Posts Tagged ‘over the top

10
Jul
14

Shakedown (1988) Law and Disorder

shakedown-poster

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…

shakedown white

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.

shakedown flight

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

04
Feb
12

Hobo with a Shotgun: Make Your Own Change

a Primal Root review

 

I found out moments before I watched this film that it originated as a grand prize winner in a mock trailer contest as part of a publicity stunt for the Tarantino/Rodriguez helmed double feature “Grindhouse”. What was the prize? The folks who made the trailer  got to turn that trailer into a feature length film. Now, let me tell you, the feature length version of  “Hobo With a Shotgun” isn’t going to appeal to the wide breadth of film goers out there. Hell, I have close friends who love Trash Cinema who thought this flick sucked sweaty goat balls. I, for one, thought it was one of the craziest, blow it out a shotgun, fuck it message films I’ve seen in a long, long, time.

“Hobo with a Shotgun” tells the story of an earnest, older transient Hobo (played with gravity by the ever awesome and always game Rutger Hauer) who goes from town to town looking for a break and a means to begin living his humble dream of making a decent living as a landscaper. But, as we all know, in the real world this can be tougher than it seems. Especially when you’ve been reduced to sleeping on sidewalks,  trying to come up with clever card board signs asking for donations and having the chew broken glass for the folks who film shit like “Bum Fights” for a measly couple of bucks. When you are that far down, it’s near impossible to get back up without some kind of helping hand.

If only he had written something witty and clever as opposed to honest...

Sadly, our Hobo has managed to ride the rails into Dartmouth Nova Scotia which looks to be the ninth circle of Hell as it is ruled under the blood thirsty fist of a tiny, greasy, sociopath by the name of Drake  (Brian Downey) and his two equally psychotic, well groomed sons Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman). This Father and Son triple threat of bloodthirsty scumbaggery have turn this city into a gut crunching, head obliterating, meaty chunk strewn wasteland where no one bats an eye if someone has their skull crushed between two bumper cars or a school bus full of children gets burned alive…as long as it’s not them. In this reality, whoever visits the most brutal death to the citizenry and generates the most fear is king. This is hardly the town to look for a decent person with a dream to find that helping hand.

Our Hobo befriends Abby, the hooker with a heart of gold (played by the talented and gorgeous Molly Dunsworth) who shows him warmth and kindness and becomes a bit of a daughter to our hero. But once Hobo witnesses atrocity upon atrocity and is brutalized himself, he trades in his landscaping dreams for a loaded shotgun and decides to level the playing field as only a vigilante with nothing left to lose can do.  As the bodies of murderous, drug dealing, rapists cock suckers rise Drake and his sons are left with no choice but to retaliate as a full fledged war is declared between the haves and the have nots…and no one is spared.

To be honest, it took me about ten minutes to really warm up to “Hobo with a Shotgun”. It;s early sequences felt like some kind of second rate Troma flick…but as the violent set pieces of the opening came to a close and the film began to focus more on the story of Rutger’s Hobo and his rise to become a homeless moral avenger, it rose way above the the trappings of your typical no-buget grue fest.  This flick has a surprising amount of heart, stays true to it’s characters, and delivers on all fronts.

Hobo with a Shotgun is an interesting animal. On one hand the filmmakers seem to be inviting you to laugh at the brutal carnage going on throughout the film. When a character has his head ripped off and a scantly clad woman writhes in the geyser of fresh blood spraying forth from a gaping hole where the victim’s head should be you can’t help but laugh at how ludicrous it all is. But several scenes later, a character we’ve grown to know and care about is suddenly in mortal danger of being killed off and we suddenly can’t bring ourselves to laugh…we realize this is a world without ruled. A place where the filmmakers are willing to do anything and kill off anyone at any moment. In Hobo with a Shotgun, the typical cinematic tropes need not apply.  Just like the world we live in, it’s so easy to laugh at a crazy headline or crack a joke regarding someone’s misfortune, but when it suddenly that same fate shines on us or someone we love, it ceases to amuse.

And in this I feel Hobo with a Shotgun finds it’s message. It’s not just a film that focuses on the violence, and there are copious amounts of  it to be sure, but it also manages to drive home the idea of desensitization, apathy, detachment and how detrimental it is to us as a society.  For us to stand by as other well meaning and good people are crushed under the heal of our oppressors, being too afraid to stand up for fear of the same harm being inflicted upon us,  doesn’t that mean evil has already won out?

One of “Hobo with a Shotgun” ‘s strongest scenes comes when Hobo enters the maternity ward of a hospital and there before him, separated by a pane of glass, are a dozen new born babies. fresh from Momma’s loins. These little souls are pure, innocent and precious.  But for how long? And aged, craggy faced and beaten down man with nothing but the close on his back and a blazing hot, fully loaded shotgun looks in upon them and their advocate, as the spokesperson for their future. You were born into and are inheriting this world of pain and suffering.  This one Hobo finally hit rock bottom, grew tired of seeing his world repeatedly;y raped and violated around him and chose to stand up. Come life or death, this man chose to make that stand to change things.  What kind of world will these babies grow up in?  That’s entirely up to us.

Hobo with a Shotgun, it’s one very bloody,extremely brutal film. One which takes no prisoners, makes no apologies and leaves you feeling like you just took a trip through some kind of cinematic Hell on earth. A weird alternate movie universe tucked somewhere in the scummy, unwashed regions of Trash Cinema that stinks of canned tamales and makes your fingers stick together.   Hobo with a Shotgun sure as shit isn’t for everyone, but for those of us in it’s sights, Hobo with a Shotgun is a blast you won’t soon forget.

And, though I think they’re fucking awesome, I have no idea what The Plague is all about. But I do want their arcade game…

Stay Trashy!

-Root

12
Oct
10

Satan’s Little Helper: The Many Faces of Evil

a Primal Root Review

****SPOILER WARNING****

“JESUS IS SATAN!” – Jenna makes a startling revelation in Satan’s Little Helper

Well, it’s that time of year again! My favorite holiday, Halloween, is just around the corner and I felt it would do the season justice to bring you a review for one of my favorite new films to take place on my favorite day of the year. We’re talking about the 2004 warped, jet black Halloween horror comedy, Satan’s Little Helper. A film that explicitly details the highs and lows of befriending someone who is pure evil and doing everything hey ask you to do. It also illustrates how easily lead and stupid children are. And how hot your sister is. And how creepy Amanda Plummer is. And how much hipster drama majors suck. All in one action packed movie! Let us get down to business.

 

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen, Satan.

 

Satan’s Little Helper begins with our little kid star, Dougie (Alexander Brickel) riding in the family sedan wtih Mom (Amanda Plummer) on their way to pick up his sister Jenna (Katheryn Winnick) who has come back from college to celebrate Halloween with her kid brother. Dougie is dressed up as Satan’s Little Helper, the main character in the violent horror video game his father bought for him. In the game, Satan’s Little Helper follows Satan around and murders people for points while avoiding detection by God and getting killed by an Avenging Angel. Now, if only this film had become more popular, every kid in North America would be playing this game. Including me.

Now, when Dougie and Mom pull up to the ferry to pick up Kathryn (she had to take a ferry because this place is small and secluded and could be an island or something) she has brought along a fellow theater major and possible suitor in the form of scrawny hipster, Alex (Stephen Graham) who won’t shut up about his abusive father and is never once likable. Needless to say, Dougie is pissed because he wanted to spend his Halloween with his super cool sister but now has to share her with El Douche Bag Theater Major.

Dougie mopes about his neighborhood before coming across someone who may or may not be the devil murdering someone on their front porch in broad daylight and arranging this corpse as a Halloween decoration.  This is the exact same behavior Dougie has come to idolize in his favorite video game so, of course, he’s gotta introduce himself to this silent, masked killer and offer up his services. Satan instantly approves after Dougie mentions the fact that his sexy, melon chested sister and slightly neurotic Mother are both home alone and Dad won’t be home till later.

Dougie and Satan, BFF!

The two embark on an awesome and constantly hysterical adventure together running over elderly blind men and pregnant women with shopping carts, crushing cats against  houses to write Halloween messages in their blood, and kicking elderly women from their walkers and then hanging them out the upstairs window so they can nab her drugs to lace the candy they will later be handing out to children.

Keep in mind, Dougie is not psychotic, he simply thinks this is all make believe and that this is all just like the video game. How could a cild be so damn stupid? I’m not sure. But it does add to the humor to watch a little kid give a murderer a thumbs up as he brutally stabs a grocer to death and toss the body in a dumpster.

The proceedings are all undergone with tongue planted firmly and bloodily in cheek and for those of you with the same sick sense of I possess this is a fucking gem of a Halloween horror movie. The film manages to pull off a pretty believable feeling of a small town Halloween and how easy it would be for a killer to simply kill people and set them all about under the guise it’s simply a Halloween prank or decoration. Half the action takes place in broad daylight with neighbors walking by, and on some occasions, even stopping with the kids to watch and take photos while laughing.

 

Satan gets acquainted with Dougie's big sister, Jenna.

 

The Satan figure in the film, in addition to being both hilarious and brutal, possesses an incredible intelligence and insight into human psychology. He manages to put a dozen webs and traps together and manipulate all his victims into killing family and friends for him. Like a more comical version of Jigsaw from the Saw franchise, Satan has a knack for almost clairvoyant forward planning. It’s really kind of remarkable when you watch the film and think about it.

A third of the way through Satan’s Little Helper, the small community falls into anarchy as the five man police team is decimated and Satan changes faces and his numerous plans come together. People rush to get the Hell out of there as it dawns on them what they assumed were harmless Halloween jokes are, in fact, deadly serious.

It is in this final third of the movie that Satan’s Little Helper, I believe, delivers a bit of a message. Satan changes costumes several times towards the end of our film. First, into Jesus Christ (donning an infinitely creepier mask than his Devil get-up.) who Dougie has prayed for to help him after being led blindly by Satan, whom he thought was his friend before he gutted dad and tied his lower intestines to a dining room chair. Dougie instantly believes this visage of Christ is here to help, little does he realize, Christ is the same evil he is trying to avoid.

Christ stops by.

By film’s end, the family lets a police officer into their home assuming he is there to help. This authority figure is revealed to be the same killer wearing another mask, another costume, of a figure many of us are conditioned to trust and believe in. Watching the film again I began to wonder if this was a Christian film, but in the end I have a feeling it’s a cautionary tale about trusting authority and those in power. Satan, Jesus, law enforcement, or otherwise you should always question those in power and not just play the sheep who blindly follows.

Could it be? A movie that’s such a brain smashingly nasty bit of comic fun as Satan’s Little Helper could jam a damn message into the proceedings? I dunno. I may be reading way too much into this thing. All I know is it’s just as funny to watch Jesus savagely beat people as it is to watch Satan.

This Halloween season, if there’s one flick I recommend you check out if you haven’t already, it’s the indie sleeper Satan’s Little Helper. You’ll laugh, you’ll gasp, and just maybe learn a little something about yourself.

Stay Trashy,

-The Primal Root




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