The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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--Matt

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bitch Slap (2009)

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This was a very eagerly anticipated film, and then that anticipation waned quite a bit as the film took longer and longer to be released. While I was visiting my buddy in Mass last week, he insisted on buying it, us both being huge Michael Hurst guys from his time on Hercules. We figured there was no way this could fail.

Bitch Slap is a big ol' mess of a collection of scenes acted out in front of a green screen that some how lead back to these three women out in the desert digging for something buried out there. Oh, and a bunch of Hercules and Xena alums have cameos.

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It's interesting that things worked out in such a way that I was able to watch Black Dynamite and Bitch Slap within days of each other, because both films were trying to pay homage to/poke fun at older exploitation genres, and one worked better than I could've imagined, and another fell flat. Anyone who's been rockin' with us for a little while knows which one worked, and it wasn't Bitch Slap. In every case where Black Dynamite knew when to pull back, or not go too far, Bitch Slap overdid it; and in converse, every time Black Dynamite went for it and got as ridiculous as possible and it worked, Bitch Slap just came off as trying too hard to overdo it, or even worse, settling for overdoing it when trying for a modicum of quality was too hard. It was just a mess.

And that was too bad, because like Black Dynamite, they had the talent in the form of Hurst, Sorbo, Lawless, and Renee O'Connor to make this work-- and we'd seen this form of humor done so well in Hercules on numerous occasions. One major difference between Black Dynamite and Bitch Slap though, was the lead stars in the former, like Michael Jai White and Salli Richardson-Whitfield, were great actors/actresses; while the three women in the leads in the latter left a lot to be desired. Now I get that in the 50s and 60s women in the films they were paying homage too weren't great actresses either, but to make the movie in 2009 that pays homage to the 50s and 60s, you need talent to pull it off, otherwise you get another bad movie with none of the charm of those older ones. Believe me, I've seen my share of both 70s blaxpolitation and 50s and 60s exploitation films, and I get what both groups were going for in making their respective films, and one worked and the other didn't.

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One of the biggest issues was the technique they used in telling the story, where the film starts near the end, then whenever there's a plot point, we're taken to however long in the past to explain it, then jumped back into the present. Ever since Pulp Fiction came out, we've been inundated with people trying to find new ways to arrange the way the story is told to us, and very few of them do more than become increasingly tedious and annoying as the film goes on. The thing with Pulp Fiction was, Tarentino didn't rearrange the whole story, he took one part from near the beginning, and moved it to the end; and he didn't do it to be clever or just for the sake of doing it, he did it because it worked, because it enhanced what was an already great story.

That was one of the biggest problems this film had: it couldn't get out from under Tarentino's shadow-- and I'm not necessarily sure it wanted to. Again, going back to Black Dynamite, they created something that was sui generis, as opposed to something that came off as derivative. Maybe Bitch Slap wasn't supposed to be a Kill Bill or Pulp Fiction rehash, but it sure seemed like that. And as far as hot chicks making out or whatever, this is 2010, I can see that kind of action on an episode of Real World/Road Rules Challenge. I'm not saying don't include it in the film, I'm just saying don't hang your hat on it, give us some quality in and around it too.

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Before I wrap it up, I must mention the whole reason my buddy and I got this: Michael Hurst. What a crock: he's in maybe just shy of half of it; and what he's in is good, but the material is nowhere near as great as what he had on Hercules, and try as much as he could, he couldn't save it. The thing that sucks is, as much as I didn't like this film, and as much as my buddy who bought it didn't either, we both felt impelled to support it because we want more film makers to cast Hurst. It's not his fault this is bad-- in fact, it would've been better with more Hurst in it-- so don't blame him all you film makers out there.

This was a total disappointment to me, especially after waiting so long for it. At the very least, rent it before you buy it. It might be a personal issue I had (and my buddy and his wife too) with it, but even so, rent it anyway before you commit the $15 to $20, that way if I am right and you agree with me, it didn't cost you much.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1212974/

3 comments:

  1. Well I actually enjoyed this film, and I never once thought of Pulp Fiction when I was watching(though maybe that's because I honestly find Tarantino to be a somewhat overrated director)Bitch Slap is one of the few films I saw that made it hard to put into words how I felt about it, it just so crazy with all the twists and INSANE fights everything that I really wans't sure whether to like it or not, though now i've decided that it's merely decent. Mind you I saw this film in a slightly different perspective then most people since I never actually watched the types of films that were being homaged in this film, and I wasn't able to judge whether it worked in terms of the films it was homaging like I was for Black Dynamite. I honestly have no idea who the hell Michael Hurst is, but I would definitely like to see these actresses in other films as they showed a great deal of promise IMO. I do agree with you on one thing though, I wasn't a fan of the whole "re-arranged story" tihng either and that has definitely been done ot death in films and it was deifnitely very disconcerting here.

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  2. Matt, I couldn't agree with you more, I saw this last month and was totally underwhelmed. The key reason being exactly as you said, the flashback reset non linear storytelling was so not a good idea and convoluted what didn't need to be. Your comparison to Black Dynamite was apt too. I feel like Bitch Slap was trying to have it's cake and eat it too by taking the Russ Meyer angle and shoving the Tarantino device into it. The last thing I want to see is Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls edited like Memento.
    Two notes. First, just f.y.i, the account login change lost my old name somehow, so here I am in new form.
    Second, Matt, if there if was ever a movie review that would benefit from screencaps, THIS IS IT. Ha. As always, thanks the work. I've got some more flicks to send your way, but the coincidence of you reviewing Prayer and Haim's sad passing has not gone unnoticed.

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  3. I can see why people might like this film, Michael, it just didn't work for me. I agree that the chicks, especially the one who played Trixie, were hot, but the acting was just off, especially Trixie's after the plot twist-- that felt very forced. I can also see someone saying Tarentino's overrated, even though Pulp Fiction was my number three film from the 90s, and Inglourious Basterds was in my top 20 from the recent decade. I think he just needs a larger filmography before we can really put him with Scorsese, Spielberg, and Almodovar. I'd even put Eastwood ahead of him.

    I must say, Jeff, I love the new icon. Anything Dolph is great. The Russ Meyer angle is something I should've mentioned, so I'm glad you brought it up, because you could see where this wanted to pay homage to Russ Meyer, but it was missing some of what made Meyer's stuff so great. I guess the best way to put it was it didn't give the reason I was looking for to watch it instead of the original stuff it was based on from the 50s and 60s.

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