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.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Crack House (1989)
I saw the trailer for this on the VHS of another Cannon film. I don't remember which one that was, and I'm not sure it matters either, just that I have it now-- or rather, Netflix Watch Instantly has it now, though I didn't know that and found it on my own.
Crack House has Soultaker's Gregg Thomsen as Rick, a Mexican-American trying to get out of the crime-ridden streets of LA and the gang he was once a part of. He doesn't quite make it though, after he gets busted shooting up an African-American gang's hideout to avenge his cousin's murder. He ends up in the clink, leaving his innocent white girlfriend as easy prey for a whole host of unsavory characters, and when she ends up strung-out on drugs and the sex slave property of drug lord Jim Brown, Rick decides to cut a deal with police detective Richard Roundtree in order to bring Brown down.
This is a hardcore exploitation flick, not the kind of thing you want to fire up with your buddies for a bad movie night. A lot of the brutality is kept off camera, outside of some fight scenes, though those are nothing you haven't seen from a good Cannon flick before. The girlfriend's descent into the world of drugs through unscrupulous character to more unscrupulous character is the most troubling to witness, because they don't really pull punches, even if they use the jump-cut to keep us from some of the tougher scenes, like her being taken advantage of when she's too intoxicated to say no, or Brown beating her with his belt while he has his way with her. Now, Cannon does get all Cannon with it towards the end, with a big shootout at the crack house, including the use by the cops of a tank-style battering ram, so it's not all serious hardcore exploitation, but enough of it is, and if that ain't your bag, I'd stay away.
For me personally, this worked. The story was potent, the sets and locations stood out, and it really felt like a 60s or 70s exploitation flick set in 1989. Not only that, but Jim Brown was an amazing baddie-- I mean, the guy scared me-- and Roundtree was great in limited minutes as the detective. Not only that, you had Anthony Geary, Luke of "Luke and Laura" fame as the creepy teacher, and Clyde Jones as BT, the predator who first gets the girlfriend strung out on drugs. It starts a little slow, plus there's the fact that I didn't want to see the predator get his prey in the girlfriend after her boyfriend goes to jail, but overall I enjoyed this-- if enjoyed is the right word considering the subject matter.
Enjoy is always the word for Richard Roundtree. How do you not love him? I wish he had more screen-time as the police chief though. He's splashed all over the cover, so you'd think he would be. He has one great interrogation scene with Rick, where he asks Rick about his disabled brother, and Rick tells him he's "all right." Roundtree lets out this sweet laugh, shakes his head, and says "your brother was paralyzed by a stray bullet from a drive-by. Where I come from that's not all right." I couldn't agree more.
The show was stolen though by Jim Brown. He walks into the film with about 40 minutes or so to go, and that's it, it's his movie. When the girlfriend walks out of the shower and he decides she'll do for collateral until BT can get him the money he's owed, she turns to go away, and he says "hey, you don't do anything until I tell you." I'm much more used to Brown being a good guy, so this threw me for a loop, but he was so good I got used to it quick-- and I imagine if I hadn't he'd make sure I was. He just turned 75 last February. Are you kidding me? Jim Brown, three-quarters of a century old? That's just difficult to fathom, and I wasn't even born when he played football.
One thing I liked about this movie that other movies I've seen could do a better job of, is showing people getting hit after guns are shot. It sounds simple, but I don't know how many times I've watched low-budget films where two sets of people are at point-blank range, firing weapons at one another, and barely anyone is taking hits. It's annoying, and is usually one of the first things that will turn me off to a low-budget picture, so kudos to the film makers for not turning me off here.
This is available on DVD and through Netflix either as an at home rental, or on Watch Instantly as of this printing. For people outside the US, I know at least that a Region 2 DVD exists in the UK. If the description I gave is something you might be into, then I say go for it. It has some fun bad movie elements, but overall there's not much to laugh at or joke about, which in some ways is a good thing. Just a good exploitation flick.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097119/