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Thursday, January 26, 2012

NUDE NUNS WITH BIG GUNS -- DVD review by porfle

Wanting to be a cult film so bad it hurts, NUDE NUNS WITH BIG GUNS (2010) gives its intentions away in the title but fails to be more than a mildly interesting exercise in giddy bad taste.

A lot of filmmakers post-GRINDHOUSE have been trying their hand at revisiting those dusty drive-in days of cheap, bad-but-good exploitation flicks that tried to be as extreme as possible while substituting shock and titillation for quality and production values.  Here, one thing that's meant to blow our minds is the concept of crooked priests in cahoots with bikers in Mexico's heroin trade who force strung-out nuns to make the stuff (along with having to perform other, more degrading acts).

The other thing that's meant to hook us and reel us in is the sight of an avenging nun named Sister Sarah (Asun Ortega) gearing up Rambo style and going Nun-inator on the bad guys.  (Habit optional, of course.)  Having survived a dope deal gone bad in which psychotic biker prez Chavo (David Castro) offed several of her sisters, Sarah is then inducted into the local whorehouse where she's addicted to heroin and then beaten almost to death by a horny priest (Bill Oberst, Jr.).  Nursed back to health by a sympathetic old medicine man, Sarah's drug-warped mind now believes that God has instructed her to go out and kill bad guys. 

With that set-up, all NUDE NUNS WITH BIG GUNS has to do now is live up to its moniker while reveling in graphic debauchery, poking fun at Catholicism, and dabbling in any other naughtiness it can think of.  This includes Sarah's lesbian love affair with another nun, the timid Sister Angelina (Aycil Yeltan, a cute actress who nonetheless bears a distinct resemblance to Zeppo Marx) and frequent voyeuristic visits to Chavo's strip club to check out the topless dancers. 

Lesbian motel owner Butch is seen getting it on with her girlfriend, and then with Sarah herself after the nun seduces her in order to escape capture (this scene follows the original short film on which the feature is based).  The film's blue-plate special of kink, however, seems to be rape--not only does the hapless Sister Angelina suffer the offending loins of Chavo, but his hulking stooge Kickstand has his way with a nun who appears to be in her seventies in a freaky, shocky-funny scene that had me wondering who in the hell it was supposed to appeal to and why.  And then, of course, there's the family of unsuspecting tourists who pull into Chavo's gas station for a service and--you guessed it--get raped.

There's not much story here, just enough to hang stuff like this on while we're waiting for Sister Sarah to get around to killing off some of this scum.  Unfortunately, the balls-out action scenes we're anticipating are few and far between.  It's pretty cool when Sarah executes a vile priest in a confessional or invades a heroin-making lab with guns blazing, and her scene with Butch has a certain flair, but it isn't until the last minutes of the film that we get a sustained shoot-em-up sequence with any real kick. 

It would've helped if Sister Sarah's character had been more interesting, yet we know nothing about her before the junk drives her bonkers and turns her into a remorseless killing machine.  Her drug-induced "vision from God" leaves her with no moral uncertainties to explore, and the fact that she's clearly nutzo renders the character and her subsequent crusade of vengeance rather shallow--a little more complexity here would've gone a long way.  Her appeal, basically, is based on a juxtapositon of religious imagery with wanton carnality, violence, and perversion.  It also helps that she has a great ass.

Technically, the film has a low-budget but visually creative look with a sunbaked Southwestern ambiance.  It seems to have come out of the same kit Larry Bishop used to shoot HELL RIDE, right down to the freeze-frame introductions for each character and reliance on neo-grindhouse style over substance along with various nods to Tarantino and Rodriguez. 

The direction is pretty creative at times, with heavy use of the zoom lens (at times it seems every other shot is a zoom-in) which you'll find either dynamic or irritating.  It looks like they had a ball in the editing room on this one.  The interesting score contains spaghetti western elements (as does the film) along with some old-style country songs and the usual hard rock bombast.

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 1.85:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras consist of the original short film and the trailer.

After starting out like a solid, slyly self-aware knock-off of the drive-in action potboilers of the 70s, NUDE NUNS WITH BIG GUNS eventually disappoints rather than fulfilling its potential the way the recent BITCH SLAP managed to do.  A film as morally twisted as this one needs to have a certain zing that makes its gleefully offensive excesses somehow perversely exhilarating.  Here, however, we're expected to simply wallow in the tawdry for awhile until a nude nun comes along to waste enough of these thoroughly unpleasant characters on our behalf to make it all stop.

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