HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Sunday, July 17, 2011

CROOKED -- movie review by porfle

Why do I like Gary Busey? I don't know--I guess it's because you never know if he's going to give a really good, lucid performance (as in THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY or SOLDIER), or if he's going to look like the police just got through dragging a lake and found him.

In CROOKED, aka SOFT TARGET (2006), he assumes the role of cop boss Rouse as though he's been jarred awake from a coma and told to audition for the role of "The Swamp Thing." His hair looks like it was combed with a tennis racket, and his wire-framed glasses are noticeably askew in every shot--I mean, like, at a 45-degree angle--as though he were one of those funny-because-he's-acting-serious characters in a Zucker brothers comedy.

Gary doesn't do all that much in the film, but there are several scenes with him stuck in here and there as though the filmmakers are making the most of the day or so they could afford to pay him to wander onto the set. On the other hand, Fred "The Hammer" Williamson, another comparatively big name looming large in the credits, doesn't even survive the first ten minutes or so.

Fred plays Paxton, one of several cops killed in a motel shoot-out while trying to protect a witness whose testimony could sink a major mob boss named Nugentti. Right before the wounded Paxton is delivered the coup de grace, he recognizes his killer and mutters, "You too, Brutus?" Which lets all us viewers who had to read Shakespeare in high school know that someone on the force is a traitor working for Nugentti.

We also know that while the witness himself was being whacked, there was a hooker named Eve (Lorraine Farris) hiding in the bathroom, and now she knows that it was Nugentti, Jr. (Michael Cavalieri), acting head of the "family" while his dad awaits trial, who performed the hit personally. It doesn't take Junior long to find out about her, so she becomes a highly sought-after individual in need of police protection herself.

The two guys Gary "Rouse" Busey assigns to the job are non-buddy cops Danny Tyler (Don "The Dragon" Wilson) and Phil Yordan (Olivier Gruner), who really hate each other, especially since Phil keeps defaming the memory of the late officer Paxton, which makes Danny mad, and is always riding Danny about how his late father was a crooked cop, which makes Danny really mad.

Since hunky Phil is such a ladies' man, he has full access to a succession of empty houses and apartments belonging to out-of-town stewardesses, which the cops can use to hide their reluctant witness. Trouble is, the bad guys somehow keep finding out where they are, resulting in a series of sudden ambushes and shoot-outs. Who keeps tipping them off? Is Eve somehow connected with the mob? Or could Danny or Phil be the mysterious traitor?

Along the way, each of the three gets to have a tender, introspective "moment" where they open up and reveal intimate details about their pasts in order to enrich their characterizations. Danny tells Eve about his dad, Eve tells Danny about her little boy who lives with his grandma in Arizona, and Phil tells Danny about his dad. Trouble is, asking these actors to do "tender and introspective" is like hiring Vin Diesel to portray Oscar Wilde.

Lorraine Farris plays Eve as though she's acting out a particularly eventful bedtime story for her kids.  Don and Olivier fare a bit better, but I think this is mainly because I like them. Don has an earnest and somewhat vulnerable quality that offsets his "action guy" persona in a nice way, while I've always found Olivier to be a likable actor, especially in Albert Pyun's overlooked 1993 schlock sci-fi epic NEMESIS.

Things get even more dramatic when one of Phil's flight attendant girlfriends comes home unexpectedly. While these two lovebirds git down to some serious lovin' in a bubble bath upstairs, Danny and Eve find their increasingly simpatico relationship blooming into a shirts-off roll on the couch. Thus, with the appearance of some gratuitous nakidity, for a few minutes CROOKED looks like one of those cheap softcore skin flicks you'd run across on Cinemax while channel surfing after midnight.

But it doesn't take long for the action to re-heat up when the bad guys discover their whereabouts yet again, and soon there's a slam-bang shoot-em-up finale at an airport. Like all the other action sequences in the film, this one features some of the worst Shaky-Cam ever, which, as in this case, is often used to disguise poor direction and fight choreography. Every punch, kick, or gunshot is composed of two or three shots haphazardly edited together to make them look more kinetic, but the result is a jumbled mess that makes the action hard to follow.

The budget did allow for a pretty cool car explosion (or is that stock footage?), and we see a helicopter taken out with a bazooka. But there's little else here that you can't see done better on any episode of a typical cop show on TV.

The flick does have its good points--Don Wilson and Olivier Gruner are passable good guys, Gary Busey is "interesting", and Fred Williamson is always fun to watch. Familiar character actor Martin Kove, as a fellow cop who may or may not be the turncoat, does the best he can with his clunky dialogue, while Suzanne von Schaack does a good job as a female cop named "Buzz." Michael Cavalieri is particularly effective as Nugentti, Jr., giving his character an appropriately scary edge.

However, the rest of the cast is pretty forgettable, and CROOKED as a whole is hardly worth going out of your way to see. I tried to think of a punny way to work the title into my closing line, but it really isn't worth the effort.

Buy it at

No comments: