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Thursday, April 24, 2014

TENTACLE 8 -- DVD review by porfle

Siskel and Ebert, who often lamented the lack of complicated plots in Hollywood movies, once criticized Brian DePalma's MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE for having a plot that was too complicated. 

The funny thing is, I had no trouble following what was going on in that movie.  The plot of TENTACLE 8 (2014), on the other hand, makes MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE look like PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.  This is pure spy thriller stuff of the most hush-hush kind--dense, complex, very dry, very involved--and even if you pay utmost attention to every word and action the whole time you're still liable to get as lost in it as I was.  (I was halfway through the similarly plot-heavy Alec Guinness version of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" before I realized I was going to have to start over from the beginning in order to get up to speed.)

Still, I enjoyed it for its smart dialogue, fair-to-good performances, and general air of deep-penetrating paranoia in which various branches of the U.S. Intelligence Community are worried about what the other branches are up to, especially after a devastating computer virus wipes out a bunch of top-secret records and may be the first sign of something really scary to come.

One National Security Agency code analyst, Ray Berry (Brett Rickaby, THE CRAZIES, BEREAVEMENT) gets sucked into the whole mess far beyond his usual work-a-day status and suffers brutal torture when he's suspected of being part of the problem.  Even his impromptu romantic relationship with a female CIA agent named Tabitha (Amy Motta, SPREAD) may be based more on deceit than their mutual love of old books.  But his main concern is Mosely (Joshua Morrow, "The Young and the Restless"), a dogged young agent who has been assigned to track him down.

Rickaby's Ray Berry is the kind of everyday hero we can identify with--all he wants is to be an average working stiff with a normal life, something which an older, world-weary agent who's helping him (Bruce Gray, STARSHIP TROOPERS' "Sky Marshall Dienes") sadly informs him is long out of his reach.  Even more sadly,  Ray discovers that what makes him most dangerous to his superiors is the fact that he has a conscience which guides his actions. 

Forced into self-preservation mode, Ray is interesting to watch as necessity makes him draw upon all his cunning and resources to stay one step ahead of his pursuers.  We never know who's on his side or merely conning him, including the homeless guy who hits him up for spare change outside a convenience store.  Even when he's with Tabitha he can never completely let his guard down, although their scenes together come closest to giving TENTACLE 8 its only truly heartfelt moments. 

In his feature writing-directing debut, John Chi turns in a more-than-competent job with some nice flashes of style.  While Chi says he was inspired by such films as Coppola's THE CONVERSATION and Alan J. Pakula's "Paranoia Trilogy" (KLUTE, THE PARALLAX VIEW, and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN), his comparatively micro-budget effort takes place mostly in comfortably low-budget rooms and street locations with lots of money-saving dialogue scenes in place of action.   Still, the story is intense enough to sustain interest despite such limitations. 

The DVD from Grand Entertainment Group is in 1.33:1 widescreen with 5.1 and 2.0 sound.  No subtitles.  The sole extra is a trailer for this and other GEG releases. 

TENTACLE 8 is, as John Chi states, "a film that's supposed to knock you sideways a little."  It certainly did that for me, although I can't help but think I would've enjoyed it more if, while being knocked sideways, I'd also had a better idea of what the hell was going on.  But it speaks well for the film that I liked it anyway.  And another viewing may clear up some of those pesky plot complexities that me and Siskel and Ebert sometimes have trouble with.

Buy it at
Official site


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