If... Dog... Rabbit
*/**** Image C+ Sound C
starring Matthew Modine, John Hurt, Kevin O'Connor, David Keith
written and directed by Matthew Avery Modine
ZERO STARS/**** Image C Sound C-
starring Matthew Modine, Elizabeth Berkley, Nick Turturro, Paul Rodriguez
screenplay by Rich Steen
directed by Alex Wright
by Walter Chaw Matthew Modine has made a career of acting the idiosyncratic man of action--that scattershot chortle masking some unusual skill and the kind of laconic intelligence that Eric Stoltz has utilized to far different effect. Peaking early as Pvt. Joker in Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (and scoring a couple times before that in the deceptively interesting Vision Quest and Alan Parker's moody war idyll Birdy), Modine has treaded water ever since in stuff like Cutthroat Island and Bye Bye Love while actually appearing as himself in a couple of films (Notting Hill, Bamboozled)--an indulgence that's never a good sign, with very few exceptions, for an actor still serious about his career.
Kinder folks than I will see his feature length debut as writer-director, One Last Score (originally If...Dog...Rabbit, changed for the DVD release--as titles go, I've heard better), as a sign that Modine is an actor who is serious about stretching; I'm more inclined to see the picture as proof positive that Modine is every bit the insufferable self-deluded prat his screen persona suggests him to be. With dialogue as stilted and awkward as his direction and performance, Modine scores the humbling hat trick of failing in the most public way possible in his chosen profession and then on a pair of skylarking diversions that suggest that Modine should probably not quit his day job, even though he has been muddling around on his day job.
Almost garnering a recommendation just for the sight of Lisa Marie getting zapped by a car battery and shot to death (thereby almost justifying the interminable minutes spent suffering her extraordinarily inept performance), One Last Score is that movie about an ex-con who tries to make good but is pulled in for the titular blue-sky promise. Because the picture is a pretentious mess, the caper at the finale of the piece is an out-of-time rip-off of Kubrick's The Killing, and because this pretentious mess essentially wishes to build a better mousetrap with the exact same components, it manages mostly to be the same old crapulence all at cross-angles to itself and self-indulgent to boot.
With the dialogue mostly snide and the direction largely comprising slow push-ins and static two-shots, the most interesting thing about the film is the florid variety of its performances. John Hurt's attempt to cover his British accent with stock hillbilly results mostly in him looking as he did just before a giant bug jumped out of his chest; Kevin O'Connor does a mean Clint Howard impersonation--the "whys" of that better left a mystery; and David Keith plays the second half in a turban, probably wishing he'd actually hanged himself in a closet à la An Officer and a Gentleman. Then there's the sad, teeth-setting case of Lisa Marie, who puts to rest any question why Tim Burton never lets her speak in his movies. The only person emerging unscathed is Bruce Dern, scoring a time or two in the briefest of cameos.
At the very least, One Last Score fails spectacularly because of its surplus of misguided ambition. More deadening and depressing is The Shipment, another Modine vehicle finding its belated way to home video that fails spectacularly, but for its fecklessness and venality. The first joke of the film involves a Mexican police officer saying, "I have a little surprise for you" before a shotgun wielding-dwarf leaps out of a van. Yep. Paul Rodriguez--and I should stop there, because that's all you need to know--plays Crazy José, a fast-talking smuggler who agrees to transport an oily Guido's shipment of super-Mexican viagra ("vigoroso" for making "gringos' chorizos hard"), only to find himself waylaid with his priapismic wonder booty in a sleepy hick border town of Paradise, AZ. Modine plays the laconic sheriff, and Elizabeth Berkley his high-school sweetie married to the mob heavy (Nick Turturro). She's stubbornly clad throughout this film about a sex drug--which is, again, all you need to know. The Shipment is amazingly unfunny and stupefyingly boring in equal measure.
Of course the mob comes to Paradise, of course the fish-out-of-water thing is played out, and of course the Next of Kin hicks-with-resources plot unfolds, with Modine and his smirky man of action and possessor of secret talents persona tailor-made and holding the baton. The performances aren't as bad here as in One Last Score--a phenomena due entirely to that feeling of ease that accompanies the sound of checks cashing and timecards getting punched mechanically. But the film that houses them is so horrific that you'll hardly notice. That the cover art features a cow looking over its shoulder while the title of the picture guides the eye to the animal's rectum should be warning enough to any reasonable person.
Fox DVD's presentation of One Last Score features a cropped full-frame video transfer that looks a great deal like the scattershot presentations of Artisan DVD in general, and The Shipment's in particular. Both sport images bright enough, both are relatively free of any major defects, and both boast of stable, workmanlike video that, while never coming close to impressing, also don't disappoint. One Last Score features a Dolby 5.1 mix that sounds a lot like the Dolby 2.0 mix with which it shares a platter. The LFE channel gets almost no workout that I could discern and the penultimate scene, in which a bullfight is superimposed over images of our hero Modine getting trapped on a beach (I know it), misses a good chance at some atmospherics and crowd effects. The Shipment comes with a flat Dolby 2.0 stereo track that reproduces the dialogue with a disheartening faithfulness. I wouldn't have minded losing a few segments now and again--call it "mercy deafness." Each disc features a trailer, though the latter spares us the cast & crew filmography. Originally published: November 6, 2002.