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, September 29, 2011
It's time to roll up our sleeves and get a little Dirty with Cuba Gooding Jr. Netflix was dumping this from Watch Instantly (along with a ton of others on October 1, 2011-- they just keep upping the prices and lowering the quality, don't they?), and considering I have to pay more for only one DVD a month now, I needed to get this done on Watch Instantly and not waste a DVD slot if at all possible.
Dirty is actually centered around Clifton Collins Jr., a former gang member and now gang task force cop, whose partner is Cuba Gooding Jr., a crazy dude who's looking to come up in the game, but might not actually have the game to get there. The two of them are sent by their superiors, Keith David and Cole Hauser, to get evidence locker drugs, and sell them to some Canadian Hell's Angels for Wyclef Jean, only in reality they're supposed to bust them, and take the drugs and the money. Something goes wrong though, and Collins's old gang members are helping the Canadians. Is this all a set-up? Oh yeah, and Collins is trying to go clean and set up a deal with IA. Could this have something to do with that?
This could've been good, but it had three main drawbacks that torpedoed it. First, it had an excruciatingly slow beginning, and almost nothing happens in the first 40 minutes outside of Cuba Gooding Jr. pulling over an older rich couple and harassing them-- the wife just happens to be Gates McFadden. Anyway, this slow start makes the first 40 minutes feel like 90. Then, when it does get going, we're treated to sea sick cam. All over the place, can't hold a frame for two seconds, subjects are in and out of focus, moving all over the shot. Any action is marred by rapid jumpcuts and odd edits. Finally, the end is sauteed in wrong sauce. I'm going to give it away because it's so bad: Clifton Collins Jr. turns into a ghost. Huh? All of that is too bad, because it wastes some really great performances, especially from Gooding, Collins, Wyclef, and Keith David. I don't know what this movie was going for, what its message was, but it was all over the map. A film like this needs to be reigned in, simplified, and allowed to lean on the talent.
And speaking of that talent, Cuba Gooding Jr. shows why he has that Oscar. This isn't him parroting Denzel Washington in Training Day, this is him getting to the nuts and bolts of what this character is about, and not leaving out a single detail in any scene. There's the insanity, the harsh gangster bravado, yet at the same time the cowardice of a fugazi player. You can hear it and see it in everything he does. I don't blame him for taking a role like this in a DTV flick when his other options are things like Snow Dogs. By all means, stretch that range, and hopefully, bigger productions or higher quality indie flicks will come back to you and let you do your thing on a bigger stage.
I know I rail against bad, gimmicky camerwork a lot on here, but in a movie like this, it makes the least sense. This is no TapOut film, this is supposed to be taken seriously, and I just don't know how we can be expected to. And this wasn't so much shaky cam as it was sea sick cam, where it's just moving and bobbing all over the place. There should be a Dramamine warning on the cover. These are all pretty good actors, how hard is it to just train the camera on them and let us watch them work. In the moments when the cinematography was less all over the place, those were some of the best parts of the film.
Another thing that baffled me was why Cliffton Collins Jr. was doing the voice overs when they had one of the foremost voice actors in the world in Keith David. I get that they wanted it to be from Collins's perspective, but to make it from Keith David's as a form of wise man that's seen it all before, and at the same time remove the ghost aspect-- at least at the end with Collins--, this could've jumped in quality right away. It's moves like this that keep a film closer to the schlock DTV side of the spectrum, as opposed to the hidden gem DTV indie find side of the spectrum.
When last we saw Gates McFadden, she was in Make the Yuletide Gay, a film I picked for Christmas back in 2009. She only had a slightly bigger role in that than she did in this. Here, she and her husband are lost in a bad part of LA, and Clifton Collins Jr. tries to offer assistance. Then her husband makes a crack about how he can't understand Collins due to his accent, and Cuba gets pissed and has the guy exit his vehicle and lay across the hood while he goes inside and sexually harasses Gates and takes the guy's PDA from his glovebox. Hey, any Gates is good Gates, that's what I always say.
The only redeeming quality for this is how good Cuba Gooding Jr. is, but I'm not sure that's enough. This is slow at first, then sea sick inducing, and finally just plain weird to finish. Too bad, because Gooding wasn't the only great performance, but none of the actors could carry the material.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0439544/