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DVD Review: The Beatnicks

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Abraham Lincoln, the revered American statesman, would probably find it hard to believe that he was being quoted in a review of a 1995 independent movie, but why shouldn’t I shock Abe? Is it just because he’s dead?

“I never had a policy;” Lincoln said, “I have just tried to do my very best each and every day.” Well, that makes two areas where Abe and I differ. I should try to do my very best each and every day, but sometimes I just don’t feel like it. I also have a policy, up until now unwritten. It is my policy to refrain from using long quotes from publicists in reviews. Release your breath; I’m not going to start now.

One of the press releases for The Beatnicks—the one I got—includes a description so far removed from what I saw in the movie, I wondered if I was watching the wrong film, or perhaps had entered an alternate universe.

The Beatnicks stars Norman Reedus of Boondock Saints fame, and Mark Boone Junior, who appeared in Memento. They play two guys named Nick who fancy themselves artists (one a poet, the other a musician) who take turns trying to see who can be the most annoying. They are less annoying when they are not together. They are in immediate danger of eviction and of killing each other; their relationship is a little ragged.

Nick Beat, the musician, is an unattractive drunkard who goes out on the beach one night and passes out. Actually, he probably passes out on beaches a lot. When he awakens the next morning, he finds a strange box (which had been deposited there by a little monkey, and no it wasn’t a hand-cranked street organ). When the box is opened it contains music—mystical music. When Nick the poet hears the music, he starts spouting poetry. This box, they decide, is their golden ticket.

Well, maybe not. Certainly not a ticket to paradise. Nick the musician enters the thrall of some kooky guru who runs a restaurant—maybe Indian—where no one goes. Nick the poet falls in love with a French girl who is very married (to Eric Roberts), and finds himself in the employ of her husband, who is also a little bit nutty. Ya’ got it so far? A bunch of screwy people are running around saying wacky things and going to the beach. (I didn’t realize this, but The Beatnicks takes place in Los Angeles, which explains a lot. I think.)

The guru says a bunch of deep, new-agey stuff, and convinces the musician to bury the box. The poet convinces the musician to dig it up. In the end, outside of complicating their lives for a short time, the box didn’t seem to do much for The Beatnicks. Perhaps the combination of mystical music and bad poetry wasn’t such a great career choice for our two lads.

Didn’t I promise myself a few weeks ago that I would never review this type of film again? I’m not sure if The Beatnicks falls into the same category as that other, but it did have “independent” and “festival” written all over it. I didn’t find it amusing or thought-provoking; however, I wasn’t under the influence when I watched it.

The Beatnicks has its fans, and may be well on the way to cult status. It has a point; I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, though. It begins with the two Nicks, then separates into two stories, then reunites the Nicks and brings the story to a close.

The DVD includes a trailer, alternate ending, deleted scene and photo gallery.

Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent The Beatnicks? Nope.

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