(checks calender) “my goodness its been a few days…time to review another Michael Madsen film”
Michael Madsen goes WAY outside of his normal acting niche and plays a badass killer. Really different from his previous roles (please refer to my two month old review of Madsen’s Brazen Bull to reveal just how sarcastic this opening paragraph is http://upcomingdiscs.com/2011/02/23/the-brazen-bull/#more-15588).
Madsen’s latest man-dressed-in-all-black takes a group of diner patrons hostage for a mysterious reason. Said mystery becomes more shadowy when he is mistaken for a hitman, and wrongfully paid for a murderous crime he didn’t commit. This means that there is another killer amongst Madsen’s hostages, and it might just take a killer to sniff out a killer.
Despite how badly I wanted to immediately write off this film, I found myself becoming more interested than I anticipated. The lion’s share of the credit goes to the fact that the cast is made up of mature, capable actors who take their roles more seriously than others might have when given a worn out scenario. Amber Benson and Harold Perrineau are particularly convincing in their performances, and add a layer of depth I was delightfully surprised to find in this film. Mind you, I still feel that all of these actors deserve to be in a better film, but they did their best to heighten the one they are in here. On that note, additional kudos goes to the filmmakers for not filling the roles with forgettable youngsters (again, refer to Brazen Bull as a prime example). The only young people in this cast are literally placed into a corner and all but forgotten about.
As the body count rises and the mystery of who the second killer is narrows to a small assembly of names, the investigation turns into a round robin of showdowns, which breeds a series of know-it-all power speeches each character seems obligated to give. All of these speeches become quite tedious to sit through as they are packed with cliches and often grind the film to a hault. I almost became relieved when bullets started flying, because at least there would be one less person to give a “we’re nothing alike” monologue.
What could have been a completely ‘run of the mill’ thriller turns out to be a decent view thanks to some competent directing and a strong cast of dedicated actors.
Widescreen 1.78:1. There is a moment in the film where a young couple film themselves on a handheld camera, and the frame adopts the view of said camera. The quality is meant to dip, establishing that it is a lesser camera being used, but it just about stays exactly the same.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. The score is quit full bodied in all the speakers. In fact, sometimes the volume becomes a bit too much, forcing one to adjust when a scene goes from harsh, whispered ambiance to huge blasts of guns and screams.
Subtitles available in Spanish and English.
What seemed like another easy paycheck for Michael Madsen and company, turned into a decently compelling thriller that is not so much a gem for the genre, but a breath of relief for the career of Madsen and those that may have already written him off as a character actor stuck on repeat. It is not a great film, but far from horrible.