The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Pressure Point (2001)
I had been looking to get some more Jeff Wincott up here, and when I saw this on Instant I knew it was a good bet. Then I saw it had Michael Madsen, which made it even better. Even if it's a dud, it's got those two right?
Pressure Point has Madsen as a father taking his wife and kids through Vermont on vacation. They're in a big broken-down old camper, and no one is stoked about it. At the same time, Wincott and a buddy try to pull off a bank heist in a sleepy little Vermont town, only to have things go wrong, people die, and Wincott on the run. When he comes across Madsen and crew working on the camper by the side of the road, they seem like a match made in heaven. Only one problem: you don't mess with Madsen.
This one is a little rough. In general this type of movie is rough. From Dusk Till Dawn pulled it off by inserting vampires in in the middle. Beyond that, how do you keep us interested from the 20 or 30 minute mark when Wincott takes the family hostage, to the finale? This had other issues though too. For instance, it was very keen on the verisimilitude of rough video, like from a bank camera or a police officer's dash. In one scene, they did this whole thing with the police piecing together a tape that Wincott destroyed, and all it did was show us a garbled, tough to watch thing that went over material we'd already seen. On the other hand, we had good performances from Madsen and Wincott, along with Victoria Snow, who played Madsen's wife, and Michelle Scarabelli, who played the local deputy. There were some tense moments, and some solid cat and mouse, but, again, it felt like all it was doing was keeping us from getting to the end at the 90 minute mark, as opposed to feeling like organic plot points.
One thing I really liked was that there was no explanation for why Michael Madsen's character being the bad ass that he was. No "former cop" or "ex-special forces". It was simply "because he's Michael Madsen", which should be enough for any movie. The one issue for me was that there was a lot going on between the family and the police cracking the case, that we lose him for portions of the film, which doesn't work. I think this could've done for a more slimmed down approach, with fewer bells and whistles, and someone like Madsen could've carried it.
And Wincott was great too as the main baddie. One thing I liked too about him being the baddie, was that it was okay that he wasn't using his martial arts-- in fact, we wouldn't want someone as bad as him to know martial arts. I think if the roles had been reversed, it would've been hard to see someone like Wincott not use his martial arts on someone like Madsen, even if his character didn't know how. Even though I'd much rather see him as the lead in a martial arts-heavy action flick-- and it's for movies like that that we love him-- this was a cool role for him too, and he did well.
I always have trouble when movies like this have kids involved. Like Wincott putting a gun to Madsen's son's head, or pointing it at his young daughter. It all makes me uneasy. Maybe it's supposed to, but while it makes me uneasy, it's then trying to have it both ways and make me unring the bell and think, once the movie's over, that everyone lives happily ever after. No kid lives happily ever after after a traumatic experience like that. The movie can't have it both ways: realistic police work and cracking the case, yet unrealistic no long-term effects on the kids. As is often the case, it's better to just leave the kids out.
As I said above, Michelle Scarabelli was really good as the deputy sheriff, and Victoria Snow too as Madsen's wife. Both women have had solid careers in movies and TV shows. That's one thing I like about Canadian movies-- beyond little touches like a speed limit listed in kilometers per hour even though it's supposed to be Vermont-- they have this cadre of great professional actors that really fill out the cast and give these movies a little more than you'd expect. Maybe the best of the lot is Kim Coates, but I've seen Scarabelli and Snow in plenty of stuff, and I think they always give a solid performance. One could say Wincott is in that category now too, though I still like to think of him as an action lead.
So this is a pass for me. You've seen this before, and while it has some good performances, it doesn't bring much new to the table and has dead moments that hurt things. If you're interested though, it's available on Instant. Sometimes Wincott and Madsen are enough, sometimes they aren't.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0268548/