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.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
As we move through Cuba Gooding Jr.'s DTV oeuvre, we find this potential gem. It grossed about $300,000, meaning it had a very limited theatrical run; and with the great cast, and the fact that it was directed by Lee Daniels, it looked like a shoe-in for one of those fell through the cracks kind of deals.
Shadowboxer has Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr. as a pair of assassins. Mirren is both his adopted mother and his lover, but she's dying of cancer, and Gooding hasn't accepted the fact that he may have to do without her. That's when they both are hired to do a hit for crime boss Stephen Dorff, involving wiping out pretty much his entire gang, and his pregnant wife. Mirren, though, takes pity on the pregnant wife, especially when the girl's water breaks in front of her and she has to deliver the baby. This puts in motion a series of events where Mirren and Gooding take the girl and the baby to a remote location and tell Dorff that she's dead. From there, Mirren's life is ending, and Gooding wants her all to himself, not wanting to share her with the girl and the baby. And there's still Stephen Dorff out there too.
So if you didn't guess from the synopsis, this is based on the Oedipus Complex, only it strays from the usual paradigm by having the friction come not with the young man choosing the normal life with the young girl over the older woman, but instead the young man wanting to maintain the status quo with his older lady, and her wanting the normal life with the younger girl. For the first hour or so, this works well, with not only the interplay between Mirren and Gooding, but also the chilling nature of some of Gooding's kills-- the one with Macy Gray especially. Throw in Dorff as a great baddie, and supporting parts by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Mo'Nique, and things were looking pretty good. But then it comes off the rails a bit, devolves into a paint-by-numbers bad Noir-ish yarn, and the only attempt to raise it from that baseness is to go either macabre, weird, or both, all of which feels grafted on. I get why the film went in the direction it did, because it had a specific ending falling in with the Oedipal paradigm that it wanted, but with a 93 minute running time, to have as a big a chunk as 30 minutes of it be blah, really detracts from the rest of it too much for me, which was too bad, because I really wanted to like it.
This is an interesting area for Mr. Gooding Jr.'s career, because you have three or four like this, extremely limited release films that made a couple hundred thou then went to video; then he moves onto Norbit and Daddy Day Camp, and that's it, DTV and a few small parts in big screen flicks from there on. This is an interesting one, though, because it's at the very start of that, and it has three Oscar winners-- though at the time Gooding was only who had won yet. I gotta think that Lee Daniels and his recent success with Precious will call back Gooding and get him in one of his films. Of course, we don't want Gooding to leave just yet, he still has a movie with Dolph Lundgren to make.
Who'd'a thunk we'd be reviewing a flick with Helen Mirren in it? I guess if you review these movies enough you'll find almost anybody. I want to be able say that she's too good for this movie, that she way out acted everyone, but I can't. Yes, she was great, but so were Cuba, Dorff, Gordon-Levitt, and Mo'Nique. The talent alone almost elevated this to that next level, but again, it was let down by a lackluster last half hour.
Stephen Dorff makes an excellent baddie. I'm not sure if we've ever covered that on here before. He actually won for best villain at both the Blockbuster Movie Awards and MTV Movie Awards for Blade. (Yes, I know those aren't real award shows, just excuses to get celebrities into a room to sell ads.) It's ironic then that this is the first Dorff film we've done where he plays a villain, the other three having him as a hero. Wonders never cease here at the DTVC.
I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which I think I brought up before in The Road Killers, a Christopher Lambert flick we did about 2 years ago. He's much better here as the doctor who does work for the underworld. His character also carries on a relationship with Mo'Nique. All of it was really cool, and enhanced the film, only to fall off in a very predictable plot development, something we saw coming miles away once the film shifted into blah mode at the hour mark.
All right, I know most of the DTVC audience will not enjoy this due to the enormous lack of action. An attempt to turn the Oedipal paradigm on its ear through Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr.'s relationship is probably better suited for my Tumblr blog; but it's near DTV existence makes it prime for review here, plus its packaging makes it look like it's marketed to the DTV action market. Either way, it doesn't work, and I guess the only issue is how much it doesn't work for you.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0396857/