Monday, July 13, 2015

I've Had the Case of My Life

I can't quite justify it, but lately, I've been in strange, very fervent mood for cheaply made, super sleazy mid-'90s thrillers.

That's a normal kick, right?

Before you judge me, allow me to say that today's cheaply made super sleazy mid'90s thriller stars God of All Things Michael Ironside and Guess Who Character Come To Life Costas Mandylor. 

I just got a little bit of your respect back, right?

Quick Plot: In the steamy underground of the St. Louis streets, a serial killer is racking up a body count on prostitutes. All the victims have two things in common: their pictures in a once famous, now career-flailing photographer named George Kendall and a sleazy pimp with the non-pimpiest name a pimp ever had.

Sims. The pimp's name is Sims. Isn't that usually a name bestowed upon movie characters that are computer geeks or toy store managers? 

Moving on, hot on the case is Ironside's Sgt. Ernie Hanson and an ambitious district attorney named Carolyn Price. Price is one of those career-minded women whose only priority in life is getting a promotion no matter what the costs. Like everyone else in this movie, she doesn't actually seem to be good at her job, but she's way better at looking like she's good at her job. Naturally, that makes her a minor villain.

Our hero comes in the form of Jennifer Grey's Elaine Taylor, a scrappy (or so the film is telling us) young criminal lawyer trying her best to make partner at a large corporate firm. She becomes assigned to Kendall somewhat by accident, but the mysterious photographer takes an interest in her and her I-watched-a-marathon-of-Law&Order-style attitude.

Did Kendall murder five young prostitutes? It's a question that the audience might care about more than the movie does, as Portraits of a Killer's construction has no urgency about itself whatsoever. Sure, there's an early soap opera-quality fistfight that's exactly as amazing as you want it to be and an excessively terrible use of slow motion in the big climax, but those aside, this is a Dunkin' Donuts quality movie.

I know there's this weird faction of humanity that adores their coolatas and chocolate chip cookie dough flavored coffee and presumably, lazy advertising that doesn't even seem to TRY to make the cardboard food look good, but seriously: everything you can get at Dunkin' Donuts tastes like it was made with as little effort as possible. If there is cheese on your DD sandwich, it came from a very lazy cow. If there is a tomato in your wrap, it came from a plant that spent more time smoking and watching Judge Judy than, I don't know, being a plant.

My point is that Dunkin' Donuts is a bland institution, and Portraits of a Killer is a bland film. It has all the potential to ooze with fun sleaze, but the best we get is a sexy saxophone solo playing over...Costas Mandylor and Jennifer Grey making out fully clothed. 

Now I don't have any real desire to see either of these actors in the buff, but I have equally less desire to see them kiss close-mouthed when they have no chemistry and their characters have no personality. Jennifer Grey is an inexperienced lawyer. Costas Mandylor is a creepy photographer. Dead prostitutes abound and all we can hope for is that Michael Ironside shows back onscreen soon.

High Points
Look, any movie that includes Michael Ironside gets SOMETHING from me

In true film fashion, we get a city coroner who eats his messy dinner just next to a few tables worth of corpses. At what point can we get a movie about (or recipe book from) THOSE guys?

Low Points
When your tone is too chaste for Cinemax AND Lifetime, you're doing something very, very wrong

Lessons Learned
Putting a gun to the head of an alleged criminal during questioning is perfectly okay and acceptable police work

High powered attorney wannabes should always make a point of keeping a formal high powered attorney suit in their office on casual Fridays

The average St. Louis apartment for a low-level attorney is large enough to house a grand piano

When you have caught the interest of both a violent pimp and serial killer, it's probably best to look through the peekhole before opening your door to a mysterious knock in the middle of the night

I have no idea who Portaits of a Killer was made for. It doesn't have enough sleaze, mystery, or Ironside for anyone to claim it as their own, but the slow motion cheesiness at least kept me smiling. This is in no way a good movie, but it exists and is streaming on Netflix. Now if you'll excuse me, I really need to know if formaldehyde fumes makes sandwiches taste any better.

Maybe THAT'S what Dunkin' Donuts needs!

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