The Hipster Holy Grail is a weekly experiment where I try to find and review a movie that's at least 10 years old and has less than 5,000 ratings on IMDb. I always hope to discover something amazing. Sometimes I don't. This week, I watched....
Action / Family, 1998, 90 Minutes, Dir. by Art Camacho
I'm on to a new box set finally! Today we get to delve into "Nowhere to Run," another 10-movie set of madness!
That guy on the lower right looks intense! And you know what? Most of the movies in this line-up actually sound promising. As in, they've got plots beyond just "Supercop Ace Sanchez is looking for the man who murdered his partner - in Deadly Fury!"
Actually... hang on a second.
Okay, I'm back. Turns out Deadly Fury is actually a highly rated martial arts movie. I should check that out sometime.
But today we're watching Deadly Reckoning, the story of a bookstore owner who turns out to be a former CIA Agent and has to get revenge on his nemesis, Control 5, because of a bunch of bullshit.
Look, I know I should be a good reviewer and give you a plot summary. Most bad movie / obscure movie review sites at least have the courtesy to do a fairly in-depth recap of the movie because we assume that you're never going to bother seeing this stuff. But I'm just not feeling it. Deadly Reckoning is just so unremarkably nothing.
So, there's some hot shit super-spy whose code name is Napoleon. In the movie's own words, he put lots of bad guys away in Eastern European prisons. I'm not sure that that's how the CIA works exactly, but whatevs.
Napoleon has an irritating little shit of a daughter named Jennifer. Jennifer's a stupid little twat. But let's move on....
....you know what? No.
A man's gotta take a stand sometimes. And today, I'm not going to let this go. Jennifer's in the top ten of the most irritating little bastards that have ever ruined movies, and she oughta be held accountable. (The character, I mean. Not the actress. I'm sure Rebecca is a nice person in real life.)
Even her first appearance in the movie is her just ruining things. Napoleon is trying to run his crappy little bookstore, and then a gang of thugs busts in and threatens him for money. Granted, they aren't exactly the scariest thugs, but they're menacing enough. One of them even has a gun. How about that?
Anyway, stupid asshead Jennifer gets all mouthy and tries to work her way up in their grill, like, "Quit pickin' on my daddy, you buttheads!" 'Cause this is a '90s movie, and '90s movie kids talked real tough like that.
So, right off the bat, she's literally stepping into the path of danger for no good reason. Then she yells at her dad for not standing up to the thugs. Then she yells at her dad for not moving the store to a better neighborhood. Then the movie cuts to them at home, and she's not eating dinner, and she yells at her dad for being her dad. Then the movie cuts to Napoleon having a smoke, and she's yelling at him for getting cancer. Little whore can't even let him have five minutes of peace.
And you know what? The movie is so enamored of little Jennifer that it can't even be bothered to put her in danger, even when she herself is the one screwing things up for herself. Let's go through at least three examples that I remember off the top of my head:
- There's a shootout in the bookstore when a bunch of CIA baddies come in to try to kill Napoleon. He yells at Jennifer to stay put, but then she decides to start running around, anyway. She somehow does not get killed by stray gunfire, and Napoleon apparently forgets to yell at her for not listening.
- There's a shootout at some villa where pretty much the exact same stuff as #1 happens, except that one bad guy holds Jennifer at gunpoint briefly. But then the bad guy is shot and killed immediately, and Jennifer wanders off to safety. (Side note: Even though Jennifer gets away, one of Napoleon's ex-CIA friends is shot while trying to rescue her. She shows no remorse and nobody ever mentions that she just got a guy killed. Napoleon is a bad parent.)
- There's a final shootout at some warehouse (of course it's another damn warehouse) where once again, Napoleon tells Jennifer to stay in hiding, but she thinks, "You know what's fun? Suicide!" So she runs out into the open and ends up getting held at gunpoint by Control 5. But nobody shoots anybody this time. The situation resolves itself without violence, except for a minute later when Control 5's car blows up and he dies.
She's just this stupid plot device that gets in the way and never quite attracts bullets the way you want her to.
She also has an irritating frickin' scream. It doesn't even come out organically. Her shrill harpy screeches just kinda pops out of her mouth the way a senile dog occasionally barks because it thought it heard a knock at the door. Maybe I should make this personal. Rebecca Ayre Doughty, I might be calling you out.
I blame Jennifer for this movie failing. And I think it's a legit claim - not just because she's annoying as hell - but because by refusing to allow her to be in any real danger at any time, the movie deflates any sense of urgency or suspense it could possibly have.
It's got a decent premise. An ex-CIA super-spy works at a bookstore in obscurity, but then one day his old life comes back to haunt him. That could be great! Just think of the possibilities. Maybe Control 5 kills Jennifer, and then Napoleon goes on a mad revenge spree. Or maybe Control 5 kidnaps Jennifer, and then Napoleon has to pull a Commando to get her back. Or maybe Napoleon is old and decrepit, and so he complies with Control 5's insidious commands because he knows he can't fight back, so it's more of an underdog story. Or maybe literally anything else could happen that might make you think that Napoleon and Jennifer might not get to live their idyllic life together where she yells at him all the time for still being alive.
But, no, none of that happens, because Jennifer is never taken away from Napoleon and she's always protected in some way. There's no ticking time clock in this movie. There's no motivation. So, some demons from Napoleon's past have come to haunt him. Who gives a shit? Napoleon could just move or do whatever the hell. Why should he bother to fight Control 5 or do much of anything? Seriously, somebody give this guy a stake - he's a character without a conflict.
It's like if I made a movie about a cop, and my premise was simply, "Crime exists!" Yeah, it does, but what's the hook exactly?
On top of that, there's only like one other female character in the whole movie, and she's another CIA agent who basically just spends the whole time admiring Jennifer and wishing that she was a Mom. Specifically, Jennifer's Mom, because she screwed Napoleon a few times awhile ago and maternity really makes her wet. I'm not being needlessly filthy here. The female CIA agent literally states how she only ever wanted to be the mother to Napoleon's children, and she's just all too happy to babysit little Jennifer while an action movie happens around them.
What's the point? Just write the stupid kid out of the goddamn movie. It's not that hard. Remember when I gave you like three examples just a few paragraphs ago, Deadly Reckoning? I came up with those off the top of my head. Surely you could sit down for ten minutes and shit out a better plot than this.
Miscellaneous other complaints that I don't feel like hashing out properly:
- Pretty much all of the exposition happens in two scenes where one character asks somebody else a bunch of questions. Contrary to popular belief, voiceover is not the laziest form of exposition - the ol' Q & A format is. I should know, because this is how I wrote all of my exposition when I was eight. Figure it out, movie!
- Speaking of voiceover - there's a scene where Napoleon wanders around alone, thinking about things that were said to him that are replayed for us in voiceover form literally no more than thirty seconds after they were just said.
- One of the bad guy CIA agents looks the exact same as Napoleon. I was almost excited for a minute when he died because I thought things were about to get interesting. Turns out I was wrong.
- The final explosion is supposed to take place in a car that is driving forward, but the explosion is stationary. I guess I shouldn't complain, since it was still an explosion, but they're getting less impressive every day.
One Last Thought: Shotgun Dude is alright. He's just one of the random bad guy agents, but he's got a shotgun as his trademark, he looks menacing, and he almost kills Jennifer a coupla times.
Shotgun Dude could just pose with his rifle and drink coffee with the other minions for ninety minutes and it'd be more interesting than Deadly Reckoning.
How Much Hipster Cred Is It Worth? (Added in June 2016)
It gets the full obscurity bonus for having less than 100 ratings on IMDb, and I'll give it another few points for making good use of Matthias Hues as Shotgun Dude, but that's as far as I'm willing to go. This gets 60 hipster cred out of a possible 100, but there are way funner ways to be a hipster.