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, August 21, 2013
The Lazarus Papers aka The Mercenary (2010)
This is one I've had on my radar for sometime, but it was having trouble making it to the States. Finally Netflix got it on DVD, but I was hoping they'd make my life easier and put it on Instant. No such luck. Let's see how it went.
The Lazarus Papers has DTVC Hall of Famer Gary Daniels as a white slaver in Thailand who kidnaps girls from the outer villages and brings them to the city to work as hookers. One girl in particular he's kidnapped, Krystal Vee, has been selected for his marriage scam, where a man thinks he's buying one of Daniel's hookers for his wife, only to be robbed on their honeymoon by Daniels and left broke with no hooker. When he tries this scam on Tommy "Tiny" Lister, he's busy doing drugs with his other hookers while Krystal Vee is stuck keeping Lister happy, and when Lister isn't, she kills him. Lucky for her, as she's escaping, her other future husband, a man about to die of a terminal illness, sees her in the hotel hallway, and they run away together. Oh, and DTVC favorite Danny Trejo is this guy who can't die and heals people. He wants to die after Daniels kills his wife, and he's sees this terminal illness guy as a potential replacement. But can he convince him to live forever?
At best this movie is clunky and plodding, at worst it furthers the Creepy White Guy Fetishizing Asian Women meme, and in between there's plenty of unintentional silliness that we can look at later. First off, it's just kind of a weird movie, and not in a good way. The idea of a girl from a small village watching her mother gunned down, then spending a year of hell as a Thai prostitute shooting drugs and contracting HIV, is just not a really fun story, and you need to be a top notch writer to be able to spin that story into something worth watching. A weird white guy dying of a terminal illness working as the proxy for Creepy White Guy-dom is not that the thing to do that. There's a scene after Krystal Vee is kidnapped where we see her suffering through her hell, taking pills with mascara stained tears on her face, and I couldn't help thinking "why are we doing this?", and here I'm barely ten minutes in and thinking that. And to find out it's only to play out Creepy White Guy fantasies with some construct of a guy who lives forever and can heal people clunkily grafted onto it just left me feeling blah. Daniels, Trejo, Vee, and Bai Ling as the madam were all solid, but they couldn't save this.
Let's start with Daniels, who is the film's resident Hall of Famer. He actually does get a little martial arts on near the end, but he's a baddie so we don't really want to see it. Also, he's not fighting anyone with comparable skills, so it's kind of a waste. He does a good job as a baddie though, even though this kind of baddie is especially despicable. I'm not sure though that the film ever really gets at just how bad he is. Like the murder of Krystal Vee's mother and the year in hell as a white slave just seems to be like "okay, that happened, now enter weird white guy with money who only wants her companionship to save her." None of this is Daniels's fault though, and he does the best that he can with the role he's given.
No, that's not Faker Danny Trejo, it's what people in this movie look like as they're crossing over to the other world. Yes, that's right, we turn into the Faker version of ourselves. It wasn't just a cheap way for He-Man to make money, by painting He-Man blue and calling him Faker, it was based on reality. Who'd'a thunk? This would've made for the best movie though, right? Danny Trejo versus Faker Danny Trejo, maybe with Gary Daniels somehow involved. Imagine the knockdown-drag-'em-out fights they'd have? I'm seeing 2-by-4s, bottles, motorcycles-- hell, this could've been the next Machete movie! The evil Conservative racists created their own Faker Danny Trejo to kill immigration reform and rally the country around their jingoistic cause.
All right, let's get into this Creepy White Guy thing. When I was in college, I went to San Francisco for the American Anthropological Association meetings, and I saw a talk a woman gave on her paper called "Little Brown Fucking Machines Powered by Rice". In it, she discussed this fetishization of Asian women by white men, and how it manifests itself in their interactions with Thai hookers. The biggest thing she talked about was how these guys would want the woman to tell them how she loved them, and act like she was with them because she wanted to be, not because they were paying her. We get all of that here, "I'm giving you the money because I want to help you, not to buy you," "you don't have to sleep with me if you don't want to..." "oh, I want to..."-- all the reassurances that he's not just another Creepy White Guy. Then she transforms into the good Asian, diminutive, caring for him when he's sick, being everything these liberated white American girls supposedly are not. It's one thing to see this kind of thing play out in a bad action movie where I'm not taking everything seriously, but this is supposed to be more of a dramatic picture exploring deeper themes, and all it is is the same Creepy White Guy grossness.
Watching the film I wanted to call this guy a Poor Man's Forest Whitaker, because he kind of looks like him, and had all his mannerisms. Turns out he's Damon Whitaker, Forest's brother. The brother is the best kind of Poor man's though, isn't it. Don Swayze and Frank Stallone are two great ones that come to mind. We also have Joe Estevez, though to me he's really more his own thing, not a Poor Man's Martin Sheen. Anyway, Damon Whitaker was pretty much as described, a Poor Man's Forest Whitaker, and brought everything to the table you'd expect from a Poor Man's Forest Whitaker.
All right, so this is a pass for me. Beyond the Creepy White Guy-ness, the overall story didn't work. It was weird and clunky and, while we had some good performances, when the story is rough, what else can you do? As I mentioned, this is available on DVD from Netflix.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1247400/