' ' Cinema Romantico: Catch .44

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Catch .44

Remember back in the mid-90's right after the release of "Pulp Fiction" when it seemed like every other weekend someone else was trying to rip off Q.T.'s opus? "Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead" and "2 Days In The Valley" and "Truth or Consequences, N.M." and on and on and on. I could have sworn those days were behind us. Silly me! Enter: writer/director Aaron Harvey's "Catch .44", so bad it went to DVD two weeks after an insanely limited theatrical release back in early December (yes, this December). This might be the worst "Pulp Fiction" knockoff of 'em all. Don't believe me? Let me prove it. You don't mind if I just go ahead and give away the first 10-15 minutes of this thing, do you? You don't? Excellent.

Malin Akerman.....with a gun.
It opens with Bruce Willis in a close-up that brings to mind the extended close-up of - you guessed it! - "Pulp Fiction." Except in this one he's actually speaking. Then it's the opening credits and as the opening credits play the one word that surges to the front of your mind more than any other is......pulpy. Then we are in some roadhouse coffee shop with three pretty ladies and one pretty lady, Tes (my official Cinematic Crush Malin Akerman), presents an extended monologue on the pros and cons of women "faking it." Eventually the monologue ends and the three ladies jarringly snap into Serious Mode and as they do it suddenly dawns on you that they're about to pull guns and stick the place up. (Is this reminding you of the opening to another film?) They do. One of the pretty ladies gets shot dead. Suddenly the scene switches and we realize we're face to face with......the pretty lady who just got shot dead! We've rewound back in time! Ye gods! And then, as if all that wasn't enough, as if on cue, the dead pretty lady's name slides into the frame in big bold neon letters. KARA!!! At that point I started laughing. Literally. Out loud. I mean, come on! This movie can't be serious! Right?! It can't be! It is? No. Yeah. I think it's being serious. Hell, it's so Q.T.-ish people use rotary phones and cassette tapes even though specific references indicate it's present day.

Tes and Kara (Nikki Reed) and Dawn (Deborah Ann Woll) are drug runners or drug pushers or drug peddlers or......I have no idea, really. They carry guns and they do something pertaining to drugs for Mel, a sinister crime boss, and his orders have led them to this roadhouse coffee shop to pick up a shipment or steal a shipment or......I have no idea, really. Mel is played by Bruce Willis who gets top billing even though we see him only for a few fleeting moments right at the start and then not again until almost a whole hour has passed. He's like a cheap Harry Lime imitation.

So, believe it or not, this film actually belongs to the lovely Ms. Akerman. She's the star, and while even I will admit she's decidedly out of her element in the arena of wielding guns and barking lines like "I'm not even going to say it because y'all know what this is!", she does have a certain verve in more relaxed scenes that could translate quite ably to more, shall we say, non-drugs & mayhem material. (She also does a credible job of rocking a toothpick Mickey-Rourke-In-"Iron-Man-2" style.) Her Tes is a waitress at a strip joint who enters the illicit world of drug running or pushing or peddling at the urging of kindly but vengeful Ronny (Forest Whitaker) who saves her from a strip joint jackanapse (even though Tes seemed like she had things under control) who introduces her to Mel and then turns backs up in an apparent effort to not only rescue Tes but pledge his undying love and affection to her (honestly - he does) once Mel has deemed its hers and Kara's and Dawn's "last job" and intends to have them offed in this roadhouse coffee shop.

Malin Akerman.....with a toothpick.
None of it makes much sense. For instance, in the moments before Ronny turns up to try and save Tes and pledge his undying love and affection to her he masquerades as local law enforcement and pulls Tes and her two gal pals over and winds up in a quizzical conversation with them that seems to serve no purpose other than, well, to be quizzical conversation. If he wants to run away with her why wait until she's in a gun-driven Mexican Standoff in the roadhouse coffee shop? Did I mention the gun-driven Mexican Standoff? Dear Lord, the gun-driven Mexican Standoff! It goes on for so long it makes the gun-driven Mexican Standoff of the Tarantino penned "True Romance" look like a 30 second short at Sundance! By the time it finally concludes every single last drop of whatever minor suspense it had to begin with has evaporated. And, more than anything, that's what the unfortunate "Catch .44" comes down to - scene ideas that must have sounded dynamite in Mr. Harvey's head that he couldn't translate to film.

-"Hey! What if I have the three girls drive around to The Raveonettes' 'Dead Sound?'"
-"Okay? But what's the underlying emotion you're trying to get across by doing it?"
-"Never mind that! It'll look way cool!"

Don't get me wrong, "Dead Sound" is a bodacious tune but only people like the real Q.T. and Marty and P.T. Anderson can properly employ pop songs in those sorts of situations. All these random scenes and bits of tuneage and cheap cinematic parlor tricks add up to a terribly unformed film that's straight outta 1995 (or 1987 - there's one fabulously meta moment when Tes plays a song off the 1987 music album of.....Bruce Willis). Seriously, Aaron Harvey, can't you rip off, like, Miranda July instead? Give that a whirl next time.

Oh well. At least you get to see Malin Akerman shoot Bruce Willis. Wait! I mean, spoiler alert! SPOILER ALERT!!!!!


SJHoneywell said...

I almost want to watch this now.

Nick Prigge said...

You know, it is one of the more entertaining pretty bad movies you'll come across. So it's got that going for it.