Sunday, January 10, 2010

BITCH SLAP - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW




BITCH SLAP – A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW

A belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness . . .

—Joseph Conrad - 1911


BITCH SLAP starts with this quote floating in the center of the screen. It later becomes apparent that with this quote, BITCH SLAP references humankind in general and not just men. BITCH SLAP features women who are violently running the show, and these are women that have little or no time for men. In some strange way, all of the men in BITCH SLAP except one become neutered, murdered victims. The horrifying fact is that the women who are in power are ultimately more despicable than the men. If there is any argument vis-à-vis female empowerment in this film, it has been subverted by director Rick Jacobson’s nonstop camera leering. In short, the men have been killed, and the women triumph, but the men have the last laugh because the camera is deep in female cleavage and gazes longingly at their posteriors.

The film starts with Trixie (Julia Voth) bleeding and crawling in the dust at the center of fire and black smoke. She wonders aloud, “Oh my God, how did it come to this?” This is the moment of realtime. The rest of the film builds to this moment in flashback. This mechanism is much like the exploding car at the beginning of CASINO or the florescent bulbs on the ceiling in CARLITO’S WAY.

The introduction credits run over a montage of film clips featuring scenes of sex and violence from various exploitation films from the 60s and 70s. Then we see three women in the dusty desert slo-mo-stepping out of a 60s model T-bird. As Camero (America Olivo), Hel (Erin Cummings), and Trixie are caressed by the camera, the assumption is that they are a team. The truth of the matter is that they are all at odds with each other. The only way to determine some of the intricacies in their connections with each other (some sexual, some criminal) is to watch them torture and ultimately kill Gage (Michael Hurst), the foul-mouthed whoremonger they have imprisoned in the trunk of the car.

Gage’s murder sets off a series of flashbacks that show his connection to Trixie and Camero. However Hel remains a mystery character, and there is also reference to a super-shady underworld character named Pinky who mangles his way through numerous enemies wielding a samurai sword.

What makes this film worth a second viewing is all the back story that pulls it together. Some of it is crudely funny (every time a woman takes a punch or kick to the crotch, there is a comedic sound effect), but it is all gratuitous. Camero has a history as a convict on the run hanging out at a monastery hooking up with nuns. Trixie is a stripper that is so beautiful that the whole club stops when she hits the stage, and celestial light shoots out of her crotch. Hel is a criminal with connections that get her and Camero out of a jailcell and sets them both on a mission to find a bag with 200 million dollars worth of diamonds. As the plot continues to reveal the characters’ history, we learn that something big went down at a place called “The Glory Hole,” and that is ground zero for the fallout that Trixie finds herself in at the beginning of the film.

The viral ad campaign for this film has suggested that it is possibly a new achievement in exploitation cinema. The cleavage and nonstop titillation that permeates BITCH SLAP’s movie posters and trailers all suggest a throwback to Russ Meyers’ heyday of big-busted, sexploitation films. But somehow BITCH SLAP manages to carve out its own niche with a fun plot and maximum leerage of the women onscreen. Once the viewer gets past the outright offensiveness in this film, they will find a movie that, surprisingly, has a lot of replay value.

A big part of the reason why some people will want to watch this movie multiple times is the timeline mixup in the plot. The film works through the present with flashbacks further and further into the past in order to show how all of these characters know each other. No one is to be trusted, and nothing is what it seems. The timeline is PULP FICTION, and the plot is heavily modeled on THE USUAL SUSPECTS. The rest of the film is a hodgepodge of salutes to movies like THELMA AND LOUISE and KILL BILL.

The dialogue is also over-the-top with zingers, but unfortunately the actors aren’t up to speed with the writers, and a lot of their one-liners fall uncomfortably flat. BITCH SLAP’s most glaring problem is the thespian skill lacking in the three main actors. They look good, but they can’t deliver their lines convincingly. Most offensive is America Olivo’s delivery of Camero’s lines. She is so strained and self-conscious that she compensates with volume and hyperactivity. It is as if she mainlined lethal expresso shots before each take. Part of this is that she is supposed to be in a hopped-up druggie haze, but it comes across unrealized.

The action in this movie delivers the complete violence-package one would expect. When dead-eyed, Tourette’s-syndrome-afflicted Hot Wire (William Gregory Lee) and the bladed-yo-yo spinning, lollipop sucking Kinki (Minae Noji) show up in the desert, the film hits full tilt. There is a lot of neck snapping and an explosive head shot, plus the introduction of a gun that looks like it was a prop in STARSHIP TROOPERS.

It seems that BITCH SLAP wants to salute the strength of women under pressure. Men in this film (except for a strange government operative named Mr. Phoenix (Kevin Sorbo)) all get torn completely to pieces. The vicious fights between the women featuring double-digit head strikes are indeed hardcore, but none of it can be taken seriously. And the supposedly gynocentric sexual romps (including a particular lesbian love scene that takes at least ten minutes) are so completely unnecessary that they knock the plot off course and force multiple questions in regards to the editing of this film.

What is the purpose of all of this sex and violence? There doesn’t seem to be one. All of these characters are linked together sexually in some way, and there is no trust between any of them. Underneath all of this chaos are the elements of something fun as in LOVE AND A .45.

There is a diamond of a film under all of this rough, and part of the value is simply in the reckless abandon of it all. Director Rick Jacobson, who comes with XENA and BAYWATCH directing experience, has finally let the dogs loose but never to the point where this film actually treads on pornographic soil. The beauty of this film is that it isn’t completely over the line. It has inched up to the edge of the NC-17 realm and lolled its tongue over it but has managed to remain an R-Rated franchise.

The movie ends with a Sun Tzu quote. But by this time, any purpose or semblance of intelligence has been completely destroyed. The conclusion simply does not work. What is cool, however, is the beautiful salutation to 1977s THE CAR. In short, BITCH SLAP is a series of salutes to better movies put to the beat of profanity, violence, and a buttload of T and A. What is shocking and lamentable about it all is that up to the lame conclusion, the movie completely works.

BITCH SLAP is a film that most people will come at expecting a typical B-movie. The title of the film and the trailer make it look like a really low-budget piece of film-hackery. The surprise is that BITCH SLAP is resourceful and uses its budget wisely. The people that assembled this film really put their work in, and it shows. The “slap” viewers will take is that the film is actually well-executed. Low expectations make for a great payoff in this case. The plot is complex enough to keep the grey matter working while silliness ensues onscreen. The script, while plagued with a horrible third-act plot-twist, moves almost too quickly at points. The dots that need to be connected in backstory are connected in such a way that the viewer has to do some brainwork to keep up.

It is definitely a B-movie, but it is superior to standard grindhouse dreck. One viewing will get the story across, but there are some subtle intricacies that future viewings will unravel. Even though the acting is atrocious, the special effects are solid and enjoyable. The gore, the bullets, the explosions, the flashback avalanche, and most notably, the nighttime shootout in Las Vegas are all well-choreographed and at some points, dizzying.

BITCH SLAP has all of the hallmarks of a post-modern cult classic. It is actually hindered by its profane title because this isn’t some disjointed B-movie; this is a movie that (outside of some horrible acting) could be at the local multiplex. It is unfortunate that the film’s title is going to deter some viewers. Titling the movie “BITCH SLAP” sets it way behind the eight-ball. This film is definitely going to find its audience and become a revered favorite. Some people had a lot of fun putting this film together, and it shows.

-Mediasaurus Rex

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