Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sleeping Dogs (1998)

Welcome to the future of 2029. The world’s economy isn’t interested in your old “money” anymore. The it thing now are emeralds, and the most important illegal emerald kingpin of them all is one Sanchez Boon (C. Thomas Howell). Boon is letting his emeralds cut by women with electronic gags only dressed in their underwear, so you know he’s a very special kind of guy. He also thinks his connection to the Agency (don’t ask me) are tight enough he can even kill one of their agents without consequences.

Jewel thief Harry Maxwell (Scott McNeil) has chosen just the night when Boon puts that theory to the test to rob the villain’s main emerald store. Harry’s not too happy with how things are going down, for not only does he end his strike of consecutive break-ins without murder when he has to gun down some of Boon’s henchpeople but he soon finds himself involved in a series of firefights and explosions. On the positive side, he finds instant action hero love – which means the characters are going to sneer at each other and exchange unwitty one-liners for half an hour or so – with one of Boon’s emerald cutting slaves, one Pandora Grimes (Heather Hanson).

Said series of explosions and firefights somehow (and it’s really better not to think about the plot mechanics here too closely, lest one’s mind might just break) leads everyone onto a prison ship bound for titan with a cargo hold full of weapons and cryogenically frozen criminals. Of course, Boon soon un-freezes the criminals, becomes BFFs with super-evil android-the-film-calls-cyborg Zee 4R (Kiara Hunter), and takes over the ship, so that finally Die Hard on a space ship can begin.

Oh yes, it’s another Lloyd A. Simandl production, made by the purveyor of only the finest Canadian cheese, and it’s got everything I have learned to love and fear about Simandl’s productions of the era. Namely, this is an action film so stupid, it might be possible to weaponize it and kill people – or at least their brains – stone dead through prolonged exposure. Oh no, it’s already happening to me!

So, we have a plot that makes little sense even if you’re giving it the special action movie dumbness pass, takes place in a world whose technological level makes no sense at all, is tacky at all get out, and never ever stops to throw out at least one delightfully idiotic bit per minute. No scene goes by that doesn’t either contain numerous explosions, guys holding their guns like John Woo reject gangsta wannabes, needlessly exposed breasts, an awesome stupid idea (quick example: the film gets some of its early exposition, like the name of its protagonist out of the way by letting Harry dictate stuff for his autobiography while he’s breaking into a highly secured building), or if you’re really lucky all of that at once.

Then there’s the acting: McNeil mostly seems a bit embarrassed by the whole affair, nearly visibly wincing throughout the psychotronic dialogue where nearly every sentence is a surreal winner, while Hanson keeps up a never-changing look of annoyance, whatever is going on around her, whether she’s flirting or being threatened with torture. Hunter gives her sadist android gal by contorting her face into all kinds of interesting grimaces like a nine-year-old’s concept of how bad guys emote, an approach that seems perfectly appropriate to the film’s idea of characterisation. Throning over them all is C. Thomas Howell, putting on an affected voice that might be a particularly offensive idea of a cliché gay voice but that just as well might be an attempt at a British accent gone horribly wrong, providing Boon with the most cartoonish tics he’s capable of thinking up, and chewing the scenery as if somebody had lathered the cardboard used to turn the usual warehouse sets “futuristic” in honey. It is truly a thing to behold more than one to describe, for words just cannot do Howell’s performance here justice.

Director Micheal Bafaro barely keeps all this nonsense und nearly surreal bullshit under control in typical late 90s cheap-shot movie hired gun style. That is to say, he adds a lot of inappropriate (the only kind fit for this movie) slow motion and does his best to pretend three grey walls and a handful of monitors from the 80s do a futuristic set make. Though I have to admit, some of the action scenes work as well as anything this deeply stupid in conception could, so kudos to Bafaro, I suppose. And given how much I enjoyed this misbegotten thing calling itself a movie, I’m not even wearing my ironic hat right now.

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