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Movie Review: Crooked

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Anyone who's been repeatedly struck about the head and neck with a blunt object for an extended period of time will tell you the same thing — after a while, it just stops hurting. Well, I'm starting to believe this theory can be applied to those cinematic masochists who love spending their days and nights with whatever straight-to-video release happens to hit retail shelves that week. If you consistently stuff this nonsense into your malfunctioning mind, you start to grow numb to the agony it breeds. Suffering almost becomes second nature. So when something halfway decent comes along, it may have a bigger impact that it probably should.

For instance, Art Camacho's 2006 offering Crooked (aka Soft Target) is a pretty bad film. It really is. That said, the flick still manages to serve up a nifty chunk of low-budget action that recalls the days of PM Entertainment and other like-minded production companies. Nothing makes sense, the acting will make you weep for the future of humanity, and you'll get to see a very confused Olivier Gruner fiddle with a pair of fake breasts in a bathtub. If that doesn't make you want to see this flick, perhaps I'm losing my touch. I've heard that happens to online critics who spend too much time at their keyboard.

I wonder if there's a pill for that?

Anyway, Crooked stars my main man Don "The Dragon" Wilson and the aforementioned French superstar as a pair of mismatched cops who are forced to protect the proverbial "hooker with a heart of gold" from a vicious underworld boss who wants her dead. Why would anyone want to savagely butcher a prostitute, you ask? Well, in this case, it has something to do with the murder of a star witness and the retrieval of a large sum of money. But don't worry your pretty little head about the latter; most of the characters lose interest in that particular subplot by the time the movie ends. Sorry about that. I really am.

There are many mind-boggling wonders to behold if, in fact, you are brave enough to venture into the murky waters of an Art Camacho film. The guy can stage explosions, car crashes, and gun fights like few can, but when it comes to directing a feature, the man is all over the place. Telephone conversations you thought were important mean nothing whatsoever, bad guys pop in and out of rooms at random, helicopters explode and promptly disappear — it's enough to make you question who, if anyone, watches this stuff after they've filmed it. Astonishingly inept, yet oddly pleasing. Go figure.

Camacho can't be blamed for the whole fiasco, of course. No, that just wouldn't be fair. If I were a betting man, I'd say William C. Martell's script is the root of the problem. But if you ask me, it's probably his Action Flick 2000TM software that's faulty. I occasionally use this program myself, and I know for a fact that if you don't upgrade to version 3.2, some of the new features simply do not work properly. Before Martell writes anything else, he should probably download the patch and reboot his computer. In fact, this goes for everyone who uses this snazzy slice of shareware on a regular basis. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

And what better way to bring out the imperfections in your lousy script than to cast a group of B-movie veterans in key roles! The Dragon is probably the best of the bunch, a statement that might work against the flick if taken out of context. Olivier Gruner, on the other hands, delivers his lines like a child reading a book filled with words he can pronounce but doesn't understand. Which is fine, I guess, since his dialogue consists mostly of weak jokes and long pauses. Oh, and don't listen to a word Diana Kauffman says. Instead, just stare at her ass.

Did I mention Gary Busey? I didn't? Well, he's in there, too. Also keep your eyes peeled for Fred Williamson and Martin Kove, a pair of actors who appear to be doing someone a favor. I wonder who that could be? Oh, well. At least we don't have to look at David DeFalco this time around. And thank God for that, right?

The only reason you'll want to waste an afternoon with this mess is for the action. There are numerous shoot-outs, explosions, car chases, and fight scenes to chew on, some of which actually manage to arouse your sleepy, lethargic adrenal gland for a second or two. The Dragon also gets to scream and jump in slow motion, a selling point for morons like me who enjoy spending their free time with Wilson's unique brand of low-budget action. To each his own? You bet.

Sadly, I simply cannot recommend Crooked to anyone other than B-movie fanatics and Don "The Dragon" Wilson fans. Don't be fooled by the inclusion of a few cult heroes; their respective roles are very small and ultimately forgettable. Even Fred Williamson knows better than to spend too much time in front of the camera, a fact which speaks volumes about this flick. If you don't mind dozens of loose ends, horrible acting, and cheap thrills at dollar store prices, you may find this one to be worth investigating. Otherwise, save your money for something else. I've heard you can actually rent Gary Busey for almost nothing these days.

If that's your thing, of course.

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