Posts Tagged ‘conspiracy

10
Jul
14

Shakedown (1988) Law and Disorder

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a Primal Root written review

Sam Elliott and Peter Weller are my guys. I’ll see just about anything featuring either of these two actors due to their excellent body of work , both Trashy and Embraced by the Masses. Come on, Elliott’s the main reason to visit Swayze’s “Road House” (1989), not to mention his turn as the enigmatic Stranger in the seldom seen lost classic, “The Big Lebowski (1998)  and Peter Weller’s filmography is basically a who’s who of sci-fi cult cinema, from Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 action  masterpiece, “Robocop” to 1984’s bomb-come-cult flick, “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.”  And, as we all know, when two legends cross paths, one must always pay strict attention.

To my own shock and amazement, “Shakedown,” a film featuring two icons of cinematic strangeness, and strange plot that takes your from the heights of wacky action to the morose happenings of a court room drama and every imaginable place between, is not heralded as I had originally imagined upon hearing of it’s existence. I am hoping to correct that issue with this review.

Shakedown takes place on the tough, unforgiving streets of New York City and it’s tough, unforgiving courtrooms. It’s a tale of police corruption, murder and badass action sequences. The film begins with a big time drug dealer having to defend his life from a crazed cracker who shows up, asks for a fix, then pulls a gun on him. The cracker ends up dead as rat shit while our drug dealer, Michael (Richard Brooks), ends up wounded and on trial for the murder of a cop who never identified himself and was obviously looking to steal the gentleman’s crops and money. Thankfully, we see Michael press the REC button on his ghetto blaster, but the film forgets all about that until the last act of the movie once it becomes a life or death situation.

Thankfully for Michael the drug dealer, he has two of the coolest mother fuckers ever to live in New York City on his side. We’re talking public defender and avid Jimi Hendrix fan,  Roland Dalton (Peter “Don’t Call Me Buckaroo” Weller) and grimy, greased up, 42nd street undercover cop, Richie Marks (Sam Elliot, as grizzled and awesome as ever.)  Upon hearing of the case, Roland swoops down to defend Michael against the Good Old Boys club of the NYPD who are more than willing to make people disappear in order to cover up their own crimes and deceptions. The thing Roland doesn’t realize is that he will be facing down his old flame, Susan Cantrell, (Patricia Charbonneau) the new District Attorney in this murder case. And wouldn’t you know it, this is all happening on the eve of Roland’s marriage to the young and wholly unlikable Gail Feinberger (Blanche Baker) whose Father just so happens to head the biggest law firm in the city, which means Roland will become a partner and spend his life defending the rich and powerful and making sure those with the money get to keep it. Thankfully, this recent case, plus late night discussions with his district attorney ex-girlfriend, who acts as a cock riding Jiminy Cricket, has led to Roland’s reevaluation of the whole situation. Does he want to continue taking on cases for those who are innocent of any wrong doing but society wants them punished anyway, or to live a life with a woman who scolds him for listening to rock and roll too load in the morning while blending home made Orange Julius’s and wiping the asses of spoiled, rich old geezers? Decisions, decisions…

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To help uncover any evidence pertaining to the case and delve into the police corruption itself, Roland meets up with his old pal, undercover cop, Richie in the shit stained, syringe covered restroom of a dilapidated 42nd Street grindhouse. Over a few drinks in one of New York’s many watering holes, the two decide to team up and put the hurt of the NYPD’s most crooked cops, when Michael’s case and hopefully put away some scumbag pigs in the process.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the law and order proceedings that take place in the court room and are discussed in between the opposing legal team’s fuck sessions are really interesting, but the real stars of “Shakedown” are the go for broke, mind blowing, action sequences scattered throughout the film to keep you from being too mellow. While Roland is either defending or banging, Richie is chasing and beating the snot out of New York’s nastiest criminals and cops on his quest for the truth. The man is willing to use 42nd Street theater neon lights as means to leap onto the top of moving busses while opening fire on suspects! The guy chases a man onto a carnival roller coaster before starting it up and ensuring the car derails thereby sending the criminal soaring to his hysterical death! And, in probably, the greatest action sequence I have ever witnessed, Sam Elliot, as Richie, with the aid of Roland and his Porsche, manages to chase down a private jet. climb onto the jet’s landing gear as it takes off, ride that landing gear to a height where the roof of the World Trade Tower’s are visible; toss a grenade inside and then leap into the ocean before the plane lands and explodes. Yes, Richie survives with no damage worse than a wet pair of Levi’s.

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It’s that combination of serious, intelligent courtroom drama and Gonzo, batshit crazy action that really makes 1988’s “Shakedown” possibly one of the strangest yet endlessly entertaining action films of the 1980’s. A lot of the appeal is derived from watching the film’s two leading men bring the big bad guys to justice as well as watching Peter Weller and Sam Elliott, two very likable cult actors, pal around and makes jokes with one another. These gentlemen never ascended to the pantheon of great action stars like Arnold, Sly and Bruce. No, Peter has become more well known a a science fiction character actor and Sam, outside of The Big Lebowski, is a bit more recognized as a western cinema staple. But here, watching the two unlikely actors turned action stars, one cannot help but marvel as they spray gun fire, make death defying leaps from buildings and spout witty retorts and villains burn to death. It’s like watching the high school A.V. geek and the guy in shop class who never bathes joining forces to crack down on high school crime. To put it bluntly, it’s a mother fucking hoot to behold.

Also, another highlight of the film for me, is that “Shakedown” features New York’s 42nd Street RIGHT before gentrification took hold, the theaters were dismantled, and the strip steadily became home to Disney stores and McDonald’s and attracted more tourists than locals. It’s a final swan song to what was once a sleazy, filthy, dangerous playground, A place of legend that is no more. Watching some good goddamn action sequences explode across this neon sodom is quite a spectacle to behold, but also a lovingly rendered final look at a place that now only exists in memory and cinema.

“Shakedown” is a one of a kind action film. Feeling like Law and Order by way of Robert Rodriguez and Michael Bay’s love child, “Shakedown” mixes together ingredients that should by no means make a tasty concoction, but manages to deliver something unique, exciting, fun and shockingly entertaining. You will be pulled in by the human drama and then blown out of your seat with astonishment and laughter as one rock ’em sock ’em action scene after another pummels you over the head with it’s bizarre and warped sense of reality. My friends, “Shakedown” must truly be seen to be believed.

“Shakedown” will shake your beliefs in action cinema to the ground. Watch it brace yourself for an awakening and an injection of pure, undiluted Trash.

I give “Shakedown” THREE and a HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

12
Jan
13

Killer Joe: White Trash Armageddon

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a Primal Root review

Hey Gang,

Recently I had the pleasure of seeing one of the most outrageously over the top, gratuitously violent, creepiest, high octane, no holds barred, psychotic and unstable films I’ve sat down to witness in a main stream googaplex since…well, since I can remember. The film is William Friedkin’s 2012 deep black crime flick ‘Killer Joe’. Adapted by Tracy Lett’s from a stage play of his, ‘Killer Joe’ is one sick, blood caked, homage to complete and utter white trash stupidity. The violence is abrupt and shocking, the sex is dirty and perverse, and the outlook is utterly bleak.

Killer Joe might be among the best and funniest movies I’ve seen in years.

But this isn’t your typical dark comedy. No, when you buy your ticket for this sucker you have no idea the depths of depravity and nastiness you are in for. I sure as Hell didn’t. But I also hadn’t prepared myself for how much I laughed through the whole damn thing. Sure I was aghast  at what I was seeing on screen, but the brilliant performances, the direction of Friedkin and Letts’ amazing, genre bending screenplay make this one exhilarating dive down to the bottom of the lives our nation’s dumpster dwellers.

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Alright, the set up is that dim witted dope dealer named Chris (Emil Hirsch, making the best of a thankless role) finds his life on the line when he falls into horrendous debt with his supplier. What’s the scheme Chris comes up with? Kill his Mother and collect the insurance money! He enlists the help of his father and his mother’s ex-husband, getter dweller and resident numbskull, Ansel (played to perfection by Thomas Haden Church), gains the approval of his attractive and mysterious sister Dottie (the always game Juno Temple) whose mental state and past are always in question and even his ultra skanky step mother, Sharla (Gina Gershon, who deserves a medal of valor for her performance). Of course, everyone demands a cut of the inheritance.

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Chris and Ansel decide to hire the services of the local Texas legend, contract killer “Killer Joe” who happens to be a police detective full time. Killer Joe is played with full on demented, murderous, calculated glee by that always underrated Mathew McConaughey, who in a perfect world would be getting an Oscar for his blistering, in your face performance here. The man brings Killer Joe’s calm, sociopath personality to life and it really is a sight to behold. Every time the man enters frame he manages to be likable. He comes off relatively nice (as far as far as killers for hire go) if a little bit quirky…but even in these early scenes we feel a sense of dread. There’s much more to this guy than meets the eye.  Once all the cards are out on the table, things get pretty goddamn crazy, pretty goddamn quickly.

Chris and Ansel meet with Killer Joe, and seeing as the two nimrods don;t have a dime between them, they cannot hire Killer Joe’s services. However, Killer Joe comes up with an alternative plan, a retainer. If they give Killer Joe Dottie until they can get the money to pay him off, he will carry out the family wish of killing of Mommy dearest. Being complete fuck stick, Chris and Ansel agree and over a dinner of tuna casserole, Killer Joe and Dottie get…formally acquainted.

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The LAST thing I want to do is spoil Killer Joe for you. But what I can say is that there is a proverbial buffet of loathsomeness on display here. From burned out trailer courts, to grease stained double wide interiors and bankrupt businesses boarded up and left for dead. Killer Joe inhabits middle America and the small towns crushed and left to rot on the side lines.  It’s a desperate world these characters inhabit and it’s a place we know all too well.

Still, these people seem to have really adapted to their trashy surroundings and have, in effect, become total trash themselves. Filthy, brain dead, greedy scum suckers willing to kill family and use them as collateral just so they can make some cash and survive. Is this what it’s come to  when we live in a land where there’s no one to turn to?

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Sure, the underlying concept of the surroundings in Killer Joe are disheartening and disturbing enough with what they insinuate. But the actions our cast of characters take against one another is on another level entirely. I’ve, honest to Cthulhu, never seen anything like Killer Joe’s last twenty minutes. Much has been made of the fried chicken moment, Hell, it’s even a centerpiece of the ad campaign, but there is much more going on here and so much more to be had as a viewer.

And yes, I laughed. I laughed out loud hard and frequently. But every time I did, I kept questioning myself. “Should I be laughing at this?” It’s so ridiculously depraved and dirty, I couldn’t help myself. I laughed at the character’s stupidity,  the grandiose skeeziness, the sudden violence, the allusions of incest…it’s a perfect concoction of pitch black humor. But I don’t expect everyone to have the same reaction I did.

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Now, keep in mind, the NC-17 rated crime film (now available unrated on DVD and Blu-Ray) will not be for everyone. This is not an easily digested, cookie cutter, vanilla puddin’ pop kind of movie. This is some heavily fucked up Trash Cinema and for those who know they can handle such things. Either you will really enjoy Killer Joe or you will end up turning it off and barfing across the commode. It seems to have very little middle ground.

Killer Joe is disturbing and exhilarating and unlike anything I have seen in American mainstream cinema in a very long time.Needless to say, I had a blast watching it and Killer Joe just might be my favorite movie of 2012.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

Heads up! Below trailer contains a ton of plot spoilers!

 

21
Jul
11

‘(It’s a) Complex World’: God told us to laugh at you.

a Primal Root review

In a world where rock music, rampant drug use and promiscuous sex is destroying the moral fiber of today’s youth there can be only one solution. Stick some plastic explosives in a keg and blow up a filthy club filled with degenerates! Of course, this is the world of 1992 and the hot bed for this moral degradation is The Heartbreak Hotel in Providence which happens to be owned by the son of a political talking head who is running for the office of the President of the United States of America. Can you say, “conspiracy?”

Well, in this case you would be right. From the very beginning ‘Complex World’ makes it’s intentions clear and let’s you in on what’s happening much like the suspenseful dynamite in the trunk opening of Orson Wells’ classic, ‘Touch of Evil’. Only here, the outcome isn’t made clear till the very end when exhaustive collection of characters and plot lines all come together and lead to a stand-off that will either blow your mind or haunt your nightmares. A political killing is underway as the communist hating, paranoid, presidential nominee has send out an elite terrorist hit squad to wipe The Heartbreak Hotel and all it’s inhabitants off the face of the earth, but first, they try to get a little ransom money out of the club’s manager and presidential nominees son, Jeff. That is, if they can get him to give a shit or fear death…

‘Complex World’ takes place over the course of one night at The Heartbreak Hotel over the back drop of a double billed concert.  Folk-singer/terrorist, Morris Brock, who revels in creating the most negative, violence inducing songs possible (‘Why Do We Feed the Broads?’, ‘New Jersey’), is opening up for an experimental metal band called The Young Adults who sing the ridiculously uncatchy title track, ‘Complex World’ as well as a love song about a man and a bush entitled ‘I married a Tree’,  a hopeful  endorsement of committing suicide when your life is at it’s worst simply called, ‘Kill Yourself’, and my personal favorite, ‘Christmas in Japan in July.’

What I describe to you here is really the bare minimum of the plot. To describe anymore would not only spoil a lot of the fun and magic that is ‘Complex World’, but I doubt me telling you about it would really do the film justice. Take my word for it, the film is a twisted, hilarious trip back to the early days of the 90’s that perfectly captures the strange shift in attitude and music that would come to define the early-mid part of the decade. It’s a movie that also takes a good hard look at the political industrial complex with intense disdain, then shrugs it’s shoulders and walks away from all it’s bullshit. Ultimately saying, if you don’t give into their brand of control and bullying, that only then will we ever truly be free.

‘Complex World’ is well worth tracking down and giving it a go. We happen to have a copy on VHS at Video 21 in Tallahassee if you ever happen to be in the area for an extended stay. I highly recommend you check this one out.

Stay Trashy,

-The Primal Root

Here’s a clip from ‘Complex World’ featuring Morris Brock performing ‘New Jersey.’

22
Aug
09

Spontaneous Combustion

“Stop, Drop & Roll”

a review by Jessica Dawn Summers

S. CombustionThere were many movies that Tobe Hooper directed that never received the fame and recognition of his early classics, such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist.  This gem, however, may just deserve some of that acclaim, even if only for the originality of the material. How many movies have you seen in your life about Spontaneous Human Combustion? This is the only one I have ever seen, that’s for sure. That fact completely aside, I genuinely found myself loving this movie.

Starring the amazingly talented Academy Award Nominee Brad Dourif, you might ask yourself, “How is this film Trash Cinema material?” The answer lies within the special effects, prop hands and arms, and bizarre qualities of the pyrotechnics in this movie. I will do my best to describe them, but you must see them to truly appreciate them. Not only will you enjoy the multi-faceted plot, unique storyline, and quality acting, but the icing on the cake is what happens anytime someone starts to burn.

It’s 1950’s America, and fear of the atomic bomb weighs heavy on the hearts of Americans, from scientists to housewives. Young newlyweds Brian and Peggy agree to participate in “Project Samson.” They are to test an experimental vaccine on themselves, in exchange for a fat check to help them as they start their life together.  This vaccine was to make them immune to radiation, and to test such a drug, the two were placed in spitting distance of a nuclear explosion. They survive, and to all tests it appears that the vaccine did in fact protect them! The real treat of this back story is the old fashioned patriotic news reel announcing “America’s First Nuclear Family,” narrated by that rich, masculine voice all the old reels seemed to have.

While in quarantine after the event, Brian and Peggy occupy their time by making a baby. Baby David is a healthy, happy baby boy born on the 10th anniversary of Hiroshima. It appears the couple’s dreams are coming true, until shortly after the delivery, Peggy and Brian burst into flames and die a horrible death; holding each other’s rubbery-looking bodies and screaming until they are nothing but black char.

The couple had been followed closely by a shadowy group of military higher-ups and nuclear research executives who sit at long tables under spotlights and smoke a lot. These guys were originally plotting to abort the baby for fear of what it might become. Now, with the death of the couple, they are left trying to decipher what happened and what might be in store for the baby.

In a bizarre and surreal scene, a creepy guy with an eye patch who apparently works for the shadowy group, rules it “SHC,” or Spontaneous Human Combustion. As if to illustrate his point, he takes a stick, works it into the blackened remains of Brian’s head and pulls out a tiny, shrunken skull. I guess what makes the scene so startling is how absolutely foam-like Brian’s head is. It’s much too light, and eye-patch guy struggles to keep it from falling off whatever it’s propped up on. And does human bone really contain so much moisture that high heat would shrink a skull to the size of a fist? Beats me.

Thirty some years later, David’s new name is Sam and he’s a high school teacher and going through a nasty divorce. On the eve of a new local nuclear power facility coming online, a string of deaths befalls Sam’s associates; each one fire related, after some sort of conflict with Sam.  It’s about this time that Sam’s mysterious fire power reveals itself through burnt fingertips and exploding, flame-spitting holes in limbs which not only resist but are exacerbated by water and fire retardants.

One of my favorite burning scenes is where Sam’s girlfriend Lisa is driving him to the emergency room after a bad “flare-up.” She’s speeding to the hospital in a panic, and Sam starts a terribly timed heart-to-heart speech about his love for her. Lisa then responds in a similarly badly timed fashion to explain how she had been set up all along to watch his progress by the same shadowy group responsible for his pain. He gets emotional, which gets his fire-power going, and his arm explodes into flames again. Lisa screams weakly, keeps her eyes on the road, and only swerves a little – an admirable feat when her passenger is cooking alive and screaming his lungs out. I think that if I were in that situation, I would have at least pulled over, if not flipped the car. I definitely would nominate Lisa for some sort of leadership role should the zombie apocalypse ever happens. This girl can stay focused! Or she’s just a terrible actress. Six one way, half a dozen another.

In the final segment, Dr. Marsh attacks Lisa with a mysterious injection that causes her arm to erupt into flames. Sam’s evil ex-wife shows up and douses Lisa with a fire extinguisher:

Lisa: “Stop! You’re making it worse!”
Ex-wife: “I know.”

In the epic finale, a crispy-looking Sam shows up to fight off the ex-wife and save Lisa. Lisa resists his efforts and flails about, screaming incessantly. Sam sort of melts into a person-puddle, and as Lisa screams, a huge ephemeral hand reaches out of the puddle and pats Lisa’s chest. Lisa’s fire is extinguished, and at this moment, the dubbed screaming continues on for a few seconds, while Lisa’s mouth is closed, then stops abruptly.

This movie really has a lot of things going for it. Brad Dourif sweats buckets throughout this movie, starting at about the 20 minute mark. I suppose it’s appropriate since he’s burning to death. His sweaty, greasy, heavy-breathing, bug-eyed depiction of the character is really, really fun. The burning scenes are absolutely spectacularly bad. Rubbery looking arms are suddenly way too long as they flame up and are held in front of the victim’s face as the person looks down and screams. If I had a poster of this camera angle, I would frame it. The fire strangely does not seem to spread normally, and if you look close, it appears somewhat “on top” of the picture. Clothing somehow doesn’t burn either.

Underlying it all is cautionary tale of the dangers of trying to harness the power of the atom; and the age-old battle of science verses nature. Ultimately, this is a very good story accompanied with terrible effects, but held together tightly by a fantastic performance by Brad Dourif.




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