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.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Luck of the Draw (2000)

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I actually came across this film when looking for more Sasha Mitchell films-- of which there aren't many that we haven't already done. I had it my queue for a while, while other films jumped it in priority; but now it's at the top, as the second film of our Dennis Hopper tribute week.

Luck of the Draw has the star of Gladiator (the underrated boxing movie with Cuba Gooding Jr., not the Ridley Scott blockbuster), as a dude looking for a job after spending a few years in the clink for breaking and entering. After being turned down at a bank, he's in the right place at the right time as a bunch of Dennis Hopper's men hit a limo carrying extremely high quality counterfeit plates. Government agent William Forsythe appears at the hit as well, and a three-way shootout ensues, with the dude carrying the plates falling in front of our hero. Now he sees an opportunity, and he tries to sell the plates through his old partner, Michael Madsen. The thing is, Dennis Hopper doesn't suffer losing his property lightly, and he'll do whatever it takes to get it back.

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This wasn't too bad. It was a classic Tarentino-esque heist caper style deal where the violence is more out of fun than any seriousness. The problem is, they betray that lightheartedness when they kill the hero's love interest's dad, played by Frank Gorshin. In a way it's germane to the plot, but it was weird and took the whole thing in a direction it didn't need to go. Also, the whole love interest thing was quick and forced anyway, and I was surprised they didn't do like most heist films do and have her have ulterior motives, i.e. the fact that she even falls for him in the first place is because she sees him take the plates or something. Anyway, that this worked at all was due to the great performances of the large and deep supporting cast, from Hoppper as the main baddie, to Eric Roberts as his right hand man and Sasha Mitchell as his grunt; to Forsythe as the fed; to Frank Gorshin as the father; to Ice-T as the rival crime lord; to Madsen as the hero's friend; all the way to the Patrick Kilpatrick in one of his best roles ever as the Irish hitman. It was those performances among a pretty run-of-the-mill premise that sold it for me.

In my Circle of Pain review, I made fun of the script, saying the writers' go to verb was "fucking". It just sounded ignorant, as swearing can sometimes do. But guys like Dennis Hopper throw rules like that out the window. He makes swearing awesome. In one scene where he's on the phone, he calls a French guy a "fucking French frog fuck!" He has a way of taking material like this, that is pretty basic, and making it something more. He's not the only one though, everyone else I mentioned above did the same thing. I mean, how easy would it be for Hopper to mail it in and just be the guy from Speed every time he's cast as a baddie in a DTV movie, but he doesn't do that, he brings it each time, and I think that's why we love seeing him in movies so much.

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The love interest was a total hottie, Wendy Benson (since Wendy Benson-Landes). Her character was an unfortunate cross between the main character's redemption, and hottie window dressing, only having a moment of true assertiveness grafted on at the end. I was surprised, because had they used her character better, I think it might have made for a more intriguing movie. I mean, why would a woman as hot as her pick up a guy who looks like Corey Hart off the street and take him to meet her father (which is essentially what happened)? She wouldn't, that's why. What she would do is see our hero outside of the bank, see him pick up the briefcase with the plates in it, and find out where he lives from her boss's paperwork that had the guy's work application with his address on it. Maybe she falls in love with our hero in the process, maybe she tries to use him and leave him-- whatever, it just would have been that little bit that would have made this thing really work.

The hero's name in real life is James Marshall. You may remember him from A Few Good Men, but he's really great in Gladiator, as was Cuba Gooding Jr. (our good buddy whom we haven't seen in a while. I wonder what he's up to...). Here, with his poofy hair, he looked like a Corey Hart impersonator, which is cool, don't get me wrong, but in the context of this film looks kind of silly. I think his character was supposed to be a reformed bad boy trying to make a new life for himself, but he ended up just looking like a boy-- even if he was 33 at the time. If you haven't seen it, go out and rent Gladiator. That'll give you a new appreciation for how good both Marshall, and Gooding Jr. are.

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DTVC favorite Sasha Mitchell is in this as a partner for Eric Roberts, the man doing Hopper's dirty work. The only martial arts he even remotely does comes when he beats up Frank Gorshin because he's into Hopper for some gambling debts. I was half-expecting big graphics with words like "Bam!" and "Pow!" to pop up on the screen each time Gorshin was hit, and I could tell as he fake took each punch, he was drawing from his old Batman days for inspiration. Anyway, Mitchell did look like he'd put on some pounds, so perhaps that's why we've seen so little of him over the past few years. That's too bad, though, because the guy is only in his early 40s, and he had the stuff back in the 90s to lead action films, so he'd make a great candidate to carry the torch as the current crop of DTV actions stars get even longer in the tooth.

This is fun for the actors, but not so much for everything else, so you need to ask yourself how much you like these guys. The film is available on Netflix, so that's a bonus. What you're looking at is a classic Tarentino-esque heist film, pretty pedestrian at best, but the performances from all the stars were anything but, and so that made it for me, but it might not for you.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0207036/

5 comments:

  1. This movie was so-so. I really don't know what else to say, the cast was good but the film really didn't use them well. I really find it hard to go into more details on such a mediocre movie.

    Sasha Mitchell was very buff a year later with Gangland, so maybe Mitchell was doing the DeNiro thing of gaining weigfht, or perhaps his divorce took a toll on him.

    Honestly once Roberts exited, the film really started to just be by the book. Dennis Hopper had a great scene with Mitchell and Roberts about them not wanting it enough. Kilpatrick was also good. This was truly a case of a good cast making the best of a lame script. The action wasn't very good, the love story was atrocious and it also needed a better lead like Michael Pare, Indeed the character should've been tougher and older. In anycase this wasworth it for fans but it should've been better.

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  2. Definitely agree with Kenner on this one. The movie squandered a great cast!

    Read that Mickey Rourke was going to be in this flick, but he walked off the set when the producers said he couldn't use his dog in a scene.

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  3. You guys had the same read I did, I think maybe I was more forgiving because the cast was a lot of fun. Good point about Mitchell in Gangland, though imdb lists that one after this one, which was why I made that mistake. he could've been drinking too.

    Really cool anecdote about Rourke, Ty. Which part was he supposed to play, the hero? It would have made more sense.

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  4. Not sure about Rourke's part in it. That would be really interesting if he was the hero.

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  5. He might have been Madsen's part too. That really would have fit him.

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