Thursday, December 29, 2011

DTV Oblivion: The 50 Cent/Val Kilmer Chronicles

These reviews were originally published in a slightly different form on the Mobius Home Video Forum in August 2009 (STREETS OF BLOOD), January 2011 (GUN) and May 2011 (BLOOD OUT)

(US - 2009)  Directed by Charles Winkler.  Written by Eugene Hess.  Cast: Val Kilmer, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Sharon Stone, Michael Biehn, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Barry Shabaka Henley, Brian Presley.  95 mins.  R.

I knew this was a must-see after Nathan Rabin's blistering F review at the Onion's AV Club. He called it out for engaging in "Katrina-sploitation," which is pretty accurate. It's bad enough that this is a painfully by-the-numbers cop thriller with stars who have seen better days (Val Kilmer, Sharon Stone), a popular rapper who can't act (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) and a once-powerful producer (Irwin Winkler, producer of marginally successful films like ROCKY, RAGING BULL, and GOODFELLAS) engaging in shameless nepotism as his son (Charles Winkler, who also made the Irwin-produced DTV sequel THE NET 2.0) is behind the camera. That's all bad enough, but the fact that this sleaze-wallowing, incoherent, incompetently-filmed, terribly-acted disaster tries to take the high road by pretending to be a socially conscious look at post-Katrina New Orleans is just stomach-turning. Well, it does only pretend as much at the beginning and in the nauseating closing credits, where Ry Cooder-esque music plays over shots of still-devastated areas. I don't get offended by films very often, so congrats Charles Winkler. Your film offended me.

I'm not entirely sure what the plot involves--Kilmer leads a band of rogue cops in the months following Hurricane Katrina. They're maybe being set up by a pissed-off FBI agent (Michael Biehn delivers the only actual performance) who may or may not be a bad guy. The perpetually mushmouthed, stunningly uncharismatic 50 Cent plays Kilmer's new partner. Character actions make no sense, there's not really any plot to speak of, and Stone turns in the worst performance of her career as a police shrink straight out of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Seriously, what the hell is with her accent? It's worse than Steven Seagal's N'awlins accent. She's embarrassingly bad. Everyone mumbles to the point of incomprehensibility. I'm sure Irwin Winkler (did I mention he produced ROCKY, RAGING BULL, and GOODFELLAS?  Oh, and also THE RIGHT STUFF and ROUND MIDNIGHT)  is a loving father who only wants to help his son, but he should be ashamed of himself for allowing his name to be put on this.

(US - 2010)  Directed by Jessy Terrero.  Written by Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson.  Cast: Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Val Kilmer, Annalynne McCord, James Remar, John Larroquette, Danny Trejo, Paul Calderon.  82 mins.  R.

Still basking in the afterglow of their STREETS OF BLOOD triumph, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson and Val Kilmer reunite for this Detroit-and-Grand Rapids, MI-shot thriller penned by none other than 50 Cent himself. The results are predictably terrible, which should go without saying considering director Jessy Terrero also helmed SOUL PLANE. Incidentally, Grand Rapids is fast becoming the epicenter of bad DTV: it's where 50 Cent also shot the abysmal CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE, and Kilmer is making his own return trip to the city following the unspeakable THE CHAOS EXPERIMENT.

GUN centers on Rich (50 Cent), a mid-level gun distributor working the Detroit area in the employ of a young mystery woman (90210's AnnaLynne McCord), which also allows Fiddy the screenwriter a chance to write in a gratuitous sex scene for Fiddy the actor. Rich is trying to take his business to the next level, and brings in old friend Angel (Kilmer) to be his right hand. What Rich doesn't know--SPOILER--is that Angel has just been sprung from the joint by grizzled, close-to-retirement detective Rogers (James Remar) and his partner Jenkins (Paul Calderon) to work as a CI after Angel's wife was killed in a Rich-engineered shootout outside a club months earlier.

Coming in at just over 80 minutes, I suppose the best thing that can be said about GUN is that it's short. And it's not as egregiously offensive as the Katrinasploitation of STREETS OF BLOOD, though 50's script does shoehorn in some hamfisted messaging on everything from thug life to the economic state of Detroit to enterprising ghetto crime lords like Rich being used by the rich and powerful. Apparently, we're supposed to sympathize with Rich, a ruthless, cold-blooded killer, when it's revealed that he's an expendable pawn in the moneymaking game of a racist, multi-millionaire owner of a weapons company, played by a cigar-sucking John Larroquette. Larroquette is barely conscious in his two brief scenes, but he's a live wire compared to the ever-mumbling 50 Cent, who still has no screen presence at all. A haggard, tired-looking Kilmer is just going through the motions in one of the 17 films he probably shot that month. The only actor who seems invested in this is Remar, which is shocking considering that he's actually forced to grumble "I'm gettin' too old for this shit!" at one point. Danny Trejo also turns up for about 75 seconds as one of Rich's rival gun suppliers.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the film ends with a shootout at an abandoned warehouse, complete with strategically-placed huge empty cardboard boxes for cars to plow into. I didn't even need to watch this to review it. But I did.

I'm gettin' too old for this shit.

(US - 2011)  Directed by Jason Hewitt.  Written by John O'Connell and Jason Hewitt.  Cast: Luke Goss, Val Kilmer, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Annalynne McCord, Vinnie Jones, Tamer Hassan, Bobby Lashley, Ryan Donowho.  89 mins.  R.

Asinine, bottom-of-the-barrel DTV gang thriller that prominently headlines Val Kilmer and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson--the bad-movie bromance that won't quit--but gives them no scenes together and a total of maybe five minutes of combined screen time. The real star is Luke Goss as Jason Statham as Louisiana sheriff's deputy Michael Savian, who goes undercover (a process that consists of getting a bunch of shitty-looking tattoos that look like a toddler on a sugar high scribbled all over his arms with a Sharpie) and infiltrates the Baton Rouge operation of drug dealer Elias (Tamer Hassan, 50's DEAD MAN RUNNING co-star) to get to the bottom of his banger brother's (Ryan Donowho) murder.

Directed and co-written by one Jason Hewitt, whose credits include being a producer on CABIN FEVER 2: SPRING FEVER, BLOOD OUT is just lazy filmmaking, from the disinterested performances of the cast (the British Goss fails to convince; what kind of Louisiana deputy pronounces the word as "pro-gress"?) to the awesomely crappy CGI throughout. Gun blasts look like cartoon effects. Two CGI bullet holes in a doorway panel are shakily hovering over the paneling in an almost BIRDEMIC-like fashion. And a car rollover near the end has to be seen to be disbelieved. Actually, the last 15 minutes make this whole wretched endeavor worth sitting through. It takes a completely bizarre turn from a standard gangsta flick to a surreal, underground FIGHT CLUB as Goss is, for some reason, forced to fight a hulking brute (pro wrestler Bobby Lashley), who wears a BRAVEHEART kilt and a centurion helmet. This is all overseen by nefarious cartel boss Arturo (Kilmer), who bangs a cane on the ground, summons fire, and declares "Hail, Mars, son of Juno, God of War!" in what's one of his more coherent moments. A disheveled Kilmer first appears around the 50-minute mark of this 89-minute trifle, and has a couple of scenes, obviously improvised in his now-standard Brando mumble. Vinnie Jones also appears, really challenging himself in glaring, wide-eyed, blustery "Fookin' 'ell, mate!" mode. And then there's co-exec producer 50 Cent, in an utterly pointless cameo as a useless Baton Rouge detective who's onscreen long enough to tell a charming anecdote of police corruption that culminates with the poetic "She swallowed the evidence."

1 comment:

  1. Gun and Streets of Blood were ok. Haven't seen Blood Out yet, but have read some bad reviews...will keep avoiding it for now.

    But do love a underground punchfighter though...and that is cool Val's character runs it.