Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mighty Acorns / When Cult Movies Attack: The XYZ Murders / Relentless --> Crimewave


It's all part of my feeble attempt to go over the Coen film library before No Country for Old Men comes out for us poor American schlubs to finally see. The French probably got DVDs of it already, huh? So I'm going over all their films. Got 'em all on DVD, so I plan on re-watching 'em all... except for their twentieth of Paris, Je T'Aime; that was a little too je ne sais quoi for my taste.

Well, what can be said about 1985's Crimewave that hasn't already been said? The Maltin guide dismisses this as a mere exercise in style, and it's a statement I may have agreed with in the past. The two cartoonish crooks are kinda irritating at first, but it all goes back to that old Reverse Law of Diminishing Movie Returns: generally, the more you see a movie, the more your misconceptions of it get worn down, the more you feel like the film's editor and so on, until the more it becomes the best damn movie you've ever seen in your entire life. It's not quite at that point yet for me, but it's not without reward. There's a couple nice setpieces in it. For instance, some of those crashes on the freeway were pretty cool! Even if they were done at 3 in the morning on a Sunday. Why does everything explode twice? I still can't wrap my head around that. Also, Tango & Cash is still a cut-rate White Trash version of Lethal Weapon 2, even though I've seen it a couple times since its original 1989 release but I'll do that one later.

The film (Crimewave) was disowned by director Sam Raimi, and for the most part it fits comfortably into the Troma / Cannon vibe of most of the inexpensive, independent American films made in the 1980s. If only Gilbert Gottfried were still hosting USA Up All Night they'd maybe show it on TV. Stylistically, it's almost a touchstone of Coen visual tricks, especially their early work. There are many parallels to be found here, for instance with the use of names (Hudsucker, Odegard), but I don't have the kind of time necessary to catalogue all that crap anymore. Besides, the Coens apparently are already inundated with ravenous, bookish fans who've done more homework than even I. Personally, I thought a little bit of Crimewave when I watched The Man Who Wasn't There. Was I the only one?

The film may have been butchered by the unconfident producers but they managed to stay true to the Three Stooges theme of the picture, specifically in terms of sound effects. They got to use a lot of the Stooges' original sound effects, and some of the Warner Brothers cartoons ones, too! Emil Sitka has a small role, for Christ sake! This also seemed to be a boon in terms of dubbing lines in post, like the Fleischer cartoons where the actors were allowed to improvise lines. You sometimes get the feeling here that all opportunities for asides were used. There's a big sequence where Louise Lasser fights with Paul Smith, (that's not really his voice, is it?) who I remember most fondly as Bluto in the big screen version of Popeye, with his role as Mo in The In-Laws (1979) a close second. There is creativity in the way he handles the flying dishware, which probably influenced The War of the Roses to an extent, for one. He gets three bowling balls dropped on his head, and ends up destroying the carpet in a positively Spielbergian sequence. If this were made today, the black dude would probably get treated a lot differently, but I digress. And furthermore, it wasn't exactly a picnic for the producers. Why, Ed Pressman never acted again! (But then again, who did in Street Fighter? Oh, snap!)

Speaking of Van Damme, there's a rule in movie fight sequences which I'll claim as my own: the Rule of Constant Punches (name pending). Let's say that each fight scene in a movie has a certain number of punches thrown (z), x is the number of bad guys in one fight, and y is the number of punches it takes to subdue a bad guy. The formula is x*y=z. So, the fewer bad guys there are, the more punches it takes to knock them out. This rule seems to apply mostly to Jean Claude Van Damme, even though he's got some badass moves. A great example of this rule in action is Nowhere to Run: he's fighting five guys in one scene and can't seem to kick them hard enough! Crimewave pushes this rule to an incredulous extreme: since there are only two bad guys, they take several punches and rather uncomical baseball bat hits to finally get rid of them. And that's not what even gets rid of them!

Apparently, Bruce Campbell was supposed to play the main guy, Vic Ajax, but ultimately he seemed more suited to the Heel part he eventually got. And in Hudsucker, wasn't he perfect as the womanizing reporter? Besides, doesn't it feel good to help out others sometimes? Even if their careers don't end up as well? Even if it is against your will, Bubba Ho-Tep? Guess they couldn't get William Atherton to play the romantic lead, but that part was wrong for him too. It is worth noting that Vic's philosophy on life and love which he slowly pieces together over the course of the film echoes the innocence of Norville Barnes, that man was not meant to live alone. Not that it necessarily excludes gay marriage, but that's for other films to explore.

What else? This is nothing to be ashamed of, boys. Ultimately, I can't imagine how this picture could've been salvaged without major reshoots to make it a little less cartoonish, but never mind. The only crime here is there's no digitally remastered print on DVD! With commentary from someone. Probably not the producers, they'd spend too much time talking about what they had to change. Also, it's the only acting the Coens have done together on screen. Worth it just for that. I think Raimi stamps the box with the Uruguay stamp, but I have no way to confirm that. Frances McDormand has a small part as a nun. Don't let it go to your head, guys. Three stars from me. :)

-so sayeth the Movie Review Hooligan (MRH)

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