Montreal Film Journal

CRIMEWAVE

What the hell is that!?!? Not that crap movies are that unusual, but it is a bit startling when they're written by the Coen brothers and directed by Sam Raimi. This movie is so bad that it's hard to imagine that anyone would think it's any good. I have nothing against comedies, even stupid ones, but there's nothing worse than unfunny slapstick. It seems that it was common in the 80s. People thought that you just had to pack a movie with overacting, dorky voices, people falling down and silly sound effects to have a comedy.

This dud is about a security guard who's about to be put in the electric chair, and through flash-backs, we see what led to that. One of his bosses sold their security business to an arrogant playboy (played by Bruce Campbell, the only interesting presence in the film) who wants to turn it into a strip joint. The other boss ain't happy about that, so he hires two exterminators to kill his partner. We feel a bit of the Coen's style when the flim splits apart in different stories that somehow connect together. The nerdy guard tries to seduce Campbell's girl, the wife of the guy who hired the braindead hitmen keeps spying on her neighbors with cameras and binoculars, and the killers keep making mistakes and try to cover their ass by killing all witnesses (a bit like in the Coen's "Fargo").

It's well known that the Coen bros like to make pastiches, and this seems to be an attempt at vaudeville, but it just doesn't work. As for Raimi, this is pretty much his first film (besides his self-financed horror film "The Evil Dead") and it's his worst ever. He does pull a few interesting visual tricks, some scenes are modestly enjoyable (when an exterminator pulls the whole rug off an appart's floor, when a black guy is thrown through a window, an insane car chase...), and the film sometimes has the wild pace of Scorsese's "After Hours", but for the most part, it's a series of pathetic attempts to get cheap laughs. Too bad, because if the Coen and Raimi had taken out all the boring slapstick and if the actors had played it straight, this could have been a cool black comedy instead of Troma-type garbage.