Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Quiet Cool (1986)

When she loses all contact with her brother, his wife and their late teenage son Joshua (Adam Coleman Howard), Katy Greer (Daphne Ashbrook) fears the worst. The little Pacific Northwest town in the the middle of nowhere where she is making her home, and the neighbouring woods her brother lives in are the area of operation of some very evil marihuana growers. These people aren’t your pleasant hippies growing some grass where nobody will look – as a matter of fact, their leadership under a certain Valence (Nick Cassavetes) looks like an 80s New Romantics band, they have all three law enforcement officers of the pop. 183  town in their pocket, keep a little army hidden away in the woods and they kill everyone who gets in their way. The last – as the audience knows – is exactly what happened to Katy’s relations, all, that is, apart from Joshua, who has been left for dead.

Fortunately, Katy has a former ex-boyfriend to call on for help. Joe Dylanne (James Remar) is your typical 80s action movie cop hero. Well, to be frank, he’s only about 5 out of 10 on the 80s action movie cop hero scale where Stallone’s Cobra would be a 10, which means he is probably not a fascist, only murderous when provoked, not an asshole and sometimes even outright nice.

Neither the locals nor the bad guys themselves are doing much of anything to hide what’s going on in town, apart from keeping the identity of Valence’s secret boss, only known as The Man, mysterious, so Joe doesn’t have to do much of that thing 80s action movie cop heroes can’t do anyway – investigate. Quickly enough, he’s out in the woods getting shot at right at the point where and when Joshua re-emerges to start his own little guerrilla war. At first, there is some vague mumbling about that “law” stuff some police have heard about, but Joe and Joshua quickly team up to enthusiastically slaughter a lot of people, particularly after the obvious motivation for 80s action movie cop heroes happens to Joe.

After it started with a desperately annoying motorbike chase through New York, I was already ready to write off Quiet Cool as another 80s low budget action film of dubious interest and without a sense of fun, particularly given its director Clay Borris’s future in pretty uninteresting TV shows. But soon enough, the film began to charm me with a no nonsense approach to its plot that clearly wanted to get to the meat of the matter – a guy and a boy slaughtering people – quickly, setting up the situation and then letting things rip.

And letting rip it truly does: there’s not just the surprisingly huge body count (at least half of which is caused by a teenager who just has no time to be annoying, or to mean anything but business) to make the action movie friend happy, the film also knows about the importance of variety. So people not just get shot and exploded, they are also speared, crushed by trees and so on and so forth, all in the spirit of merry diversity. Borris shoots the carnage in straightforward but usually excellently timed manner, often even bothering to build up some suspense, an approach that is rather atypical for most action movies but does work wonders when it comes to stretching a budget in a manner still pleasing to an audience. The very picturesque woods all of the violence takes place in do help in making Quiet Cool look much better than you’d expect, too, providing mood and a sense of place in a genre that often prefers your generic big city.

There’s a fine streak of perfectly straight-faced silliness running through the film: where else would you get to see a fluffy bunny-based suspense scene? Not to speak of the awesome true identity of The Man and its somewhat cliché-subverting effect. On the other hand, Borris never takes this element of the film too far into camp territory, never quite hinting if he actually realizes how silly some parts of the film truly are.

Apart from the very beginning, there’s very little about Quiet Cool I’m not willing to call pretty fantastic, or even pretty damn fantastic. Well, there’s Nick Cassavetes’s completely expressionless Valence, who is way too bland for the time he spends on screen as the main threat, but the film doesn’t seem to be very interested in him anyway, so this is still the little wood-set 80s action movies that could.

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