Four Thrillers from MGM
Crack House (May 14/05)
As another online critic has noted, this extremely heavy-handed look at the perils of drug use could easily be considered a Reefer Madness for an entirely new generation (ie after stumbling upon the dead body of a drug-dealing teacher, a cop remarks, "we really need to start paying our teachers more.") The story, which ultimately highlights the importance of crack rehab centers, revolves around Rick (Gregg Thomsen) and Melissa (Cheryl Kay), a teenaged couple who have managed to avoid the gang and drug-related pitfalls that seem to affect their peers. But when Rick is sent to prison for murder, Melissa finds herself unable to cope and is soon addicted to crack (worse yet, she becomes the sex slave of a local drug lord). While Crack House does contain a few entertaining elements - Jim Brown's ultra-smarmy performance as the aforementioned drug lord is certainly a highlight - the film is bogged down by some seriously terrible dialogue that's exacerbated by acting that is (to put it very mildly) amateurish.
Crossplot (May 24/05)
Crossplot casts Roger Moore as Gary Fenn, a suave advertising executive who finds himself embroiled in a far-reaching assassination attempt. Strangely enough, though the actor is clearly playing a James Bond type, Crossplot was released four years before Moore stepped into 007's shoes. And while it's kind of entertaining for a while - the film is packed with action sequences, from car chases to sword fights - the film quickly becomes tedious and eventually sinks underneath its leaden pace and ceaseless '60s-era flourishes. This is in addition to a storyline that's needlessly confusing and convoluted, and it seems as though screenwriter Leigh Vance was trying to emulate the feel of a Bond flick. The bottom line is that Crossplot doesn't have much to offer aside from the novelty of Moore playing a dashing ladies man that isn't named James Bond.
Eye of the Tiger (May 24/05)
Eye of the Tiger casts Gary Busey as Buck Matthews, a Vietnam vet who returns home after a three-year prison stint to settle down with his wife and young daughter - only to discover that a ruthless motorcycle gang has essentially taken over his hometown. When his wife is killed by said gang, Buck embarks on a mission of revenge and enlists the help of an old war buddy (played by Yaphet Kotto). Eye of the Tiger is a typically silly and overblown '80s revenge flick, though the film's lack of brutality and surprisingly talky vibe prevents it from becoming an enjoyably trashy actioner along the lines of Commando or The Running Man. Even Buck's showdown with the motorcycle gang's sinister leader - which, with a film like this, certainly should've been the highlight - manages to disappoint, as it features the two engaged in a thoroughly dull bare-knuckle boxing match that ends with Buck knocking out his opponent. It's not exactly thrilling stuff, though the same could be said of the rest of the film (and yes, Survivor's Eye of the Tiger can be heard on the soundtrack - a whopping and wholly unnecessary three times).
Out of Time (February 17/05)
Given that Out of Time is essentially a contemporary riff on the film noir genre of the '40s, it doesn't take a genius to figure out just where all of this is going. Yet there's no denying that the movie remains tremendously entertaining throughout, primarily thanks to an inventive screenplay by David Collard and Denzel Washington's expectedly ingratiating performance. Washington plays Matthias Lee Whitlock, a Florida cop who finds himself at the center of a murder investigation after inadvertently helping a criminal (who he just happens to be having an affair with) secure a hefty chunk of seized cash. Though the film stretches the limits of plausibility right from the get-go, director Carl Franklin keeps things moving at such a brisk pace, it becomes easy enough to overlook some of the more outrageous aspects of Collard's script. It certainly doesn't hurt that Washington steps into the shoes of this hapless patsy with incredible ease, while Dean Cain delivers a surprisingly effective performance as Matthias' smarmy nemesis. And though the conclusion might just be a little too neat and tidy, that's a minor complaint for a film that is otherwise remarkably entertaining.