can you not like a film with the following line; ‘Josh cut off his penis because something came out of my vagina!’. Bravo. If that’s not the greatest line of dialogue in cinematic history, I ask you, what is? I also enjoyed the little tribute to the bathtub scene from “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. It’s not in your face, but if you’ve seen that film, you pick up on it and it’s cute. Meanwhile, The Hoff comes along to steal the entire show in the way that only The Hoff can. He’s a giant douchebag, but he kinda seems to know it, so you can’t hate the guy, ego or not. At one point he says ‘Welcome to rock bottom’. Ah, no, David. That was “Baywatch Nights”. I don’t know if The Hoff knows why he’s so funny in this, but he’s hilarious. I love that one of the projects The Hoff lists among his best-known work is “Anaconda 3”. Even I haven’t seen that one, and I watch a lot of crap. This film is easily the best use of David Hasselhoff since, well, “Baywatch”. There’s also  cute “Jaws” reference with the “Vertigo” camera pull/zoom shot.

 

Ving Rhames, who pretty much up and died in the last film to my memory, turns up briefly here, but he’s not nearly as much fun as The Hoff, and essentially steals Rose McGowan’s machine gun-leg deal from Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror”. What the hell has happened to Rhames in the last decade? Has he stopped giving a crap? Does someone have some seriously incriminating pictures? Meanwhile, the CGI piranha look a tad less cartoony this time around, which is a plus in my book. They’re still not terribly convincing, but they wouldn’t be much fun if they were would they?

 

Look, this is the same film as last time, but it offers largely the same results, minus the lesbianism but with additional Hoff. Just see it, OK? The drop from the first film, if there is a drop at all, isn’t very much at all. With a screenplay by Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton (“Saw IV-VI”, “Feast”, “The Collector”), and producer Joel Soisson (“Dracula 2000”, several of the “Prophecy” sequels), it’s sleazy fun, even if the lead actresses are the only ones not nuding up. That pisses me off. However, the only genuine flaw in the film is that there is maybe one pair of bonafide DD breasts in the entire film, and they belong to a chick in a bikini, and then later she’s covered in blood so you can’t enjoy them then, either. Who buys themselves fake DD’s and doesn’t show them off in a film like this? **** SPOILER WARNING **** They make up for it, though, with an absolutely brilliant final moment that not only decapitates a kid, but sets up another sequel involving walking piranha! If they don’t make that film I’m gonna riot, y’all! **** END SPOILER ****

 

How can you not like this film, I ask you? There’s nothing new here folks, but if you enjoyed the previous film, there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy this one. It’s more of the same, only Hoff-tacular. 

 

Rating: B-

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Review: 30 Minutes or Less


Jesse Eisenberg is Nick, a slacker pizza delivery dude kidnapped by two masked numbskulls (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson), having a bomb strapped to his chest, and forced to rob a bank for the $100,000 the twits need to pay an assassin (Michael Pena) to kill their retired, military hard-arse father (Fred Ward, delivering R. Lee Ermey’s dialogue). You see, Ward hit it big winning the lottery a while back, and they’re looking to collect. In order to commit the robbery, Nick employs the help of his teacher best pal Chet (played by the very Chet-sounding Aziz Ansari), whose twin sister (Dilshad Vadsaria) Nick has the hots for. Bianca Kajlich briefly bears her breasts as a stripper named Juicy. Yes, Juicy.

 

Ruben Fleischer gave us one of the best films of 2009 with the irreverent zombie comedy “Zombieland”. Unfortunately, for his sophomore effort he has given us this bungled 2011 slacker action-comedy. The cast are mostly fine talents, but an action comedy needs to work seriously and comedically, and the film fails in the former category and isn’t terribly good in the latter, either. The villains are idiots and their plan is completely moronic, but while that is largely the point, it doesn’t work because it’s not even remotely plausible. Yes, I know the film has a slight basis in a real-life case, but this fictional version is just too stupid even for a stupid comedy. The plan seems needlessly complicated, for one thing. Nick is set up as a patsy in a plan that need not even have a patsy. His presence in this scheme just isn’t necessary. Although I could almost see Danny McBride doing a legitimately fine dramatic job one of these days (I’m telling you, he’s got something), neither he nor Nick Swardson (who has nothing) are remotely threatening or credible. It’s all well and good to have a couple of knucklehead villains if there’s a credible threat somewhere else, but sadly Michael Pena’s thug character isn’t much smarter and is a lot less interesting. The film isn’t just a comedy, it’s kind of an action film, and for that there needs to be a certain level of menace to the villains. Look at films like “Lethal Weapon” (Gary Busey) and “Demolition Man” (where Wesley Snipes was hilarious and menacing) for instance.

 

The biggest problem I had, however, was that although the film had a certain lively pace to it, it had absolutely no tension whatsoever. I don’t know whether it’s due to an overly talky screenplay by Michael Diliberti, or just that the performance by Jesse Eisenberg was too cool or flippant, but I never felt like he was ever in any danger of exploding. Of course, he’s the protagonist so you know that won’t happen, but Fleischer doesn’t even bother giving us the illusion of urgency so that we can become invested in it for 90 minutes or so. He has Eisenberg stop off to talk to his beloved, and even approaches Ansari at work. A school. With school kids. Yes, they make that into a joke, but it’s stupid, even in a stupid comedy because no one would do such a thing in the real world and certainly wouldn’t maintain such a poker face as the one Eisenberg (a talented, if overrated actor) sports throughout the film.

 

So the film just didn’t engage me with its story or characters at all, reminding me of the similarly stupid “Pineapple Express” (co-starring McBride in a much better role), actually. Perhaps if you’re familiar with the true-life story (apparently much of this really did happen) you’ll find it more interesting and easier to swallow, but I wasn’t really buying it. It does have some laughs, but even then, not nearly as many as I was expecting. An hilarious argument between Eisenberg and Ansari over his twin sister (a completely wasted Dilshad Vadsaria from TV’s “Greek”), an amusing reference to “Friday the 13th Part 3” (one of the less sucky entries in the series), and a perfectly placed Kenny Loggins musical cue, are all fun stuff, as is Eisenberg’s first pizza delivery. Aziz Ansari, meanwhile is irritating, but genuinely funny. He’s like an Indian (Pakistani?) Chris Tucker, only talented. I like Eisenberg (though this really is a Michael Cera role when you think about it), but Ansari’s the one you’ll come away remembering, of anyone here. Other than that, this is a very spotty and extremely disappointing film. Hopefully Fleischer hits it out of the park next time, because I really thought he showed promise with “Zombieland”.

 

Rating: C+