Saturday, June 22, 2013

In short: Felony (1994)

A D.E.A. raid on a supposed drug house in New Orleans goes horribly wrong, and a good dozen of cops is blasted to high heaven by chewing-gum fan Cooper (David Warner) and his well-armed goons. Cooper is a rogue CIA operative who, together with his boss Taft (Lance Henriksen), has gone into the drug business to acquire enough money to free some operatives imprisoned in some unnamed South American country.

Unfortunately for Cooper and Taft, Cooper's rather impolitic slaughter has been filmed by TV reporter Bill Knight (Jeffrey Combs) and his Vietnam vet hippie buddy Robby (Patrick J. Gallagher). Bill, clearly not the brightest bulb in any chandelier, decides to not give the resulting video tape to the cops investigating the affair, Detectives Kincade (Leo Rossi) and Duke (Charles Napier).

This turns out to be something of a mistake, and soon enough the cops, Cooper and Taft and their men, as well as Cowboy spy "mediator" Donovan (Joe Don Baker) are all after Bill, some of them with rather murderous intent, others with more ambiguous ideas. Bill's only help is nurse Laura Bryant (Ashley Laurence), because we really needed at least one female character on our hero's side (otherwise, there's only Taft's evil girlfriend played by Corinna Everson to represent half of the human population), plus hey, it's Ashley Laurence.

But will that be enough for Bill to survive various shoot-outs, car-chases and double-crosses?

Ah, post Action International David A. Prior films are always something of a wonder to behold. Prior, once an utter weirdo director, had at this point in his career learned so much about the art of filmmaking he was perfectly able to just make a straightforward and cheap little action movie of the type that can never completely deny its cheapness but works so hard making the most out of what it's got it's impossible not to be at least a bit charmed by it.

That alone would be enough to recommend Prior's movies of this period (and really, most of his even cheaper Action International work too). However, it doesn't seem to have been enough for Prior himself, so Felony and its brethren not only feature the affordable amount of action but also scripts which are ever so slightly - or sometimes completely - skewed into the direction of the outré and the weird.

The script of Felony is full of Prior's typical curious mixture of just plain silliness (just try to make sense of what happened in Felony once the last act plot twists have made a mockery of sense and sensibility) and ironic self-consciousness that should really result in the sort of self-ironic winking nonsense I can't stand at all. In Prior's weirdness-experienced hands, though, what should be annoying turns charming with many a scene that is just as funny as it is fun.

Of course, given the low budget movie heaven that is Felony's cast, it's not a complete surprise that even the silliest line in the script is delivered either with scenery-chewing relish or just the right amount of self-consciousness. Everyone involved, from Combs over Laurence to Warner and Henriksen, obviously knows that much of the plot is utter nonsense and their characters aren't actually characters, yet still delves into the whole affair with a palpable sense of fun, projecting none of the bored "just cashing a cheque here, buddy" feelings you sometimes encounter in film's of Felony's price class.

As I always like to say about Prior movies: what's not to like?

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