Mini Reviews (December 2004)
Killer Weekend, The Eliminator, Splat!, Expecting Mercy, The Kids Who Saved Summer
Killer Weekend (December 28/04)
When you get right down to it, Killer Weekend is essentially a contemporary Charlie Chan mystery - particularly in that the film seems to occur solely within the walls of a single house. And instead of a stereotypical Asian detective, the film features a stereotypical action movie detective (it's his last case and everything!) The film kicks off when a group of wealthy friends get together at a beach house for the weekend, where the local sleazeball (played by, of course, Eric Roberts) turns up murdered the first night. Enter grizzled detective Luke Nicoletti (Robert Miano), the aforementioned cop-on-the-verge-of-retirement. The majority of the film follows these various yuppies as they squabble amongst themselves, while Nicoletti attempts to piece together the various clues. Killer Weekend is passable, particularly for mystery fans - but really, there's nothing here we haven't seen many, many times before. The Charlie Chan connection is palpable in the film's final stretch, as Nicoletti gathers the remaining characters and walks them through what he believes happened. Director Fabien Pruvot makes a real effort to imbue the movie with a modicum of style, but it's just not enough to disguise the cheap, direct-to-video feel.
The Eliminator (December 29/04)
Cheesy, ultra-low budget actioner involving a group of disparate characters who are abandoned on an isolated island and forced to fend for themselves, Surviving the Game style. Wacky millionaire Miles Dawson (Michael Rooker) has arranged for several other wealthy participants to place bets on the various island folks, with the winner set to walk away with a hefty chunk of change. The fighters have been told that the last man standing will receive $10 million, but it seems fairly obvious that Dawson is going to renege on that part of the deal. The Eliminator delivers pretty much what one might expect - lots of action, very little character development - but the film isn't nearly as much fun as it should've been, primarily thanks to Ken Barbet's obnoxious, over-the-top directorial style. Barbet establishes himself as a Michael Bay devotee early on, imbuing the movie with lots of slow-motion shots and other unwelcome visual effects. This is especially annoying during the fight sequences, given that star Bas Rutten is an Ultimate Fighting Champion (thus making such camera tricks superfluous). Rutten himself isn't a bad actor, falling somewhere between Jeff Speakman and Jean-Claude Van Damme - but this certainly isn't the vehicle his fans have been hoping for.
Splat! (December 30/04)
Splat! is essentially porn for the paintball set. Though the film does contain a few instances of character development, Splat! is concerned more with long, interminable sequences in which the game of paintball is played. The wafer-thin storyline involves a put-upon teen who receives a boost of self-confidence after a legendary paintballer offers to help him and his team prepare for a pivotal tournament, giving them the chance to finally show up their arch-rivals. The acting is almost uniformly atrocious, though newcomer Michelle Borth is surprisingly effective as said teen's hard-working sister. Look, Splat! has clearly been made for a very specific audience - and it does seem possible that paintball fans might get a kick out of the film (though one would really have to be into the sport in order to overlook the amateurish performances and cookie-cutter script).
Expecting Mercy (December 30/04)
It's almost shocking just how inept Expecting Mercy is, a film that fails on virtually every level it attempts. The terminally slow-pace is exacerbated by a screenplay that refuses to offer up a single compelling character; as a result, there's absolutely nobody here for us to root for. The flimsy storyline concerns a pair of lovers on the run that take refuge at a small bed and breakfast that's owned by an extremely dysfunctional couple (the husband likes to videotape his customers having sex, while the wife is harboring a deep-seated resentment stemming from her turbulent past). Though director Dave Hansen tries to infuse the movie with some style, he's continually thwarted by his own screenplay - which emphasizes long, interminable sequences of dialogue over actual plot. The acting is slightly better than one might expect for a film of this sort, but really, Al Pacino himself would be hard pressed to elevate this material.
The Kids Who Saved Summer (December 31/04)
When an evil land developer threatens to demolish their beloved park, a group of plucky kids decide to take matters into their own hands. The Kids Who Saved Summer is unapologetically aimed at kids, and on that level it undoubtedly works. Younger viewers will likely thrill at the antics of these characters, who are far from complex (making it almost impossible to tell them apart from each other). Though the film runs only 70 minutes, it's hard not to feel certain pangs of boredom set in - particularly given the extremely predictable nature of the storyline (and if you actually think the evil land developer emerges victorious by the time the end rolls around, this might just be the perfect movie for you). The sporadic placement of some unintentionally funny moments - including a hilarious sequence wherein one of the kids daydreams about all the good times he had in the park, all of which seem to consist of him riding around on his bike - prevents The Kids Who Saved Summer from becoming a complete waste of time, but this clearly isn't meant for audiences over the age of 12.