Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Crackerjack (1994)

Ever since the murder of his family by mafia bomb, cop Jack Wild (Thomas Ian Griffith) has suffered from PTSD, combining a propensity and talent for brutal violence with a bit of a death wish and a permanent alcohol haze. The rest of the world has by now dubbed him “Crackerjack”. I’m certain that’s very helpful. Things have gotten so bad, Jack’s sister-in-law Annie (Lisa Bunting) and his brother Mike (Richard Sali) decide on an intervention. So they do the obvious thing and take Jack on a family vacation to a secluded mountain holiday resort with a hot spring, which surely will do what a year or more of therapy hasn’t managed.

While the place does include the metaphorical magical healing powers of resort host K.C. (Nastassja Kinski), it still isn’t the ideal place for Jack to be, for, as luck will have it (cough), it just happens to be the place where the man responsible for his family’s murder (Frank Cassini), and mafia boss Don Sonny LaRosso (George Touliatos) are waiting to buy a papal audience with a whole lot of diamonds. And as if that weren’t enough to push Jack’s buttons in all the worst ways, the place is soon attacked by the man who actually killed Jack’s family, former East German spy turned gun for hire Ivan Getz (Christopher Plummer). Getz, we will learn during the course of the movie, wants Don LaRosso’s diamonds to finance a right-wing youth revolution in Germany, because that makes as much sense as anything else in this film’s script.

Because the resort is really isolated, Jack has to face Getz and his men alone. Turns out being a violent madman can be a good thing in certain situations, and if you kill enough people, your trauma might just disappear into thin air.

Yes, boys and girls, Crackerjack is a very cheap Canadian straight-to-video “Die Hard in a mountain resort” movie with added heaps of implausibility and a script that starts out pretty strange and gets increasingly weird. In its first third or so, Crackerjack isn’t quite weird enough (or competent enough) for my tastes, more often than not suggesting the addition of “boring” to the “Die Hard in a mountain resort” description, but it’s actually a case of the film catching its breath to get really crazy.

The appreciative viewer will probably get the first real whiff of Crackerjack’s particular brand of strangeness once the script decides the most probable way to get the bad guys to the mountain resort is a deathly ill mafia don trying to buy his absolution with a whole lot of diamonds, but soon, our hero escapes the first sweep of the hotel the bad guys do by virtue of peeping on some other hotel guests having sex (because you gotta get breasts in there somehow, and Nastassja Kinski might be slumming but she’s not dropping her kit for this one), Christopher Plummer acquires a very fake German accent and goes from mild-mannered cold-blooded killer with a dubious taste in glasses and sunglasses to full-on crazy Hitler-quoting ranter (Jack’s analysis: “You really shouldn’t drink!”).

From then on out, everything goes: because why not, Plummer plans to erase the traces of his crime by destroying the mountain resort with an artificial avalanche (cue spirited and very ridiculous model work later on), and Jack calls in the marines who proceed to weaponize a ropeway car and get blown away because Plummer obviously saw that one coming a mile away (unlike the audience, who most probably go “marines!?” once these gentlemen appear). For the latter scene, Crackerjack offers an even more special moment of model madness that is absolutely adorable and must – and should - be seen to be believed.

Watching this whole inspired mess, one might come to the conclusion that the film’s director, one Michael Mazo, might have more than a little in common with his hero. Speaking of the direction, it’s mostly competent low coast action stuff, with few scenes that would be all too exciting standing on their. Fortunately sandwiched between the various crazy-stupid ideas the script throws out with ever quicker speed, the action can’t help but entertain.

If that isn’t enough to convince readers burned by the crap I sometimes recommend in this way to give Crackerjack a try, how about if I add a Christopher Plummer performance that goes from “paycheck, right, might as well chew some scenery here, but not too much” to a full on attempt at…well, I’m not really sure what Plummer is trying to achieve, I only know it’s inspiring and ridiculous, and really, why I am still writing this and you aren’t watching Crackerjack already!?

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