Fatal Instinct (1993, directed by Carl Reiner)


Ned Ravine (Armand Assante) is a cop who is also a lawyer.  His shtick is to make an arrest and then defend that person in court.  He’s married to Lana (Kate Nelligan), who is having an affair with a mechanic named Frank (Christopher McDonald).  Lana has taken out a life insurance policy on Ned, one that has a triple indemnity clause.  If he’s shot on a northbound train and then falls off and drowns in a nearby stream, Lana and Frank will make a lot of money.  However, Lana and Frank are not the only people who want to kill Ned Ravine.  One of Ned’s former clients, Max Shady (James Remar), has just been released from prison and is seeking revenge.  The main reason why Ned hasn’t figured out that everyone is trying to kill him is because he’s been distracted by the seductive Lola (Sean Young), a client who asked him to look over some legal papers and who has an improbable connection to Lana.

As you might guess by the plot and Carl Reiner’s directorial credit, Fatal Instinct is a spoof of detective movies, with the majority of the jokes being inspired by Basic Instinct, the remake of Cape Fear, Double Indemnity, and Body Heat.  How much you laugh will depend on how well you know those films.  There’s a scene in Ned’s office where Ned notices that Lola isn’t wearing panties.  He helpfully produces a pair from inside his desk and hand them to her.  In 1994, that scene was funny because Basic Instinct and whether or not Sharon Stone was aware of how her famous interrogation scene was being filmed were still a huge part of the pop cultural conversation.  Today, it might just seem weird.

Carl Reiner has always been an uneven filmmaker and that trend continues in Fatal Instinct, where he tries to do to erotic thrillers what Mel Brooks did to westerns and Airplane! did to disaster films.  Unfortunately, Reiner often gets bogged down by the film’s plot, which should really be the last thing anyone should be worried about when it comes to a spoof like this.  Some of the jokes are funny and some of them aren’t but, because Reiner doesn’t duplicate the joke-every-minute style of a film like Airplane!, there’s a lot more time to think about the jokes that fall flat.

Fatal Instinct does have a good cast, featuring a lot of actors who probably should have become bigger stars than they did.  I especially liked Kate Nelligan’s and Christopher McDonald’s performances as the two triple indemnity conspirators.  Sherilyn Fenn plays Ned’s loyal secretary and seeing her give such a fresh and likable performance in this otherwise uneven film makes me regret even more that, outside of Twin Peaks, she never really got the roles that she deserved.

The Things You Find on Netflix: The Stand at Paxton County (dir by Brett Hedlund)


The Stand at Paxton County, which is currently playing on Netflix, opens with an ominous title card warning us that what we’re about to see is “based on a true story.”

I may be alone in this but I find the term “based on a true story” to be fascinating.  It’s signifies that the film that we’re about to watch was inspired by something that actually happened but it’s not actually a recreation of that event.  It’s an invitation to watch and to try to figure out how much is true and how much is just a product of a screenwriter’s imagination.  “Based on a true story” is a real cinematic tease.

The Stand at Paxton County tells the story of Janna Connelly (Jacqueline Toboni), an army medic who is still haunted by her memories of serving in Afghanistan.  When her rancher father, Dell (Michael O’Neill), has a heart attack, Janna returns home to Paxton County, North Dakota.  What she discovers is that, after she left home, the ranch fell into disrepair.  Dell only has one ranch hand, a seemingly amiable doofus named Brock (Greg Perrow) and it doesn’t appear that Brock’s been doing a very good job.

When Sheriff Bostwick (Christopher McDonald) shows up to do a compliance check on the ranch, he finds a lot of problems.  When he returns with a cold-eyed veterinarian named Dr. Morel (Marwa Bernstein), Dell is informed that his ranch is in such disrepair that the sheriff can take away his livestock and essentially put Dell out of business!

How can the sheriff get away with this, Janna asks.  Dell explains that, years ago, the voters of the state voted down a proposition that would have given law enforcement the right to confiscate a rancher’s livestock.  However, a bunch of unelected lobbyists and left-wing activists went ahead and forced the law through the state legislature!  Now, the sheriff can pretty much do whatever he wants and anyone who tries to stand up for their Constitutional rights is subject to harassment and perhaps even murder!

While all of this is going on, Brock vanishes from the ranch.  It turns out that Brock is a professional bad employee who goes from ranch to ranch and goes out of his way to mess things up so that the ranchers lose their livestock.  The livestock is then sold to the highest bidder or sometimes the sheriff will just keep a horse for himself.  With Brock gone, Janna hires sexy Matt (Tyler Jacob Moore) to be the new ranch hand and then sets out to get justice for her father.

I had mixed feelings about The Stand at Paxton County.  On the one hand, I’m not a fan of the government regulation in general and I’m always happy to watch a libertarian-themed film.  Christopher McDonald’s smug and corrupt sheriff felt like a stand-in for all of the authoritarian-minded politicians and bureaucrats who have recently come out of the woodwork and used the COVID-19 pandemic to increase their own power.  (“Hey, it’s Clay Jenkins!” I said as soon as the sheriff showed up.)  So, on that level, I enjoyed the film.

Unfortunately, The Stand at Paxton County doesn’t just stick to criticizing the government for overstepping their authority.  Instead, it also portrays animal rights activists as being a part of a sinister financial conspiracy and that’s where it lost me.  It’s a lot easier to buy into the idea of a corrupt sheriff than it is to imagine the head of the PSCA sitting in a darkened war room and ordering his minions to torment one rancher, all so he can resell the rancher’s livestock.  That doesn’t mean that activists should be immune from criticism or that there isn’t a legitimate argument to be made that even well-intentioned regulations are vulnerable to abuse.  But the film’s portrayal of its central conspiracy just got a bit too cartoonish to be effective.  Once the villains went from being smug to being downright evil, it became impossible to take the movie seriously.  If the film had simply stuck to criticizing government overreach instead of imagining a shadowy conspiracy, it would have been a lot more effective.

The Stand at Paxton County has some lovely shots of the North Dakota countryside and Christopher McDonald is a wonderfully smarmy villain.  I always appreciate a film that has an anti-authoritarian subtext but The Stand At Paxton County is ultimately dragged down by its own heavy hand.

Insomnia File #44: Cat Run (dir by John Stockwell)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If you were having trouble getting to sleep at 3 in the morning, you could have turned over to Showtime and watched the 2011 action film, Cat Run.

So, here’s what you get when you watch Cat Run.  You get:

  1. A few beach scenes
  2. Some stylish action sequences
  3. A nearly incoherent plot
  4. Lots of naked people
  5. Two bumbling heroes
  6. A prostitute with a heart of gold, a young child, and an encrypted hard drive
  7. A cold-as-ice female assassin played by a distinguished, Oscar-nominated performer
  8. Massive and sudden changes in tone as the film goes from comedy to action to comedy again
  9. Sex
  10. Violence

In other words, Cat Run is a John Stockwell film.  As a director, Stockwell specializes in making unpretentious films, ones that usually feature beautiful people doing stuff on the beach.  He makes the type of films that will probably never win an Academy Award (though Kirsten Dunst perhaps deserved a nomination for her performance in Stockwell’s Crazy/Beautiful) but which are still occasionally entertaining if you’re in the right mood for them.  (Seriously, just watch Stockwell’s In The Blood and then ask yourself why he could make the perfect Gina Carano film while Steven Soderbergh couldn’t.)

Cat Run takes place is Montenegro.  The prostitute is named Cat (Paz Vega).  The encrypted hard drive contains footage of a politician (Christopher McDonald) killing a woman at an orgy.  The two bumbling detectives who help her out are named Julian (Alphonso McAuley) and Anthony (Scott Mechlowicz) and they occasionally get a funny line or two.  The assassin who is sent to take care of Cat is Helen and she’s played by Janet McTeer.  Helen is coldly efficient and ruthless killer but she has a difficult time tracking down Cat.  That’s the way it always goes, isn’t it?  The bad guys are always super competent until the movie begins, at which point they suddenly can’t shoot straight.

Anyway, Cat Run is not a particularly memorable movie but it has its entertaining moments.  It’s hyper stylish and the cast seems to be having a good time.  At the very least, you get the feeling that everyone probably enjoyed spending their days off in Montenegro and good for them!  McTeer, not surprisingly, steals the film but Paz Vega has some good moments too.  All in all, this is an enjoyable film that doesn’t have a hint of ambition.  It is what it is and what’s wrong with that?

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed
  39. Disclosure
  40. The Spanish Prisoner
  41. Elektra
  42. Revenge
  43. Legend

Film Review: Unforgettable (dir by John Dahl)


You have to give the makers of the 1996 film, Unforgettable, some credit.  It takes a certain amount of courage to give your movie a title like Unforgettable.  You’re practically asking some snarky critic to comment on the fact that she can’t remember your movie.

Well, I’ll resist the temptation because I can remember enough about this movie to review it.  I saw it a few days ago on This TV and, at first, I was excited because it was a Ray Liotta movie.  Ray Liotta is an entertaining and likable actor who, nowadays, only seems to get cast in small, tough guy roles.  Nowadays, a typical Liotta role seems to be something like the character he played in Killing Me Softly.  He showed up.  He was tough.  He got killed for no good reason.  So, whenever you come across a film in which Liotta gets to do something more than just get shot, you kind of have an obligation to watch.

In Unforgettable, Liotta plays Dr. David Krane, who is haunted by the unsolved murder of his wife.  Fortunately (or perhaps, unfortunately), Dr. Martha Briggs (Linda Fiorentino) has developed a formula that can be used to transfer memories from one person to another.  All you have to do is extract some spinal fluid!  Or something like that.  It doesn’t make any sense to me and I have to admit that I kinda suspect that the science might not actually check out.

Anyway, Dr. Krane is all like, “I want to inject myself with my dead wife’s spinal fluid so I can experience her final moments!”

And Dr. Briggs is all like, “But this could kill you because there’s all these vaguely defined side effects!”

But Dr. Krane does it anyway and he discovers that his wife was murdered by a lowlife criminal named Eddie Dutton (Kim Coates)!  So, Dr. Krane chases Eddie all ocer the city and it’s interesting to see that a doctor can apparently keep up with a career criminal.  I mean, you would think that Eddie’s experience with being chased and Krane’s inexperience with chasing would give Eddie an advantage.  Anyway, regardless, it doesn’t matter because Eddie is eventually gunned down by the police and Dr. Krane is fired from his job.

Hmmm … well, that was quick.  I guess the movie’s over…

No, not quite!  It turns out that someone hired Eddie to kill Dr. Krane’s wife!  And it turns out that person was a cop!  But which cop!?  Well, there’s only two cops in the film who actually have any lines so it has to be one of them.  And one of the cops is so unlikable that it’s obvious from the start that he’s a red herring.  So, I guess that means the actual murderer is the one that you’ll suspect from the first moment he shows up.

(For the record, the two cops are played by Christopher McDonald and Peter Coyote.  I won’t reveal which one is unlikable and which one is a murderer but seriously, you’ve already guessed, haven’t you?)

Anyway, it’s all pretty stupid and a waste of everyone involved.  Ray Liotta is likable and sympathetic but the film gets bogged down with trying to convince us that crimes can be solved through spinal fluid.  It’s a dumb premise that the movie takes way too seriously and it never quite works.

Still, I hope that someone will give Ray Liotta another good role at some point in the future.  He deserves better than supporting roles and Chantix commercials.

A Movie A Day #206: Conflict of Interest (1993, directed by Gary Davis)


Conflict of Interest is a by-the-numbers direct-to-video movie about a tough cop named Mickey who is obsessed with taking down a drug dealer and club owner named Gideon.  Mickey is a widower.  Years ago, his wife was gunned down in front of him and his son.  His son is now a teenager with a motorcycle and a mullet.  Gideon hires Mickey’s son to work at one of his clubs and then frames him for murder.  Even though his superiors order him to back off, Mickey is determined to clear his son’s name.

Why should you watch Conflict of Interest?  How about this:

That’s Judd Nelson, going heavy on the sideburns and eyeliner in the role of Gideon.  I am not sure if this movie was filmed before or after the famous “puffy shirt” episode of Seinfeld.

Judd chews up and spits out every piece of scenery that he can get his hands on.  Matching Judd step-for-step is Alyssa Milano, who plays Eve.  She falls in love with Mickey’s son, even though she is already a member of Gideon’s harem.

Mickey is played by Christopher McDonald, who gets a rare lead role in Conflict of Interest.  McDonald may not be a household name but he is one of the great Hey, It’s That Guy actors.  Usually, he plays smarmy businessmen and game show hosts.  He’s a surprisingly good action hero in Conflict of Interest, though his mustache cannot begin to compete with Judd’s sideburns.

About as dumb as dumb can be, Conflict of Interest is enjoyably ridiculous.  Conflict of Interest may have been made in 1993 but it is an 80s film all the way through, the type of movie where almost every chase ends with someone’s car exploding.  Even Gideon’s nightclubs are “heavy metal clubs,” which are populated by people who would not have been out of place in Heavy Metal Parking Lot.

And then there’s the Judd power stare:

As we saw in Shattered If Your Kid’s On Drugs, the Judd power stare has the Burt Reynolds seal of approval:

Horror on the Lens: The Hearse (dir by George Bowers)


The_Hearse

Today’s horror on the Lens in 1980’s The Hearse!

You can read my review here and you can watch it below!

Enjoy!

 

Back to School Part II #17: The Boys Next Door (dir by Penelope Spheeris)


Boys-next-door

Three years after starring in Grease 2, Maxwell Caulfield starred in another (albeit far different) film about teenage delinquents, 1985’s The Boys Next Door.  Directed by Penelope Spheeris (who also did Suburbia, another film about wayward youth), The Boys Next Door is a frequently harrowing film about a road trip gone very wrong.

The film opens with a series of black-and-white photographs of real-life serial killers, so you know what you’re about to get yourself into before the main action even begins.  Caulfield plays Roy, a not-very-smart teenager who lives in an industrial town in the southwest.  With his generally bad attitude and violent temper, Roy is one of the least popular kids at the local high school.  In fact, his only friend appears to be Bo (Charlie Sheen).  Bo is just as stupid as Roy but he’s not as violent.  Bo’s problem is that he’s a follower, the type who is incapable of making his own decisions.  If Roy says, “Let’s beat the Hell out of someone,” Bo is going to agree because … well, why not?

When Roy and Bo graduate from high school, they don’t have much more to look forward to than a life of working in a factory.  After an angry Roy violently lashes out at a graduation party, he decides that he and Bo should get out of town.  Fortunately, Bo has received $200 as a graduation gift.  Roy and Bo decide to use that money to take a trip to Los Angeles.

On the way to L.A., it quickly becomes obvious that Roy is more than just an angry kid.  When he and Bo rob a gas station, Roy savagely beats the attendant.  When they get to Los Angeles, all Roy can talk about is how much he hates the city and everyone who lives in it.  Roy is especially vocal about how much he hates anyone who he perceives as being gay…

Of course, even as Roy is loudly expressing every homophobic thought that pops into his tiny mind, it’s hard not to notice that he seems to be rather obsessed with Bo.  In fact, he is so obsessed with Bo that he basically kills anyone who shows the least bit of interest in Bo.  Paranoid that Bo is going to abandon him, Roy is willing to do anything to keep that from happening.

The Boys Next Door is one of those films that really took me by surprise.  It may start and look like your typical low-budget thriller but The Boys Next Door ultimately reveals itself to be a disturbingly plausible portrait of a sociopath.  The film suggests that, as individuals, both Roy and Bo are somewhat laughable but, as a team, they’re deadly.  It’s no wonder that Roy is so insistent that Bo always stay with him because, without Bo around, Roy wouldn’t have any motivation to do anything.  Everything that Roy does — from theft to murder — is largely to impress Bo.  Unfortunately, Bo is too stupid to understand what’s going on in his friend’s head.

Especially when compared to some of the other performances that they are known for, both Sheen and Caulfield do surprisingly good work as the two murderers.  Penelope Spheeris wisely directs the film as if it were a documentary and the end result is a harrowing film that deserves to be far better known.

Back to School Part II #14: Grease 2 (dir by Patricia Birch)


Grease_2

 

So, the whole reason that I watched Grease last week was so I would be prepared to watch the 1982 sequel Grease 2 over the weekend.  As I’ve mentioned many times on this site, I absolutely hate Grease and I know what you’re probably asking yourself:

“But Lisa, if you hate Grease so much, why did you want to see Grease 2?”

Well, there’s a very good answer to that question but I’m not going to reveal it.  I’m going to encourage you to learn to love the mystery.  For whatever reason, I wanted to watch Grease 2.  Perhaps it was because I’ve heard that Grease 2 is the worst sequel ever made.  I really didn’t see how that was possible.  How, I wondered, could a film be any worse than the original Grease?

And, so, I watched Grease 2 on Netflix and yes, it was really, really bad.  But you know what?  It was so bad that it became almost compulsively watchable.  Unlike the first Grease, which is full of slow spots, Grease 2 is oddly exciting in its mediocrity.  I watched much of it in open-mouthed horror, wondering if things could possibly get any worse.  And, with each scene, it did get worse.  It was so overwhelmingly and shamelessly bad and so thoroughly misguided that, strangely enough, I really want to rewatch it.

Grease 2 takes place in 1961.  There’s a whole new gang of students at Rydell High!  Well, actually, Frenchy (Didi Conn) has returned.  You may remember that, in the previous film, Frenchy dropped out of high school and went to beauty school.  (She was also visited by Satan, who came to her disguised as the Teen Angel.)  But now Frenchy is back, trying to pass a chemistry class so she can … well, I’m not really sure what the whole deal with Frenchy was.  I imagine that Didi Conn was probably free for a weekend.

The T-bird and the Pink Ladies are still around but they have a whole new membership.  The head of the Pink Ladies is Stephanie Zinone (played, in her film debut, by Michelle Pfeiffer).  Her boyfriend, Johnny Nogorelli (Adrian Zmed), is the chain-smoking leader of the T-birds.  Actually, Johnny is now her ex-boyfriend.  He cheated on her over the summer.

And there’s a new boy at Rydell!  He’s originally from England and he’s Sandy’s cousin!  His name is Michael Carrington (superhandsome Maxwell Caulfield, who is perhaps fated to always be best known for playing Rex Manning in Empire Records) and, when we first meet him, he’s getting off a school bus and he’s wearing a suit!  Michael really likes Stephanie but you have to be a T-bird if you’re going to date a Pink Lady and…

AGCK!

Sorry, that was a primal scream.  Trying to describe the plot of Grease 2 inspires a lot of primal screams.

Anyway, this is a film is also a musical but apparently, none of the original Grease composers were involved with the sequels.  All the songs kinda sound like something you would hear in a parody of Grease, as opposed to a sequel.  Also adding to bizarre feel of this sequel is that everyone delivers their lines as if they’re appearing in a stage production, projecting to the back of the theater and overenunciating every single syllable.  This may have made sense for Grease, which was adapted from an actual stage show and, despite efforts to open up the action, was still deliberately stagey.  Grease 2, meanwhile, is an adaptation of a stage show that never actually existed.

The film starts with a 7 minute production number called Back To School Again.  As the Pink Ladies and the T-birds and all the other students show up outside of Rydell, they sing, “Woe is me!  The Board of Education took away my parole.”  And the scene just keeps going and going, until you start to wonder if Rydell High is a cult compound.

This is followed by a song about bowling (!) that’s called “Score Tonight.”

And it just keeps getting worse from there.  The film becomes sickly fascinating as you find yourself trying to predict how much more worse it can possibly get.  You may be tempted to give up but you’ll definitely want to stick around for the scene in which Michael discovers that Stephanie wants a “cool rider.”  How does he know that?  She sings a song about it!

Naturally, Michael gets a motorcycle, a helmet, and pair of goggles and he starts to romance Stephanie.  Stephanie doesn’t know who that Michael is the mysterious motorcyclist, despite the fact that Michael is just wearing a helmet and a pair of goggles.  Though you have to admire Pfieffer’s commitment to her role (and she gives a fairly good performance, considering the material she was working with), you can’t help but feel that Stephanie might not be the smart.  Especially after she sings, “Who’s that guy?”

Uhmmm … it’s Michael.  It’s not like he’s dressed up like a bat or wearing the Iron Man armor.  He’s just got a helmet and goggles on.  Add to that, while Maxwell Caulfield doesn’t give a bad performance (he seems to be doing the best he can with what he’s been given to work with), he also doesn’t attempt to act any differently when he’s the mysterious motorcyclist than when he’s Michael.

There are other things going on as well.  The film is full of vignettes about life in 1961, all featuring the students and teachers at Rydell High.  For instance, former teen idol Tab Hunter shows up as a substitute teacher and sings a song about reproduction.

And again, it’s so bad that you can’t look away and you watch knowing that you’ll never get the images and the songs out of your head.  So compulsively watchable is this bad movie that I may have to watch it again after I finish this review.  (Then again, I’ll probably just rewatch the fifth season of Degrassi…)

(That said, I would actually argue that Grease 2 is a better directed film than the first Grease.  Grease 2 was directed by Grease‘s choreographer and, as opposed to the first film, the dance numbers are actually framed with modicum of care.)

(By the way, I’ve always wanted to use the phrase “modicum of care” in a review.)

Anyway, Grease 2 apparently bombed at the box office and, as a result, there have been no further Grease films.  It’s a shame because you so know that Grease 3 would have taken place in 1967 and featured hippies.

Oh well.

We’ll survive…

 

The Daily Grindhouse: The Hearse (directed by George Bowers)


The_Hearse

I feel no shame in admitting that I love horror movies. I don’t think that’s any secret to anyone who has ever read my reviews on this site. When I’m feeling so restless that I can’t sit still or focus, all you have to do is give me a horror film (especially if it’s one that I’ve never never seen before) and I’ll be quiet for at least 90 minutes.

That’s why I’m always on the look out for horror movies that I haven’t seen before. If it’s a horror movie, I’ll watch it regardless of obscurity, age, or critical disdain. At its best, this habit has led to me discovering neglected cinematic gems like Sole Survivor.

And it’s worst, it’s led me to me sitting through films like 1980′s The Hearse.

The Hearse is one of those public domain film that turns up in every other Mill Creek Box Set and it tells a very familiar story. A recently divorced woman named Jane (played by Tish Van Devere, who was married to George C. Scott at the time) leaves the big city to seek peace and solace in a creepy small town that’s full of rednecks who stare at her with a combination of lust and total disdain. Jane moves into a house that once belonged to her aunt and, pretty soon, she’s hearing strange sounds and having nightmares. On some nights, she sees a hearse (which, earlier, had attempted to run her off of the road) pull up in front of her house.

Jane attempts to tell the local sheirff about the strange happenings at her house but he responds by suggesting that maybe she should move. The local townspeople respond to her concerns by telling her that her aunt made a pact with Satan. The local priest comes by and tells Jane that the necklace her aunt gave her is a symbol of Satan.

None of this really makes much of an impression on Jane, mostly because she’s busy dating this creepy guy named Tom. Tom rarely ever shows any emotion and, on those rare occasions that he does smile, his face looks like a leering skull.

Again, Jane doesn’t seem to notice any of this…

Obviously, horror requires a certain suspension of disbelief but, seriously, it’s hard not to watch The Hearse and feel as if the scariest thing about the movie is the idea that anyone could be as stupid as Jane.

That said, The Hearse isn’t a total waste of time. The nightmare sequence is genuinely effective and the film itself features a few creepy visuals but, then again, there’s no way the sight of a hearse pulling up in front of a house in the middle of the night couldn’t be creepy. Trish Van Devere does okay as Jane, though she was far better in both The Changeling and One Is A Lonely Number.   (The film also features a few too many less-than-credible scenes where the town’s teenage boys talk about how “hot and sexy” they find the aristocratic and rather uptight Jane to be.)  If, like me, you’re into film history, you’ll enjoy this film as a relic of the past, an example of what horror movies were like in a less ironic age.

Insomnia File No. 7: Fair Game (dir by Andrew Sipes)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

Fair_game

On Tuesday night, if you were suffering from insomnia at midnight, you could have turned over to HBO Signature (commonly listed as HBOSIG) and watched Fair Game, a remarkably mindless action film from 1995.

Originally, my plan was to start this review of Fair Game by telling you, in quite a bit of detail, just how sick I am of the Russian Mafia.  Seriously, Russian mobsters have become the default villain for lazy crime films everywhere.  And, quite frankly, I’m getting bored with them.  I’m bored with how the head Russian mobster is always described as being “former KGB” and is always found sitting in the back room of restaurant, wearing an overcoat and smoking filterless cigarettes.  I am bored with how his main henchman is always some big guy with a crew cut and that guy always has a thin sidekick who wears his hair in a pony tail and has a bad mustache.  I’m sick of the overexaggerated accents of American and British accents trying to sound Russian and the way they’re always listening to EDM while driving.  It’s all so predictable and tedious.

But then I considered that Fair Game was made 20 years ago.  Even if the villains are Russian mobsters and even if they are some of the least interesting Russian mobsters in cinema history, it’s totally possible that, when Fair Game, was made, there was still some sort of novelty about the Russian Mafia.

However, even if we give Fair Game a pass on using the cliché of the Russian mob, the villains still weren’t particularly interesting.  Kazak (Steven Berkoff) is … well, the film isn’t really that clear on what Kazak’s big plan is but he has a lot of henchmen and they certainly do end up killing a lot of people.  Kazak runs his operations off of a yacht that belongs to a Cuban criminal named Emilio (Miguel Sandoval).  Emilio is in the process of getting divorced and attorney Kate McQuean (model Cindy Crawford, who made her film debut here and has never played a leading role since) is determined to repossess his boat.  So, Kazak decides that the perfect solution would be to murder Kate…

Which makes absolutely no sense.  Kazak doesn’t want anyone to discover his operation so he decides to blow up a good portion of Miami, all in pursuit of one person.  Wouldn’t it make more sense for Kazak to just blow up the boat and buy a new one?

Anyway, as the film opens, Kate is out jogging when suddenly someone driving by in a car opens fire on her.  She ends up getting grazed in the arm, not that it seems to bother her.  She wears a bandage for a few scenes but it soon vanishes.  Kate is all business so, even after getting shot, she still goes into the office and starts to make plans to repossess that yacht.  Personally, if anyone ever shot at me, I would probably be so freaked out that I would never leave the house again.

Now, you may be thinking that Kate was shot because of Kazak but actually, it turns out that the shooting was just a random thing that happened.  Apparently, the shooter was trying to shoot someone else and Kate just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  So, we never find out who actually shot Kate and that really bothered me, as that seems to be kind of a huge plot point to bring up and then refuse to resolve.

Anyway, Kate meets a detective named Max Kirkpatrick (William Baldwin) and, soon, they’re on the run from Kazak’s assassins.  The majority of the film is made up of Max and Kate running from one location to another.  One thing that really bothered me was that literally everyone that Max and Kate talked to ended up getting killed just a few minutes later.  At one point, Kate flirts with a computer service expert to get him to help them out.  The scene is played for laughs but then, five minutes later, that same innocent technician guy is being brutally tortured by a bunch of Russians and, though we don’t see it happen, it’s safe to assume that he was eventually murdered by them.  And no point do Max or Kate appear to feel any guilt or concern about the number of innocent people who are killed just for associating with them.

Anyway, Fair Game is a completely mindless film that has a rather nasty streak of sadism to it.  (I imagine, when this film was released, it probably set a record for close-ups of people getting shot and stabbed in the crotch.)  William Baldwin and Cindy Crawford both have perfect bodies and give totally wooden performances, which leads to them having a dimly-lit sex scene that is both physically hot and emotionally cold at the same time.

(I have no idea what entropy at absolute zero means but it sounds like a pretty good description of the chemistry between Cindy Crawford and William Baldwin in Fair Game.)

One good note: Salma Hayek has a small role as Max’s ex-girlfriend.  Whenever she shows up in the movie, she starts screaming at everyone.  I don’t blame her.

Fair Game

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes