Covering cinema from the highest of the highbrow to the lowest of the low-grade.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
On DVD/Blu-ray: 6 BULLETS (2012) and VILE (2012)
6 BULLETS (US - 2012)
This overlong and needlessly convoluted Romania-shot thriller is essentially a TAKEN knockoff for Jean-Claude Van Damme, and it's not one of his stronger DTV efforts. Long past his action star heyday, Van Damme has built an exemplary second career in the world of DTV and for many, his recent turn in THE EXPENDABLES 2 was their first exposure to the Muscles from Brussels in years. He's never stopped working, and believe it or not, he's very quietly turned into a surprisingly solid actor who deserves another shot from Hollywood (I've said many times that he'd make an excellent Bond villain). Van Damme is very good in 6 BULLETS, but the flabby story could really use some tightening. There's really no reason--other than an unsuccessful attempt to fool people into thinking it's not a blatant TAKEN ripoff--for the film to have two tough-guy protagonists when they could've easily been streamlined into one credible character. Van Damme is Samson Gaul, a butcher and part-time mercenary haunted by a botched job where he rescued a nine-year-old boy from an Eastern European sex slavery/human trafficking ring but inadvertantly caused the deaths of four abducted girls in the process. He sees a shot at redemption when American MMA fighter Andrew Fayden (STARGATE: ATLANTIS' Joe Flanigan) begs him for help in finding his own teenage daughter Becky (Charlotte Beaumont), who's been taken from a hotel in Moldova. They spend much of the remainder of the film working separately to track down the human trafficking ring (who, of course, are in cahoots with the corrupt local police), Gaul with his consulate official son Selwyn (Van Damme's son Kristopher Van Varenberg), and Andrew with his wife Monica (Anna-Louise Plowman). Because the backstories of both Samson and Andrew need to be established, it takes director Ernie Barbarash (CUBE ZERO, STIR OF ECHOES 2, Van Damme's ASSASSINATION GAMES) over 30 minutes to get things rolling, as we have to slog through scenes of a depressed Samson hitting the bottle and having visions of the ghosts of the dead girls. Sure, these scenes, hokey as they are, allow Van Damme to show his range and he acquits himself well, but why bother splitting the hero into two characters, especially when Andrew's MMA skills never come into play anyway? All this does is take what should've been a compact, 90-minute action flick and bloat it to just under two hours, with a really badly-paced finale that doesn't do it any favors. 6 BULLETS is mostly silly and there's a few unintended laughs (like Samson's ability to stage complicated, SAW-like booby traps in seconds, and a Moldovan newspaper headline screaming "American MMA Fighter's Daughter Kidnapped"), but its biggest fault is that it wastes a strong performance by Van Damme, who, unlike many of his EXPENDABLES 2 co-stars, has allowed himself to age naturally and uses the lines in his increasingly craggy, weary, and weathered face to his advantage. JCVD and THE EXPENDABLES 2 were a good start, but will somebody give this guy a serious role in a serious film? (R, 115 mins)
VILE (US - 2012)
The torture-porn subgenre hits bottom with this pathetically inept and inexcusably tardy SAW ripoff. Why are these still being made in 2012? Ten people, mostly played by supporting actors from daytime soaps, find themselves trapped in a house, with tubes going into the backs of their heads, drawing chemicals from their brains for some new kind of synthetic drug. The captors need the adrenaline that comes from extreme pain, so the only way for the captives to get out is to torture one another until a loading bar on a big TV screen gets to 100%. It's as stupid as it sounds, with the characters breaking limbs, driving screwdrivers into flesh, yanking out fingernails with pliers, sticking their arms in boiling water, taking pipe wrenches to the face, getting cheese graters run over their skin, and pouring salt and paint thinner on open wounds. Between the torture sequences, we get some bad workshop improv from the cast, led by writer/co-producer Eric E. Beck. Technically, the lighting seems to be going for an Argento circa SUSPIRIA-vibe, but comes off like a drunk guy switching different-colored bulbs on and off at random, the sound is erratic with the dialogue frequently unintelligible, and the camera operator has the yips. A painfully embarrassing directorial debut for veteran TV actor Taylor Sheridan, best known as Deputy Chief Hale on the first three seasons of SONS OF ANARCHY. The only reason I watched this was because IMDb listed Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan in the cast. As far as I can tell, he's nowhere in the movie despite being listed in the closing credits, so I'm assuming his role ("Special Agent Ford") was cut, probably under orders from his management and publicist. So, if he's the reason you decide to give this a look...well, I just saved you an hour and a half. Exhibiting the kind of sub-YouTube-level production values usually reserved for homemade sex tapes and cell phone videos of guys getting hit in the balls, the cheap, shoddy VILE is the worst of the worst in torture porn. Enough already. (Unrated, 88 mins; also available on Netflix streaming)