5 Reviews (2 New)
A Dark and Scary Place
A serial killer is at large in New York. His penchant is for cutting-up beautiful young women. On his trail is a police inspector who is told by a couple of phone witnesses that he speaks like a duck. Subsequent taunting phone calls received by the inspector confirm this. An intended victim survives to tell the police about a man who is missing two fingers, who accosted her on the subway, but she was actually attacked after that incident and identifies the wrong person. When the man she identified is dragged from the water, having been dead for some time, it means he couldn't have been the killer. The inspector is back to square one. Then the killer makes another attempt on the victim who survived, and the pieces begin to come together...
New York Ripper is the first of many violent horror and exploitation films to be released by Shameless Screen Entertainment. It was previously banned and the prints ordered out of the country by the BBFC. In my opinion, it seems a strange marketing strategy to attempt to capture a retail audience of perverted sex and extreme violence mongers, with descriptions like vile and shocking, and quotes such as "The sickest movie ever made!"
As with Phantom of Death, another early Shameless release, I expected to hate this film, but was rather pleasantly surprised. The only really gruesome scene is the one in which a secured victim is seen to be sliced with a razor blade from the forehead and down through one eye. All other set pieces are no worse than many other horror films, such as a Friday the 13th flick or John Carpenter's The Thing, also released in 1982. Most of the victims are quickly dispatched (at least on-screen) and the killer is not seen in the same frame until the end of the movie. Perhaps it's just me, but scenes of a straight kill are considerably less disturbing than those depicting rape or prolonged torture, and luckily they are not present in this film.
There is more of a 1970s feel at play here, with a jazzy McCloud or The Streets of San Francisco soundtrack which proves curiously innocuous during the murder scenes, when you might normally expect menacing or at least creepy music. However, the notion of the killer speaking like a duck is intriguing and proves effective, enhancing the moments when the psychopath lets go. This works well as a murder mystery, suspects mounting up along the way before being whittled down as their stories are played out. I thought the killer might be Daffy Duck or The Penguin from Batman but, all joking aside, was relieved to discover there was a valid reason for the voice which also ties-in with the motive for the killings.
The violence of the murder scenes is not what should be emphasised in the marketing blurb, because it is merely an aside to a relatively good plot-driven murder mystery. This is New York Ripper's first excursion on to DVD in the UK and, like Phantom of Death, is certainly worth a look.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2007)
A young policeman straight out of training school is caught at a drugs rave party. With his prospective career on the line, he finds himself being blackmailed into joining the Homicide squad. His insider knowledge is needed, but he soon finds himself well out of his depth. Somebody is killing people and removing the skin with their tattoos. He soon learns that the detective who coerced him has been looking in earnest over two years for his runaway daughter, after his wife was killed by a hit-and-run driver. The trade for classic Japanese tattoos by a talented but deceased artist hots up; some will pay millions and others will kill, but the artist's best work is on a woman still alive...
This is a German film with the option of English subtitles. Whilst I'm not a connoisseur of the German language I did listen for different emotions in the voices of the cast... and heard none. Even the movements of the actors were pretty staid, giving the impression they were simply going through the motions. The Homicide detective portrays the strong, silent approach, and the young policeman, almost the same in terms of moodiness, slouches his way through the movie tripping over clues, witnesses and informants as if this were a game of Cluedo.
Although the idea of trade in live tattoos is essentially sound, no one in the film shows any enthusiasm for the proceedings. Granted, in many American films there's lots of shouting and running around for no discernible reason, but here no one raises their voice for the entire duration and you feel like shaking some life into them.
I'm sorry, but with this being the case, why should I show any interest?
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2004)
When classic car salesman Bill and his wife Bernadette discover a rat in their Beverley Hills swimming pool a powerful black man arrives from nowhere to fish it out for them. The couple assume he is the pool maintenance man, but instead he turns out to be a rapist and thief wanted by the police. There is no cash in the house, and it soon becomes evident that Bill has borrowed more money than the couple have. The intruder, known as Bone, gives Bill a deadline in which to drive into town, withdraw some money and get back, otherwise he will rape and kill Bernadette. Bill initially complies, but then gets side tracked by a liaison with a strange woman who was molested by an old man when she was a child and seems determined to repeat the experience. When Bill fails to show up at the allotted time both Bone and Bernadette are aggrieved for very different reasons. They decide to go after Bill, intending to cause an "accident" and claim on the insurance. But Bone hasn't counted on the ruthlessness of Bernadette...
The moment I noticed that Bone was written and directed by Larry Cohen I somehow knew exactly what to expect. I wasn't far wrong. Lots of jazzy The Streets of San Francisco type music, pretty bland characters and a plot which could easily have been played-out in half-an-hour. In fact similar scenarios have been attempted much more successfully in long-running weekly serials, because the format is far too common to be self-sustaining. So we are forced to endure the stereotypical black villain story, and are informed through dialogue that Bone acts the way he does because it is what society expects of him (what?!). Larry Cohen's It's Alive trilogy of films about cannibal babies weren't quality pieces by any stretch of the imagination, but at least they had a hook. There was mystery, there was danger and there was sympathy, all qualities missing from Bone.
On the extras, Jack H. Harris explains how he turned from film maker to producer and could not obtain enough films to please the film company. Bone arose from his liaison with Larry Cohen. The film was shown to test audiences who didn't care, so it was decided they might be more successful with predominantly black cinema goers. Wrong again. Instead of catching the blatant hints that this was a rubbish film the pair remarketed the project as a dark comedy and romance (for fear of repeating myself again... what?!). This time they were apparently more successful - which probably means one blind man turned up at the cinema looking for the bakers.
Extras include the aforementioned comments from Jack H. Harris, a Commentary by Larry Cohen, a Featurette, and Theatrical Trailers. In short, Bone will bore modern audiences to distraction. You could say it's Bone-idle (yes, I did think of that one all by myself).
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2006)
A bank robber is the only survivor of a passenger plane crash. A casino employee tracks him down and explains how luck is a real force passed from person to person. They team up, travelling to many illicit gambling or chance games played for high stakes, such as houses, cars and even people. The casino man now possesses the means to confront his corrupt and unnaturally lucky boss; but the game is Russian Roulette, and the old man has seen many opponents die. Meanwhile, a police detective is on the trail of the bank robber, and can't avoid getting caught up in the game...
It's difficult to know exactly how to quantify this film, and I'm not certain I want to try. Words don't come easily, because there's very little to describe: no multiple layers, no diverging or converging plot-lines, no interesting characters, no action or stunts, no humour, no suspense... Need I go on? I'm afraid there's not even enough here to stimulate the most complacent and accepting viewer of weekday afternoon TV films.
Another problem is the chaotic structure. The director clearly has no feeling for how scenes should be played out. Or perhaps it was an editing fault, in which case the whole thing should have been left on the cutting room floor. It's not the language which is to blame, although it can be a little disorientating to watch a Spanish film with English subtitles, only to have some characters switch to English and back again for no discernible reason. No, the cuts are far too abrupt and frequent, jumping from scene to scene, back and forth, before any real tension or cohesion can be realised.
As for the story... I can't even say with any conviction if I've accurately described the plot with my little synopsis, because this is one of those films you watch and think to yourself "What the hell was all that about?!" Give this one a miss.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2003)
Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) is a machine operator; just one of a bored group of men. The difference is Reznik hasn't slept for nearly a year. Racked by extreme fatigue, his body is becoming increasingly emaciated. As a consequence of this his mind plays a series of warped tricks on him, until he seriously begins to doubt reality. As a result of his negligence a fellow worker suffers an accident in which he loses an arm. Reznik is alienated from the workforce, and his guilt soon turns to paranoia. As a series of Hangman notes appear on his fridge, he discovers the two people he can still rely on are not what they seem at all. Reznik believes someone is trying to exact revenge on him for the accident, but the real truth will threaten to tip him over the edge into insanity...
This is one of those films you feel compelled to watch; once you've pressed that play button you're not going to press stop until it's over. That's testament to the film's good plotting. There are layers upon layers which reel you in and immerse you in the so-called subterfuge until you're not quite sure if The Machinist is a contemporary thriller or a Chronenberg-like fantasy. I suppose it's a bit of both, but the closest film comparison in terms of style would be Donnie Darko. Especially the final revelations, and the fact that it leaves you thinking and trying to make sense of certain aspects. I prefer that in a film; I don't particularly like neatly tied-up packages.
Christian Bale (currently finding fame in Batman Begins) is near faultless in his performance here. The lengths he went to to get into character surprised even the writer and director. Simply put, Bale just stopped eating and wasted away, risking serious health problems, until he barely existed. I'm not sure a mere movie warrants those extremes, but you've got to give the man credit, because he pulls it off with aplomb.
For me, the best scene is when he takes the little boy on the ghost train. The way Bale reacts to the increasingly depraved scenes of death and violence, trying to protect the boy, are the film's only humorous moments. But it doesn't stay that way for long. I think if I'd been taken on that ghost train at a young age I'd have had a seizure too.
Extras are: Director Interview, Commentary by Director Brad Anderson, The Making of... featurette, Trailers and 8 Deleted Scenes.
A great and original film.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2005)
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