as a die-hard die hard fan, and all its high concept die-hard-in/on-a-_______ movies, 2011 is a pretty lean BRUCE year. we get two dtv BRUCE movies and that’s it. BRUCE had dtv movies before with the assassination of a high school president but that year we also get the decent surrogates. in 2011, we get nothing but two dtv movies: set up/setup with 50 cent and this: catch .44 with malin akerman. sure, there was the announcement of die hard 5. but the premise sounds like something out of a dolph dtv movie and the title a good day to die hard sounds like a snl james bond spoof.
thankfully catch .44 is more interesting than set up/setup. while that one is a simple crime drama seen frequently seen in dtv movies, catch .44 is a more interesting tarantino-esque crime film. you would think that these disappeared along with the 90s but nope, they are still making them, just not as frequently and publicized. noticed how i used the word “interesting” twice instead of “good” or “better.”
akerman (silk spectre ii) plays tes, who along with friends deborah ann woll (tv’s true blood) and nikki reed (thirteen, the twilight “saga“) is in a roadside diner on a job for BRUCE. this is the main stage of the film, and every so often, the film flashes back to reveal more back-stories that leads to the diner situation. there’s also forest whitaker (the crying game, battlefield earth) playing a mysterious character who at first seems random but eventually, and inevitably, is somehow linked to the story.
in addition to the jumbled chronology, catch .44 compiled tarantino’s greatest hits. there’s the opening diner sequence that is reminiscent of pulp fiction and the girl talk of death proof, which is just as, if not more boring. there’s the ironic shooting/death scene a la pulp fiction. there’s the classic rock/old country/rockabilly/surf rock songs that wouldn’t be out of place in a tarantino movie. there are numerous pop culture references, one of which is so meta that i actually laugh out loud.
despite a rather post-tarantino first act, it kind of raises hope for a little stretch in the second act. it seems like things were going to get good for a while. though ultimately it’s a disappointment. it seems like they don’t have enough material to support a 94 minute movie.
it’s all too bad because these are all things that could have been easily fixed. there are a couple pre-credit scenes that could have been cut out to make the film more unpredictable. there are a few lapses in logic that ruins the suspension of disbelief, and many shots are held on way longer than necessary. like set up/setup, they threw in some character title cards that are totally unnecessary. it also doesn’t help that with the information we are provided, you are always ahead of the movie during the last 25 minutes. so nothing comes as a surprise.
though he’s front and center on the cover, BRUCE is only in a few scenes in the movie. it also claims that it’s released theatrically but no, it was released directly to dvd at least in the u.s. normally this would feel like a bait and switch. but unlike set up/setup (or against the dark), it makes sense here that BRUCE is only in a few scenes, considering the narrative. instead of the somber BRUCE we’ve been getting recently, it looks like he had fun playing the part. akerman is about as good as 50 cent in set up/setup. in a minor role, dtv/b-movie favorite brad dourif shows up as the town sheriff. there’s also a cameo with lex luthor, not gene hackman or kevin spacey, but michael rosenbaum from tv’s smallville.
i don’t usually listen to the commentary of a movie unless it’s a film i really love so it is worth mentioning that i watched the movie with writer/director aaron harvey and editor richard byard right after it was over, even though i fell asleep midway through the second viewing. i don’t think commentaries should be taken into account when evaluating a movie, since movies are made to be view in theatres. but the commentary for this confirms my thoughts when i was watching the movie the first time.
harvey sounds like a nice guy on the commentary. from what i heard, he is mostly amazed that his modest screenplay attracted such major stars and budget. that pop culture reference that i lol-ed at is apparently a co-incident. it was written before BRUCE was attached to the movie, which in a way makes it less cloyingly clever and hence less annoying. as a calling card screenplay, harvey never comes off as someone who sees himself as an artist but more of a movie nerd who wrote a little screenplay based on movies he loves and somehow gotten all these icons involved. it’s kind of endearing. although, he didn’t mention tarantino during the commentary (at least during the part i was awake for), he did mention his aspiration in line with those aip exploitation movies.
i don’t know if it’s the quality of the movie, or tarantino ripoffs being less frequent, or simply me being older but catch .44, while not entirely satisfying, is more or less passable. it lacks the insanity of things to do in denver when you’re dead and suicide kings, but more involving than 2 days in the valley, nowhere near as annoying as most guy ritchie films, superior to most dtv tarantino ripoffs out there, and not as clever and tightly structured as lucky number slevin. you could do a whole lot worse in the wild west that is dtv crime films. if nothing else, catch .44 works as the calling card of a young filmmaker (harvey is 31 and this is his second movie). now that he’s gotten this out of the way, i’m hoping he’s moving on to something better. there’s about 50 minutes of good stuff here, which is more than half of its running time, if you are tolerant of tarantino-ish elements.