½*/**** Image B- Sound C+
starring Lou Diamond Phillips, Kari Wuhrer, Edoardo Ballerini, Gwen McGee
screenplay by Dennis Shryack & Peter Bellwood
directed by John Terlesky
by Walter Chaw A castration/redemption picture with the most ineffectual central character in any film south of Polanski, direct-to-video thriller Malevolent casts Lou Diamond Phillips as an eternally-framed homicide detective and Kari Wuhrer as an ex-softcore goddess now reduced to acting badly in a variety of scoop-necked blouses.
The floridly named Edoardo Ballerini is the psychopath who steals Phillips's gun, blood sample, internal affairs files, and wallet--operating under what seems Phillips's complete approval as, though he's a cop, he never ever reports being drugged and stripped clean of his weapon and identity. What follows is one of those cat-and-mouse games where one moment of telling someone anything would end the whole shooting match and each character has a moment to say or do something unforgivably stupid.
With numerous chaste stripteases (there's more jiggle after a touchdown), almost no violence, and nothing that could be mistaken for plot, Malevolent is one of those things exclusively for Lou Diamond Phillips's stubborn fan base and adolescents desperate for skin because they're grounded from the Internet. As such, Phillips's character is so robbed of anything resembling self-respect, virility, and smarts that he might as well play Wuhrer's "stripper" character; meanwhile, there's so little actual nudity (a body double glimpsed gauzily through an opaque shower curtain) that any ten minutes of E! puts it to prurient shame. The screenplay, by Dennis Shryack & Peter Bellwood, is a dog's breakfast of flat jokes and over-writing while John Terlesky's direction is either bland or inept, making Malevolent the kind of title that goes a long way towards explaining its own existence.
Presented by Buena Vista's Dimension line, Malevolent trundles its way resignedly to DVD with a dull 1.85:1 anamorphic video transfer and a correspondingly flat Dolby 5.1 soundmix. Colours are well separated, though the palette is unimaginative; shadow detail is deep, but there's an almost complete lack of vibrancy to the presentation. It's a limpness reflected in the audio, which comes to life very briefly in a concluding car chase and spends the rest of the film squatting disconsolately in the front channels. Rounding out the sparse package, the Dimension Cutting Edge trailer reel (featuring clips from various Dimension titles like From Dusk Till Dawn, Scream, Scary Movie, and so on) and previews for the Dimension titles Below, Undisputed, Asunder, and the ponderously-titled Wes Craven Presents Dracula II: The Ascension. Originally published: March 28, 2003.
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