I’ll Never Die Alone

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“Will cross rural Argentina off the list of holiday destinations, in much the same way that Deliverance did for North Georgia.”

I have no problem with rape/revenge movies, providing the balance is skewed more towards the revenge than the rape. Ms. 45, for example, has about five minutes of rape and 60 of revenge. This is fine by me. I am all about the revenge, which should be nasty and brutal, exactly what sexual predators deserve. Actually, so should the rape be, because portraying it any other way is very, very questionable. But that’s something which hardly needs depicting: I’m quite happy taking it as read, thank you very much. Here, the depicted brutalization of four young women goes on far longer than necessary to serve any point.

They appear to be heading home from college – it’s a bit vague – when they see a girl lying beside her bike, injured at the side of the road, and some men with guns nearby, who might just be hunters…or might not be. The women load her into the car, only for the victim to die before they reach the next time. They report it to the two-man police force, who seem less that enthusiastic about investigating. As they leave town, they find themselves being chased by the hunters’ truck, and it’s soon very apparent that their intentions are very, very unpleasant.

To be honest, I largely tuned out the middle portion of this, for reasons explained earlier. That said, when the tables are finally turned, it is certainly satisfying, especially in the final moments of vengeance. Bogliano takes his time in all aspects, which is a double-edged sword: some scenes benefit from the unflinching approach, such as the filling in of a grave, which unfolds in real time and is chilling viewing. However, others are simply dull and pointless, for example, the one where one of the girls goes into a bathroom, smokes a cigarette, changes her shirt and leaves. Really. That’s it. There’s a serious lack of characterization as well, to the point that it’s hard to care too much about the victims, as you’ve been given no reason to do so, or insight into their characters.

The film does improve markedly in the final reel, though this may be as much due to my personal prejudices as any actual change in the direction. But the revenge is certainly memorable, in particular the use of a strand of barbed-wire, in another sequence where Bogliano’s unblinking camera lens comes out as a positive. Much credit is due to all the actresses involved, for going to hell and back in the name of their cinematic art, and the overall impact is certainly better than some of the entries in the genre, as linked below. However, it may simply be too brutal, and the tuning-out mentioned above is something likely to be experienced in an even greater degree by viewers that are more sensitive than I.

Dir: Adrián García Bogliano
Star: Gimena Blesa, Magdalena De Santo, Andrea Duarte, Andres Aramburu
a.k.a. No Morire Sola

Codename: Yin/Yang

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“Just because you can make a movie, doesn’t mean you should…”

To the makers’ credit, they are perfectly up-front about this being made for pennies, with home video equipment and edited on a laptop. But even though I’m not averse to that – heck, I’ve been involved with films on such microbudgets myself – there’s still too much here that’s avoidably bad. For instance, if you are going to put the President of the United States in your film, be sure you have access to someone with a grasp of English that extends past “D+, must try harder”. If you don’t, then leave them out.

Said President (Daubjerg) unleashes a zombie virus on Denmark, apparently confusing the country with Iraq [maybe this joke makes more sense in Danish?]. To finish the job off, he sends in Special Forces icon Bobo Moreno (Penstoft), to oversee the mop-up work. But against him are Yin and Yang (the other Penstoft and Louring), two opposing sides of the same lethal coin. One is dark, dresses in black and is an expert with firearms. The other is blonde, dresses in white, and wields a mean Samurai sword. They are Denmark’s last hope, and have to slice and dice their way through the zombies, to reach Moreno’s headquarters, where he and an amazingly over-acting mad scientist are holed up.

There are some elements of this which are not bad. Unfortunately, they do not include the acting, dialogue, action or pacing. The last-named is perhaps the worst offender, such as the scene where Moreno is basically reading the Yin/Yang dossier for what feels like 45 minutes. The girls certainly look the part, and since they get to do their acting in Danish rather than English-as-a-second-language, perhaps come off best. However, the fight sequences are poorly-staged and largely uninteresting, with very little being made of the light-side/dark-side which is carefully set-up, then almost ignored.

So, what does work? The zombie make-up is pretty impressive, and technically, it really isn’t as bad as I feared it was going to be. The soundtrack is strangely catchy, in an 8-bit games console kind of way, and the actual concept is…well, it was strong enough to lure me in, with its promise of hot chick-on-zombie violence. It almost entirely fails to deliver what it promises, but for all its faults, I can’t bring myself to hate this. The love for the genre and unpaid effort that went into it is obvious: if only the enthusiasm had been tempered with more skill.

Dir: Henrik Andersen, Bo Mørch Penstoft
Star: Line Penstoft, Sabine Louring, Bo Mørch Penstoft, Mads Daubjerg

Blood on the Flat Track: The Rise of the Rat City Rollergirls

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“The best of the recent docs for the novice to the sport.”

In contrast to Brutal Beauty, this succeeds to a far greater degree is in putting over the attraction of roller derby. The first couple of films seem aimed more at the devotee, and it was more or less taken as read that already you liked it, or were at least somewhat interested. Here, I think even the more casual viewer will find themselves sucked in. They may or may not want to go any further, but the doc does a much better job of explaining the entertainment to be found, both for participants and spectators. The sheer sense of fun that is found at the best roller-derby events [or even, to be frank, the crappy ones, which we have also attended!] is a good deal more palpable here than in the other films, which concentrated on personalities to a greater extent than the sport. That isn’t the case here, and to an outsider, the results are likely better for it.

Not that there is any shortage of said personalities, such as the mother and daughter who both take part in the sport, or the three sisters who have been roller-skating virtually their entire life, and are feared across the entire Seattle league. There are, admittedly stories about romance and marriage included, but even these have a close connection to roller-derby, like the guy who proposes after his girlfriend became part of the championship-winning team [I can relate to this, having proposed to my wife immediately after the Arizona Diamondbacks won the 2001 World Series!]. I also enjoyed the insight into the different teams, like the Sockit Wenches (right) or the Derby Liberation Front, and the different ways in which they both perceive themselves and are perceived from the outside. Each has a different group personality, which of course, attracts other like-minded individuals, reinforcing that aspect of the team.

In common with the rest of the films, it covers a period of time rather than necessarily any particular sequence of events, mostly around the 2006 season, where the Wenches were trying to dethrone the reigning champion DLF. There’s enough footage of actual bouts that you can understand the skill of the participants, and the danger inherent in the sport. It’s frank in admitting that sex appeal is part of the draw, especially for the male audience, but I can attest that the film is also correct when it states that after about 15 minutes, that simply isn’t important. With its host of likeable players, it’s no surprise that the derby scene in Seattle continues to prosper, with the fed holding the national record for single-event attendance, having pulled 6,885 to a show in June 2010.

[It doesn’t seem to be available to stream online for free; we found it on Netflix. ]

Brutal Beauty: Tales of the Rose City Rollers

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“Too much ego and not enough doughnuts.”

For the next entry, we leap forward to 2009, and Portland – a city which all we know about, we learned from Portlandia. And, on that basis, of course it’s a city which has roller derby, where it sprung, virtually fully-fledged to four-figure crowds. This is less of a landmark doc, in that it doesn’t cover the beginning, middle or end. It’s basically a year or so in the lives of the participants in the Rose City Rollers, which is the Portland league. It covers both their local season, and then, once that’s over, follows the travelling team, the Wheels of Justice, first as they head down to San Francisco to take on their hated rivals, then over to Denver for the regional championships.

S’okay. The problem is there’s very little here any fan of the sport won’t already know about, or have seen before, and not enough to draw in anyone else. Is it heretical to say that roller derby chicks can be stereotypical in their individuality, just as much as those in the mainstream they profess to detest? That is the impression that comes over here, and a couple of the women are… Well, to be honest: really annoying. I guess there’s a certain kind of extroverted type who will be attracted to roller-derby. But simply because you strap on wheels and give yourself a fake name, doesn’t necessarily stop you from being an irritating bi… Well, let’s just say: I don’t care in the slightest what kind of tattoos you get, and move on, shall we? As for “Roller derby saved my soul”, even as a fan of the sport, I reckon that counts as going overboard. What next? “Roller derby cured my tumour”?

It’s a shame, since when concentrating on the sport, the documentary is decent enough. There’s a great explanation of the rules involving donuts [incorporating a plug for the city’s famous Voodoo Doughnut store!], and they also provide a better insight into the separate and largely distinct roles of jammers, pivots and blockers, as well as the different skills needed for each. In contrast to some other leagues, the theatrical fights and things like the punishment wheel are nowhere to be found in Portland. However, it’s not long before we’ve abandoned derby and are back at watching one women yell at another through a bathroom door. As an insight into the appeal of the pastime, it’s a good deal less than satisfactory.

[This one can currently be seen on Hulu without a subscription being needed.]

Dir: Chip Maloy

Hell on Wheels

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“In the beginning was the word, and the word was ‘Austin’…”

The revival of modern-era roller-derby started in Austin, Texas, when a man of dubious background and apparently even more questionable character, Dan Policarpo, arrived in the city and started talking up the sport to anyone who would listen. While he didn’t last long – taking loans out in the names of his skaters doesn’t inspire confidence – he was instrumental in putting together the first in what would become a worldwide wave of amateur, but extremely dedicated, all-girl roller-derby leagues. At the center in Austin were four women – Heather Burdick (a.k.a. Sugar), April Herman (Queen Destroyer), Anya Jack (Hot Lips Dolly) and Nancy Haggerty (Iron Maiden) – who founded Bad Girl Good Women and were captains of the four teams. However, it was not long before the inevitable drama starts, with the rest of the participants wondering for exactly whose benefit they were risking life and limb, as well as sacrificing their free time.

And when I say inevitable, this is not a gender slam, since we’re currently “enjoying” something similar in the male-dominated world of pro wrestling here in Arizona. It’s more that strong personalities, contact sport and money are unlikely to be a good combination, and the film demonstrates this in spades. Things come to a head after a financial fiasco involving calendars, and a very nasty injury at a bout that turns out to be an uninsured event, and about 3/4 of the skaters slough off into a rival league, setting the stage for even more drama. You couldn’t script this stuff, and it’s remarkable that Ray was there to capture it from the very beginning, well before Dave Attell showed up to film it for Insomniac, before A&E covered the original league for Rollergirls and way before Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page took any interest.

However, it’s a double-edged sword, in that there’s far more footage of league meetings than league matches – and if you can work out what’s going on in the latter, you’re better than I am. Admittedly, that may be because, in these early days, they weren’t actually very good skaters. As for the former, most get-togethers appear to take place in bars, or other places not conducive to the recording of crystal-clear dialogue. But it’s worth persevering, for the characters and drama that unfolds with a remarkably even hand. It would have been easy to portray the Gang of Four as exploitative tyrants, but one makes the point that they wanted to run the league like communists, and it failed miserably. There are also times when the film should have called out the BS of those present, such as when a skater gets all snotty after an audience member grabs her crotch… instead of merely spanking her as intended… while she’s dressed as a sexy schoolgirl. Yeah. I think you lose much right to credible outrage at that point.

But, for all its uncritical approach and other flaws, this is the Declaration of Independence of roller derby, a historic document which shows how the whole thing got started. Austin set the tone for both the good and the bad aspects of the sport-industry-crypto-feminism which we know and love today, though after this film, you’ll be left feeling it’s something of a miracle the whole shebang didn’t crash and burn during its formative years.

Dir: Bob Ray

[The whole doc is now available to watch online, though the DVD comes with a lot of extra footage, commentaries and other assorted bells and whistles.]

The History of Roller Derby

We used to be fairly well into roller derby, and reports of these bouts have previously graced the pages of this site. Our involvement in the scene came to a sudden halt a couple of years back when a shift-change at work left me holding down the fort on Friday and Saturday evenings, which are basically the prime nights for bouts. While the shift has its advantages, it does mean the only bout we’ve seen in about the past five years was one at the Arizona State Fair which happened to coincide with a midweek night off. I still possess my AZRD shirt, which I wear it to work occasionally, and have followed (vaguely) the schisms and ructions as groups have split, flourished and folded locally. Phoenix alone, as well as AZRD, has the Arizona Derby Dames, Arizona Roller Girls, Harmonic Violence Rollergirls, Renegade Roller Girls and Desert Dolls Roller Derby (somewhat) active, more than any other city in the world. I’m unsure whether this splintering is a good thing.

But while randomly kicking around Netflix, I noticed not one, not two, but three documentaries covering the topic, and figured I might as well use my bandwidth to watch them. After all, roller derby continues to grow, and is among the sports being considered for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics [though as “roller sports”, it seems likelier its more civilized cousins such as inline skating, will get the nod]. It doesn’t seem to be the passing fad some suspected – there’s over a thousand women’s flat-track leagues worldwide on this list – so for those interested in kick-ass heroines, the following films all provide an initiation into the sport of queens.

  • Hell on Wheels

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    “In the beginning was the word, and the word was ‘Austin’…”

    The revival of modern-era roller-derby started in Austin, Texas, when a man of dubious background and apparently even more questionable character, Dan Policarpo, arrived in the city and started talking up the sport to anyone who would listen. While he didn’t last long – taking loans out in the names of his skaters doesn’t inspire confidence – he was instrumental in putting together the first in what would become a worldwide wave of amateur, but extremely dedicated, all-girl roller-derby leagues. At the center in Austin were four women – Heather Burdick (a.k.a. Sugar), April Herman (Queen Destroyer), Anya Jack (Hot Lips Dolly) and Nancy Haggerty (Iron Maiden) – who founded Bad Girl Good Women and were captains of the four teams. However, it was not long before the inevitable drama starts, with the rest of the participants wondering for exactly whose benefit they were risking life and limb, as well as sacrificing their free time.

    And when I say inevitable, this is not a gender slam, since we’re currently “enjoying” something similar in the male-dominated world of pro wrestling here in Arizona. It’s more that strong personalities, contact sport and money are unlikely to be a good combination, and the film demonstrates this in spades. Things come to a head after a financial fiasco involving calendars, and a very nasty injury at a bout that turns out to be an uninsured event, and about 3/4 of the skaters slough off into a rival league, setting the stage for even more drama. You couldn’t script this stuff, and it’s remarkable that Ray was there to capture it from the very beginning, well before Dave Attell showed up to film it for Insomniac, before A&E covered the original league for Rollergirls and way before Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page took any interest.

    However, it’s a double-edged sword, in that there’s far more footage of league meetings than league matches – and if you can work out what’s going on in the latter, you’re better than I am. Admittedly, that may be because, in these early days, they weren’t actually very good skaters. As for the former, most get-togethers appear to take place in bars, or other places not conducive to the recording of crystal-clear dialogue. But it’s worth persevering, for the characters and drama that unfolds with a remarkably even hand. It would have been easy to portray the Gang of Four as exploitative tyrants, but one makes the point that they wanted to run the league like communists, and it failed miserably. There are also times when the film should have called out the BS of those present, such as when a skater gets all snotty after an audience member grabs her crotch… instead of merely spanking her as intended… while she’s dressed as a sexy schoolgirl. Yeah. I think you lose much right to credible outrage at that point.

    But, for all its uncritical approach and other flaws, this is the Declaration of Independence of roller derby, a historic document which shows how the whole thing got started. Austin set the tone for both the good and the bad aspects of the sport-industry-crypto-feminism which we know and love today, though after this film, you’ll be left feeling it’s something of a miracle the whole shebang didn’t crash and burn during its formative years.

    Dir: Bob Ray

    [The whole doc is now available to watch online, though the DVD comes with a lot of extra footage, commentaries and other assorted bells and whistles.]

  • Brutal Beauty: Tales of the Rose City Rollers

    starstarstarhalf

    “Too much ego and not enough doughnuts.”

    For the next entry, we leap forward to 2009, and Portland – a city which all we know about, we learned from Portlandia. And, on that basis, of course it’s a city which has roller derby, where it sprung, virtually fully-fledged to four-figure crowds. This is less of a landmark doc, in that it doesn’t cover the beginning, middle or end. It’s basically a year or so in the lives of the participants in the Rose City Rollers, which is the Portland league. It covers both their local season, and then, once that’s over, follows the travelling team, the Wheels of Justice, first as they head down to San Francisco to take on their hated rivals, then over to Denver for the regional championships.

    S’okay. The problem is there’s very little here any fan of the sport won’t already know about, or have seen before, and not enough to draw in anyone else. Is it heretical to say that roller derby chicks can be stereotypical in their individuality, just as much as those in the mainstream they profess to detest? That is the impression that comes over here, and a couple of the women are… Well, to be honest: really annoying. I guess there’s a certain kind of extroverted type who will be attracted to roller-derby. But simply because you strap on wheels and give yourself a fake name, doesn’t necessarily stop you from being an irritating bi… Well, let’s just say: I don’t care in the slightest what kind of tattoos you get, and move on, shall we? As for “Roller derby saved my soul”, even as a fan of the sport, I reckon that counts as going overboard. What next? “Roller derby cured my tumour”?

    It’s a shame, since when concentrating on the sport, the documentary is decent enough. There’s a great explanation of the rules involving donuts [incorporating a plug for the city’s famous Voodoo Doughnut store!], and they also provide a better insight into the separate and largely distinct roles of jammers, pivots and blockers, as well as the different skills needed for each. In contrast to some other leagues, the theatrical fights and things like the punishment wheel are nowhere to be found in Portland. However, it’s not long before we’ve abandoned derby and are back at watching one women yell at another through a bathroom door. As an insight into the appeal of the pastime, it’s a good deal less than satisfactory.

    [This one can currently be seen on Hulu without a subscription being needed.]

    Dir: Chip Maloy

  • Blood on the Flat Track: The Rise of the Rat City Rollergirls

    starstarstarstar

    “The best of the recent docs for the novice to the sport.”

    In contrast to Brutal Beauty, this succeeds to a far greater degree is in putting over the attraction of roller derby. The first couple of films seem aimed more at the devotee, and it was more or less taken as read that already you liked it, or were at least somewhat interested. Here, I think even the more casual viewer will find themselves sucked in. They may or may not want to go any further, but the doc does a much better job of explaining the entertainment to be found, both for participants and spectators. The sheer sense of fun that is found at the best roller-derby events [or even, to be frank, the crappy ones, which we have also attended!] is a good deal more palpable here than in the other films, which concentrated on personalities to a greater extent than the sport. That isn’t the case here, and to an outsider, the results are likely better for it.

    Not that there is any shortage of said personalities, such as the mother and daughter who both take part in the sport, or the three sisters who have been roller-skating virtually their entire life, and are feared across the entire Seattle league. There are, admittedly stories about romance and marriage included, but even these have a close connection to roller-derby, like the guy who proposes after his girlfriend became part of the championship-winning team [I can relate to this, having proposed to my wife immediately after the Arizona Diamondbacks won the 2001 World Series!]. I also enjoyed the insight into the different teams, like the Sockit Wenches (right) or the Derby Liberation Front, and the different ways in which they both perceive themselves and are perceived from the outside. Each has a different group personality, which of course, attracts other like-minded individuals, reinforcing that aspect of the team.

    In common with the rest of the films, it covers a period of time rather than necessarily any particular sequence of events, mostly around the 2006 season, where the Wenches were trying to dethrone the reigning champion DLF. There’s enough footage of actual bouts that you can understand the skill of the participants, and the danger inherent in the sport. It’s frank in admitting that sex appeal is part of the draw, especially for the male audience, but I can attest that the film is also correct when it states that after about 15 minutes, that simply isn’t important. With its host of likeable players, it’s no surprise that the derby scene in Seattle continues to prosper, with the fed holding the national record for single-event attendance, having pulled 6,885 to a show in June 2010.

    [It doesn’t seem to be available to stream online for free; we found it on Netflix. ]

Below the Belt

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“Captures the true spirit of independent wrestling on the road. Especially the tedium.”

Rosa Rubinsky (Baff) is working as a waitress at a wrestling venue, when her swift dispatch of an over-affectionate coworker gets her noticed by a promoter (Bechler). He convinces her to try out, under the watchful eye of Mildred Burke [playing herself – she held the Women’s World Championship for about 20 years], and after some initial shock, discovers she likes the theatrical sport. Despite never having been outside the state of New York, she goes on the road, along with a set of other women wrestlers, and they travel up and down the East coast, putting on shows, though Rosa is still deemed too “green” to get in the ring. That changes after she meets the current women’s champion, Terrible Tommy (O’Brien, another genuine wrestler of the era). A bout for the belt is arranged, in which Rosa – known now as “Rosa Carlo, the Mexican Spitfire” – will take on Tommy for the title.

Inspired by the recently-republished novel, To Smithereens by Rosalyn Drexler, in turn inspired by Drexler’s brief career in the squared circle as “Rosa Carlo”, when she wasn’t hanging out with the likes of Andy Warhol, this certainly captures the non-glamourous side of the business well. If you’re used to the WWE and its divas, the women here will seem like they come from another planet, not exactly the skinny supermodels now near-exclusively seen: I don’t know about you, but Terrible Tommy sure put the fear of god into me, and some of the others have faces that could stop a clock. However, it just doesn’t make sense for Rosa to make her debut in a title match: from what I know of wrestling, you have a long apprenticeship before you get that far, and instead of ring action, this leads to lots of scenes in cars, as the women drive from city to city, interspersed with semi-random wrestling footage that makes no sense and serves no real purpose.

And then there are the montages… I didn’t realise this was a musical. Ok, the characters don’t sing, but it seems like every few minutes, there’s a song over a cinematic backdrop, to the extent that it goes beyond good, to bad, and then right through to a surreal point where it almost, but not quite, makes sense again. Negatives like that do outweigh the moments of truth, such as the promoter giving Rosa her ring-name despite her loud protests, or the comment that “Old wrestlers never retire.” This one is more a curtain-jerker than a main event.

Dir: Robert Fowler
Star: Regina Baff, John C. Becher, Annie McGreevey, Jane O’Brien

Bandit Queen

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“Not quite Bollywood.”

If you’ve seen Bollywood films, you might expect the same here – a light, breezy romp, interspersed with gratuitous musical numbers. Wrong, on every conceivable level. It’s an almost unrelentingly grim portrayal of the life of Phoolan Devi (Biswas), sold off by her family at the age of 11, abused by her husband (Shrivastava) as well others in the higher-ranked Thakur caste, and basically treated worse than an animal. She’s eventually abducted by a gang of bandits, whose lieutenant Vikram (Pandey) is sympathetic to her: when the leader tries to rape her, Vikram shoots him in the head, and takes over, making Phoolan his co-chief. However, after the group’s true leader is released from prison, he’s none too happy, and sets out to teach Phoolan a lesson than will make her earlier misfortunes seem like paradise.

How much of this is true, is open to debate. Devi was supposedly so upset by the film, she threatened to set herself on fire outside a cinema if the film weren’t withdrawn, but the depth of her anger can be questioned, since she ended up being paid off by the producers. The basics do seem true, and it’s a remarkable story, centred on a performance from Biswas that leaves nothing in the locker. It’s also entirely unlike any other Indian movie I’ve ever seen, being foul-mouthed, brutal, and even contains some full-frontal nudity – though that is far more unsettling than anything else. However, in depicting the hellish life of low-caste women, it goes beyond the eye-opening to the stage where you almost find yourself thinking, “Oh, look: she’s being raped again.” Less would be substantially more, in terms of impact.

It’s definitely more drama than action, with her gang’s raid on a village the main set-piece in this area. Another thing that doesn’t quite work is Biswas being a full decade older than the character she’s playing. In reality, Devi’s rise to bandit infamy and eventual surrender to authorities was all over, while she was still a teenager, which is quite stunning. The movie certainly exposes a side of Indian life unlike one you’ll have seen, even if probably not one you’ll want to see again. But it certainly shows that someone is pushed far enough, they will push back.

Dir: Shekhar Kapur
Star: Seema Biswas, Nirmal Pandey, Aditya Shrivastava, Saurabh Shukla

Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby

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“Hugely disappointing sequel, that’ll make you want to hurl.”

Wow. This is dreadful, and I speak as someone who enjoyed its predecessor, appreciating its excessive updating of Little Red Riding Hood. Bright tries to capture lightning in a bottle here, this time going for Hansel and Gretel, but it’s largely a miserable failure, imploding in screeching one-note performances from the two leads and far too many scenes of teenage girls vomiting. Yep. Girls vomiting. The scenario has Crystal Van Meter (Lyonne) sentenced to 25 years in prison, by a judge (a cameo by John Landis) fed-up of her petty criminality. There, she meets fellow desperado Angela “Cyclona” Garcia (Celedonio), a teenage serial killer with even more anti-social tendencies. After much binging and purging, the pair break out and go on the lam, heading for Tijuna and Sister Gomez, whom Garcia believes can solve their problems. But the Sister is not quite what she seems… as should be clear when I tell you she’s played by Vincent Gallo.

That chunk is really the only area where the film is remotely salvageable, capturing the surreal horror of a depraved, cannibalistic Mexican cult, which is both grim and Grimm. Until that point, however, you have painfully little of interest, with Bright failing to provide anything that’s interesting in the way of characters, plot or even bad-taste, despite one sequence where Crystal projectile vomits over a guard, in a manner last seen in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, and she is just about as repugnant a creation as Mr. Creosote. Indeed, the whole film is shot through with an unpleasant loathing of all humanity, whether it’s her lawyer (David Alan Grier), who gets public hand-jobs from his clients, or the two cops trailing the fugitives. It’s a nasty, sneering approach which leaves the viewer wanting to take a shower, even if you discount the fascinated depiction of bulimic regurgitation.

Even if you stick to the simple math, Lyonne is clearly much less than Reese Witherspoon in the original, and for the first hour you’ve got absolutely no reason to watch: I’ll confess I spent some time in the next room, trying to fix a computer, rather than listening to the leads’ screeching at each other. Chris bailed in the first scene, claiming she had a strong aversion to Grier, and while I initially was peeved by her snap judgment, in the end, I can’t argue she was dead right.

Dir: Matthew Bright
Star: Natasha Lyonne, María Celedonio, Vincent Gallo, Bob Dawson