Shattered (2008 TVM)

US / 91 minutes / color with momentary bw / Somerville, Gravitas Dir & Pr & Scr: Chris St. Croix Cine: Matthew Dyer, Lou Chanatry, David Trenkle Cast: Lynnette Cole, Jennifer Spriggs, Amanda Bailey, Jennifer Kennard, Ryan C. King, Chris Cavolo, Spencer Moore, Brooke Sage, Eva Ramer, Tremesia Coleman, Savannah Meech, Danny Newborn, Ruth Davis.

Shattered 2008 - 0 opener

Four young women—Heather Jackson (Kennard), Regina (Cole), Claire (Spriggs) and Nikki (Bailey)—have been best buds since childhood, when they were dubbed The Wild Bunch: we see them briefly as children, played respectively by Ramer, Coleman, Meech and Sage. The four decide to pool their resources and buy a rundown bar in a rundown area of town. In a major breach with tradition in movies with setups like this, this is not a cue for them to take their clothes off at regular intervals; in fact, those seeking nudity should seek elsewhere, because there isn’t any.

Shattered 2008 - 4 Claire

Claire (Jennifer Spriggs).

There’s a bout of simulated sex, though. Heather, always the wildest of The Wild Bunch, is highly promiscuous: “I’m a guy with Continue reading

Double Identity (1990 TVM)

vt Frontière du Crime

Canada, France / 92 minutes / color / 3 Themes, Hamster, Venture, Niagara, Antenne 2, Television Suisse Romande Dir: Yves Boisset Pr: Daniele J. Suissa, Nicolas Traube Scr: Robert Geoffrion Story: Alain Scoff, Yves Boisset Cine: Louis de Ernsted Cast: Nick Mancuso, Leah Pinsent, Patrick Bauchau, Anne Létourneau, Jacques Godin, Aidan Devine, Norris Domingue, Lorne Brass, Michael Rudder, Ken Roberts.

Originally made for the Canadian–French TV series Haute Tension (1988–94), this later saw home-video release as a standalone movie.

In the remote small town of New Hope, the car of Paul Flemming (Mancuso) breaks down in the snow. (A peculiarity of New Hope is that the deep snowdrifts that engulf most of the time every now and then seem to disappear overnight before, just as suddenly, they return again.) Good Samaritan vegetable farmer Wayne (Godin) helps him out, towing him to the nearby garage—where Jim the Mechanic (Brass) undertakes to repair the car—then taking him home to dinner and introducing him to daughter Amy (Pinsent) and her beau Jeff Swinton (Devine). Paul, who’s clearly attracted to Amy, tells them he’s an English professor at the university in the Big City.

Double Identity - Mancuso tries to be both thug and university don

Nick Mancuso attempts to convince as both thug and university don; cynics will of course ask, What’s the difference?

Once he’s back in the Big City, though, we discover he’s really the chief enforcer for hoodlum Raymond Ravennes (Bauchau), who operates out of the Black Club (which is so swanky that the strippers just sort of wobble boredly and don’t actually take their clothes off). Paul chuckles about having Continue reading

Face Down (1997 TVM)

US / 108 minutes / color / Showtime, Eberhardt–Weisberg Dir & Scr: Thom Eberhardt Pr: Roni Weisberg Cine: John Holosko Cast: Joe Mantegna, Peter Riegert, Kelli Maroney, Cameron Thor, Adam Ant, J.K. Simmons, Shannon Lawson, Kent Staines.

Bubbly blonde Meredith “Merre” (pronounced “merry”) Lake (Maroney) arrives at the offices of Manhattan PI company Aames Investigations to ask for help: she’s being followed by people in cars. Caddish ladykiller PI Robert “Bob” Signorelli (Mantegna) doesn’t care much about her concerns but hopes to bed her, which he soon does; even less does he connect her to yesterday’s high-profile murder of shyster Richard Casio. Yet a connection soon emerges, after Bob’s partner Herbie Aames (Simmons) is murdered by someone shooting from Meredith’s apartment: it proves that Meredith is working for pretentious Brit art-gallery owner Derek Fry (Ant), whose business was last year bailed out by Casio and who thus had reason to want the man dead—better that than have to repay a hefty loan.

It soon seems to Bob—and to us—that Fry’s hitman must be tough cop John “Coop” Cooper (Riegert), who’s currently under investigation by Internal Affairs. Complicating the issue is the fact that, five years ago, Bob was drummed out of the NYPD for misconduct, and Coop, like most of the rest of the Homicide Department, has loathed him ever since; an additional complication is that it proves Meredith suffers acute schizophrenia, that despite her Pollyanna image has done hardcore porn, and that she’s more recently been manipulated into going off her meds and so could easily have murdered Casio—possibly also Herbie Aames. The only NYPD cop who seems sympathetic to Bob is Coop’s partner Curtis Lowell (Thor).

This tends to be dismissed as an erotic thriller but fails to match that description; there’s some sex and nudity but less than in many a mainstream movie. The camerawork (plenty of angled shots, etc.), the soundtrack by Gunther Schuller and Joe Lovano (with jazzy saxophone featuring prominently) and of course the screenplay all contribute to the movie’s noirishness. Where it falls down is in some of the performances: Ant isn’t uniformly bad but suffers enough lapses to remind us that acting’s his second profession; Maroney, who comes across as a sort of cutrate Rebecca De Mornay, is highly personable but again stumbles on occasion; the role given to Lawson, that of Aames Investigations’ secretary Emily Jones, complete with a not-so-secret pash for Bob, forces her into one of those embarrassing semi-parodic plain-girl performances you find in softcore porn movies. The solution to the various mysteries is well disguised beforehand and does come as a genuine surprise; that and arguably Thor’s performance are where the movie scores.

On Amazon.com: Face Down [VHS]

Chosen (2013 TVM)

vt CH:OS:EN

US / ~132 minutes in 6 episodes / color / Dissident, Crackle Dir & Scr: Ben Ketai Pr: Amy Kim Story: Ben Ketai, Ryan Lewis Cine: Tim Burton (i.e., Timothy A. Burton) Cast: Milo Ventimiglia, Nicky Whelan, Caitlin Carmichael, Diedrich Bader, Noel G, Jeff Branson, Brett Davern, Shaun Baker.

Defense attorney Ian Mitchell (Ventimiglia) one morning discovers on his doorstep an ornamented wooden box containing a gun, the photograph of a stranger—dentist Daniel Easton (Bader)—and a deadline by which he must kill Easton. Just as he’s picking the package up, someone starts shooting at him. He calls the cops, but the cops who arrive, led by Detective Inkster (Baker), act oddly—oddest of all, they leave the unregistered gun with him. At first Ian’s inclined just to blow the whole thing off, but then it becomes clear the lives of his daughter Ellie (Carmichael) and estranged wife Laura (Whelan) may be forfeit should he fail to fulfill his unsought contract.

He discovers he’s been made one of the players in a lethal game run for their own entertainment by a mysterious decadent group called The Watchers—one of whose agents proves to be Laura’s studly new boyfriend Chris (Branson). In the game, hapless victims must murder seemingly randomly chosen others while at the same time being themselves targets; as fuel to keep the “chosen” participating, their loved ones are threatened and/or abducted—and indeed Ian’s daughter Ellie is taken from him by two thugs in the guise of LAPD cops. (The conspiracy-theory trope that the LAPD is up to its eyes in this recurs throughout.)

Despite a soundtrack crammed with far too many heavily struck portentous chords, this is quite well done, with Ventimiglia channeling his inner Nicolas Cage, Whelan delivering a competent performance, and Carmichael attaining at least 7 or 8  deciFannings in the screaming-child department. The ending—Ellie is recovered but brings with her another box, this time for Laura, the target being Ian—manages to provide some sense of conclusion while at the same time setting things up for the planned sequel.

Chosen was created for and released through Crackle, a division of Sony whose specialty is ad-supported online streaming video. Although this is technically a serial/series, all of the episodes were released simultaneously (January 17 2013) so that viewers could watch them consecutively; it therefore seems to make sense to treat the piece as a single movie that suffers irritatingly frequent interruptions.

On Amazon.com: Chosen

MUCH LATER ADDITION: A second series did indeed turn up. You can see my take on it here.

 

If you like this sort of stuff, you can find the Film Noir encyclopedia here: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Essential Reference Guide