Category: 30 – 39% Just awful

Maniac Cop (1988)

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There’s far too much plot development and far too little action in Maniac Cop. 

It is Maniac Cop’s amusing title that attracted me to the film, its tagline ‘You have the right to remain silent… forever’ also made me laugh, however William Lustig’s Maniac Cop is a classic example of all concept and no substance. A sixty-second trailer may draw you in, but the feature length production is pitifully executed.

The film opens with three murder sequences, all of which are amateurish and underwhelming. I wasn’t concerned, the film had only just begun, I was confident that it would soon shift a gear into gore hound territory; after all, the Blu-ray copy I watched was an Arrow Films release. This gear change unfortunately never happens, the filmmakers instead develop a dull, nonsensical thriller-mystery narrative rather than prove their ingenuity with corn syrup and gore. A Cormanesque producer should have economically stripped the script of generic narrative filler, emphasised its core high concept and employed Tom Savini, the highly talented and twisted SFX man responsible for the gore in films such as Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Friday the 13th (1980) and William Lustig’s earlier film Maniac (1980).

I can’t really be bothered to name characters or summarise plot, but I’ll try. The film opens with a young woman being chased by two hoodlums, she escapes the pair and approaches an ominous looking police officer, who, rather than serving and protecting her, strangles her to death. The film then follows Detective Frank McCrae (Tom Atkins), who believes the hoodlums’ claims that a police officer committed the crime, his evidence-bereft belief turning very quickly into adamancy based solely on his venerable cop’s instinct – this is of course all completely stupid. Bruce Campbell then turns up as Jack Forrest, a cop who is framed for the murders of the tabloid press dubbed ‘Maniac Cop’. The best performance of the film is delivered by Robert Z’Dar’s enormous jaw, it lends a palpable strength and menace to his character Matt Cordell. I am now too bored to continue writing this.

Believe it or not, William Lustig and Larry Cohen should have taken a leaf out of Troma’s book. I recently watched The Toxic Avenger, a film that, like the rest of Troma’s catalogue, tried its utmost to be completely camp and awful. Unlike the majority of Troma’s catalogue however, there are enough laughs and torrents of gore in The Toxic Avenger to make it something of a success. Maniac Cop on the other hand has no sense of humour, no excessive violence and no lashings of crass sexuality; it’s an utterly stillborn slasher film that leads its viewers through a grindingly banal narrative to a denouement that’s seriously amateurish. When the credits roll, you’ll be left wondering ‘…is that it?’

38%

Super (2010)

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Maddeningly awful film.

I watched the film with low expectations and they were met, surpassed, even. ‘Super’ is an uninteresting, annoying film that’s full of flat characters and drags on for what certainly feels longer than 96 minutes. It is a shallow film, one that seems to have been written by young adolescents; it is wholly unimaginative and weak.

Essentially, it is yet another tired vigilante film, but with a rehashed, improbable superhero gimmick that makes the film even more tired. The film dabbles in themes of what it thinks is satire, drama and vigilantism, failing at all. In trying to make the film stand out from ‘Kick Ass’, it futilely turns the violence up a notch, the only benefit of this being the disposal of some of its highly irritating characters being satisfyingly grislier than expected.

Rainn Winston gives a humdrum performance as Frank D’Arbo, the nerd stock character every viewer is familiar with. One of the films few merits comes in the form of Kevin Bacon, who gives a fittingly slimy, ratty performance as small time criminal Jacques. Libby, played by Ellen Page, is one of the main problems of the film; her loud, androgynous and pathetically recalcitrant persona is utterly exasperating. When she becomes the Crimson Bolt’s side kick, the film nose dives and quickly loses all credibility. Remarkably, the film becomes even worse in its final act.

After the deliberately strong and misplaced violence, the little character development and the general vapidity, the film ends with inappropriate and somewhat complacent melodrama. Suddenly, trying to justify its predictably weak ending, the narrator, who appears to know exactly what the unamused viewer is thinking of this conclusion, addresses the audience – ‘Maybe you thought I was gonna learn that I was deluded, that I was as evil as the rest of them. But maybe you’re the one that needs to learn something.’ No, the viewer doesn’t have to learn anything from this completely ludicrous, unbelievable ending that has just been compounded by maudlin nausea, the filmmakers are the ones that need to learn: how to make a decent film.

Avoid this film, all you’re going to get is another churlish, back-chatting performance from Ellen Page. Watch ‘Kick Ass’ instead, it’s not perfect, but it’s in a different league to ‘Super’.

35%

Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

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Above: during his arrest, Gerard Butler strips naked for no apparent reason.

This film is silly, and not in a good way. Any film you have criticised in the past for farfetchedness or implausibility will be put into perspective by this truly ludicrous film.

Firstly, all characters are wholly flat and featureless; there is no depth or anything of interest in any of them, the film comprises only stock characters. Gerard Butler co-stars as ‘Clyde Shelton’, a seemingly omnipotent God-like figure who appears to be stronger and more capable than the FBI, the Philadelphia Police Department and various other judicial bodies combined. There’s a line of dialogue that acknowledges this absurdity, but that doesn’t make it okay. Shelton is on a mission to correct the judicial system, which he deems to have failed him after the murder of his wife and child. His extraordinary tactility and expertise are tenuously explained in a scene in which a back story is given to Shelton, a naturally clichéd tale of how he was a human disposal expert, the character predictably saying “He was the best”.

His superhuman capabilities are all very convenient, but I don’t think he’s all that bright, because he clearly makes everything much harder for himself. Once the credits roll, it becomes apparent that the plot has one gaping hole, there was no reason for Clyde Shelton to want to be in prison, it would be completely illogical for him to want to be there; you’ll know what I’m talking about if you decide to see it. Besides this fatal flaw, there are also the ways in which he exacts revenge, which become increasingly nonsensical and boring as the film progresses.

All of this absurdity is fatally compounded by the fact it takes itself seriously. I expected to enjoy this film in a similar way I enjoyed ‘Commando’, a film which is implausible too, but works through caricatures, hilariously bad acting and fantastically corny one-liners. In ‘Law Abiding Citizen’ however, there was barely a grain of humour. Despite this, the film gave me one laugh, a scene in which a particularly irritating character is inexplicably killed by means of a maliciously modified mobile phone.

This juvenile, unbelievably far-fetched narrative means ‘Law Abiding Citizen’ is boring. It makes the mistake of taking seriously a script that appears to have been written by an eleven year-old; but even with humour and interesting performances, I doubt this film could be salvaged. The film is just a brain dead heap of cheap viscera manufactured for the multiplexes; its hugely generous IMDb score speaks volumes for people’s taste.

30%

Blow (2001)

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Don’t waste your life on this horribly trite rip off

‘Blow’ is a horribly dull rehashing of classics such as ‘Scarface’, ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Boogie Nights’. The problems are abundant. Its plot is rambling, bloated and tediously predictable; so many plot points are crammed into it. This poorly constructed narrative results with sorely limited characterisation; some seemingly important characters coming and going within ten minutes, it’s a total mess.

Much of the film is one long dreary drug deal, only the most immature viewer would be engaged or, even worse, allured by it. Most people will watch it thinking about how it lacks the energy, sophistication and talent of all the fantastic crime films it so crudely rips off. Few films are as annoyingly kitsch as this.

Johnny Depp again proves his lack of credibility in the crime genre, his first attempt being in the similarly dull ‘Donnie Brasco’. I’m not sure why some deem his performance ‘excellent’, his feminine features and lack of charisma just don’t work in the genre.

Ray Liotta plays Depp’s father, the noble working class stock character that forms the film’s rather flimsy anti-drug message. This fails because of the aforementioned narrative issues; the film is utterly devoid of any message that properly resonates with the viewer because it is all so hackneyed and clichéd. Most people who like this film appear to foolishly do so because they find it ‘cool’, much like the bonehead rappers who idolise Tony Montana in ‘Scarface’.

To make matters worse, the film also has mawkish lashings of sentimentalism towards the end. The crew had to have known how inferior this film was during production, I can imagine it was exhausting for them to complete the project with any conviction.

35%

Cannibal Ferox (1981)

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Boring, counterfeited rubbish.

‘Cannibal Ferox’ is trash, terribly dull trash. It’s a shameful rehashing of Ruggero Deadato’s ‘Cannibal Holocaust’, which is the Citizen Kane of the cannibal genre compared with this. Naturally, the acting is bad, that is to be expected from an exploitation film, however the sheer lack of talent on display is beyond anything I’ve ever seen – it is diabolical. It was so awful that I laughed and even gasped in shock; I really cannot stress this enough, it’s like you’re watching a parody. There is a particular moment where a woman in peril begins to sing in an attempt to comfort her friend and herself – it is spectacularly embarrassing.

However, don’t think this is an addition to the ‘so bad it’s good’ category, because it’s far from that, it’s just plain rotten. The film has bad pacing issues, it appears to forget that it’s merely sleaze; the majority of its 93 minute running time plots a thoroughly unengaging story concerning emerald thieves. When the film finally reaches the viscera that apparently resulted in it being ‘banned in 31 countries’, the viewer has been anaesthetised by just how boring and amateur it all is.

In what appears to be an attempt to diffuse the viewer’s boredom, there are scenes of animal killing placed at random throughout the dreariness; it’s exploitation at its most unsophisticated. It is this random placement that makes you shake your head with disappointment rather than recoil in horror.

Considering it was released in 1981, the film is remarkably dated; it is a product of a bygone era where films with zero production values somehow managed to secure funding and pollute cinemas the world over. At least the majority of today’s smut has something of a professional sheen.

30%