Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Precious Find (1996)

Welcome to the future of the solar system, when a kind of repeat gold rush has the outer planets and their moons in its grip. A metal generally known as Precious is the new gold, and yes, that does indeed mean every character in the movie is going to say “Precious! Precious!” about every two minutes or so, my precious.

Anyway, a series of very script-like events finds young, somewhat naive despite the obligatory tragic past, rookie miner – with a nose for Precious as he never gets sick to tell anyone who will or won’t listen – Ben (Harold Pruett), former cheating executive now cheating crazy gambler Armond Crile (Rutger Hauer in full-on-scenery-chewing mode) and garbage hauler Sam (Brion James, doing nearly as much overacting as Hauer here) teaming up to find and exploit a Precious claim. Of course there are complications, among them SPACE FEVER(!), Armond being crazy as a bag full of badgers even before space fever takes the rest of his sanity, general distrust, claim jumpers lead by a terrible racist stereotype named Loo Seki (Don Stroud, like, totally an evil space samurai), absurdly cute roguish space captain Camilla (Joan Chen) and the shittiest CGI tentacles I’ve seen in a long time.

Calling Philippe Mora’s Precious Find “Treasure of the Sierra Madre in Space” would be rather unfair. Unfair, that is, to the John Huston film which does after all feature a psychologically deep, tense script, a plot that makes sense, 1948-style acting performances of the highest quality and intense direction, all things you won’t find in Mora’s film at all.

Being a Philippe Mora film – and an ultra cheap 90s SF movie to boot – Precious Find seems most interested in two things. Firstly, in a type of self-sabotage that I’ve often encountered in Mora’s films (though I have to add I’ve not seen all of them by far, I’m not that kind of a masochist), an unwillingness to ever go into the obvious direction of playing a narrative straight or using its potential sensibly. Secondly, and closely related to the first point, doing everything in as weird a way as possible, with ideas of varying degrees of bullshit inanity or just plain insanity popping up with light speed and for no good reason.

I mean, nobody can honestly have thought dressing up Don Stroud in yellow face and letting him speak in a fake Japanese accent was a good idea, right? Not to speak of Hauer suddenly starting to imitate him – new eyebrows, kimono, sword and accent included – for the last act of the film. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg of the film’s weirdness, with so much goofy, nonsensical, and just plain bizarre stuff going on throughout it becomes impossible to take anything that happens in it seriously. On the other hand, you’d be hard-pressed to call this thing an actual comedy, for it is just too awkward and plain peculiar to sell as such.

While this approach doesn’t lend itself to making this an actual version of Treasure of the Sierra Madre, IN SPACE, it does certainly keep the film lively and interesting, because there’s no way to guess what dubious delight Mora will pull out of his – probably very strange looking – hat next. While Precious Find is certainly horrible, abstruse nonsense, it’s absolutely my kind of nonsense, containing not a single boring second, and giving no hint it might be ashamed of being the kind of bizarre nonsense it is.

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