A Movie A Day #184: A Letter From Death Row (1998, directed by Bret Michaels)


Songwriter Michael Raine (Bret Micheals) moved to Nashville from Philadelphia, searching for a new life.  Instead, he ended up convicted of murder and sentenced to death.  Michael says that he is innocent but the police have a video tape of him smothering his girlfriend with a pillow.  Michael says it was just a sex game.  He was in the bathroom, testing out his karate moves, when someone else broke into the house and smothered the victim for real.

In prison, Michael is interviewed by Jessica Foster (Lorelei Shellist), who says that she is working on a book that has nothing to do with her other job as chief adviser and mistress to the governor of Tennessee (Swan Burrus).  Meanwhile, another prisoner on death row, a former priest named, I’m not joking, Lucifer Powers (Drew Boes), claims that he has been framed by the governor and only Michael can help him get justice.

A Letter From Death Row not only starred Poison frontman Bret Michales but it was directed, produced, written, and scored by him as well.  If it sounds like a vanity project, it is.  It was also apparently a passion project.  Michaels had something important to say, though I doubt anyone could guess what it was from watching this movie.  Making a movie as incoherent as A Letter From Death Row requires real commitment.  Just check out the scene where the sadistic prison guards make Michael remove his false teeth before allowing him to speak to Jessica.  A less committed director would have cut this scene, just because it was unnecessary and did not add anything to the movie.  Not our Bret.  He knew it was important to show the world that he could act like a man with no teeth.

Like Michaels’s other film, No Code For Conduct, both Martin and Charlie (or Charles, as he insisted on being called at time) Sheen are giving co-star billing in A Letter From Death Row.  However, Martin is only on screen for 90 second and Charlie’s role as a police officer is literally a case of blink and you’ll miss him.  The rest of the cast was made up of local Tennessee actor and it shows in their frequently stiff performances.  Radio talk show host Phil Valentine is especially bad as Raine’s defense attorney.

I would not call A Letter From Death Row a good film but, even if it is for all the wrong reasons, it is still more interesting and watchable than No Code For Conduct.  As opposed to the blandly serviceable work that he did on No Code For Conduct, Bret Michaels embraced his pretentious inner film school grad for A Letter From Death Row.  Dutch angles, extreme closeups, black and white flashbacks (or are they flashforwards?), oversaturated color, and random slow motion are all used to tell this incredibly pointless story.  Michaels not only divides the movie into chapters (complete with titles like “The Famous Final Scene”) but also includes scenes of himself writing and reading the movie’s script.  Bret directs the Hell out of this movie and, if nothing else, the contrast between his ambition and the actual results makes the movie as watchable as the typical train wreck.

Though maybe not for the reasons intended, A Letter From Death Row ain’t nothin’ but a good time.

A Movie A Day #183: No Code of Conduct (1998, directed by David Lee…sorry, Bret Michaels)


From the strange period of time in which Charlie Sheen wanted people to call him Charles, comes this generic action movie.

Detective Jake Peterson (Charles Sheen) is a loser.  Even though his father (Martin Sheen) is the chief of police, Jake is so bad at his job that he has been assigned to work in the evidence locker.  His wife (Meredith Salenger) is always yelling at him for being a neglectful father.  The only person who likes Jake is his partner (Mark Dascasos, who is wasted) and partner’s never live for long in cop movies.  When Jake discovers that evil businessman Julian Disanto (Ron Masak) is plotting to smuggle Mexican heroin into Arizona, he has a chance for redemption but it will not be easy because Disanto is not only working with a corrupt DEA agent (Paul Gleason, of course) but he also has a band of psychotic henchmen.

This predictable and not very exciting action film is interesting for two reasons.  First of all, it was directed by the poor man’s David Lee Roth, Bret Michaels.  At the time, the future star of Rock of Love and Celebrity Apprentice winner was best known for being the lead singer of the most boring hair metal band of the 80s, Poison.  It is always interesting when someone who found fame as something other than a filmmaker tries his hand at directing.  Sometimes, the results can be surprisingly good and sometimes, the result is No Code For Conduct.  Michaels and Sheen (who co-wrote the script) may have been trying to pull off an homage to the action films of their youth but No Code For Conduct has more in common with the work of Uwe Boll than the work of William Friedkin.

The other interesting thing about No Code for Conduct is that, even though “Charles” and Martin are top-billed, it is actually a four Sheen/Estevez movie.  Renee Estevez briefly appears as a cop while Martin’s brother, Joe Estevez, is in charge of the police motor pool.  If No Code For Conduct is an act-off between the members of the Sheen/Estevez clan, Joe emerges as the clear winner.  Charlie does his wide-eyed intense thing.  Martin goes through the movie with a “the shit I do for my son” air of resignation.  Renee is not around long enough to make an impression.  But Joe?

Joe Estevez is the man!

Joe Estevez, the only Estevez that matters

Guilty Pleasure No. 3: Every Rose Has Its Thorns


Time for a new guilty pleasure and this time around we hit the music scene with a song that everyone seems to make fun of but whcih they also secretly love to sing-a-long to.

“Every Rose Has Its Thorns” by the hair metal group Poison has to be the cheesiest of all power ballad that came out during the 80’s hair metal era. The group were so intent on making it stand out from the rest of their hair metal brethren’s own power ballads that they decided to go all acoustic guitar to start things to give it that extra deep thoughts-theme. I will admit that I listened to this song like it was going out of style when it first came out.

What can I say? I was a sophomore in high school and the hormones were kicking in hard.

For someone whose own love of metal ranges from thrash, speed, power, Viking to black it’s such a rose amongst the bramble that this hair metal power ballad will still get me to sing along to this day. Though I usually try to make sure I’m alone….XD

Every Rose Has Its Thorns

We both lie silently still
in the dead of the night
Although we both lie close together
We feel miles apart inside

Was it something I said or something I did
Did my words not come out right
Though I tried not to hurt you
Though I tried
But I guess that’s why they say

Chorus:
Every rose has its thorn
Just like every night has its dawn
Just like every cowboy sings his sad, sad song
Every rose has its thorn

Yeah it does

I listen to her favorite song
playing on the radio
Hear the DJ say loves a game of easy come and
easy go
But I wonder does he know
Has he ever felt like this
And I know that you’d be here right now
If I could have let you know somehow
I guess

Chorus

Though it’s been a while now
I can still feel so much pain
Like the knife that cuts you the wound heals
but the scar, that scar remains

Solo

I know I could have saved our love that night
If I’d known what to say
Instead of makin’ love
We both made our separate ways

But now I hear you found somebody new
and that I never meant that much to you
To hear that tears me up inside
And to see you cuts me like a knife
I guess

Chorus