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Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Devils Of War

Directed by: Eli Dorsey

Screenplay by: Eli Dorsey

Starring: Jerry L. Buxbaum
Lawrence Anthony
Jamin Watson
Jeremiah Grace
Carly Kingston
Apple Lee
Tim Harrold
Tyler Pesek
Jeff Richardson

Music by: Marcus V. Warner

Cinematography by: Peter Fuhrman

Editing by: Eli Dorsey

Studio: Paradise City Pictures

Distributed by: Automatic Entertainment (World-Wide, all media)
Rialto Distribution (Australia, DVD)
Signature Entertainment (United Kingdom, DVD)

Release date: April 15, 2013 (United Kingdom, straight-to-DVD)

Running time: 72 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: (N/A)

Box-office revenue (as of publication): (N/A)

Okay there, as you can tell, I haven't been doing as many reviews this week, although saying that I've been imbedded deeply in other film-related nonsense, such as indulging my pedantry by sorting out my movie collection. I surprised myself with the sheer amount of films that I have put it that way, but I'll not get into that. Presently, I'm reading Mark Kermode's new book Hatchet Job, and it's another one full of his astute observations, to use a well-trod term, and like The Good, The Bad And The Multiplex, it stands as proof that the art of legitimate film criticism, with constructed, objective and researched opinion(s) on the movies, is truly alive and well. Typing this as one of the Internet 'bloggers' who numerous critics bemoan for slowly driving the nails in the proverbial coffin of the art, while I believe in the democratisation of the craft, the opinions I respect and believe to be legitimate are those that do what all good critics do, research, develop, opine, qualify, conclude. They're no five rules by any means (I just picked them off the top of my head to be frank), but being as passionate about films as I am I believe it an obligation to not just go out there and talk waffle, something which I fail at rather admirably on a regular basis. I'm just gonna do a brief list of four 'online' critics who I think are doing a fine job at keeping up this tradition:

(In no particular order)

1. Hal C F Astell - Apocalypse Later: (Great writer, helped me out a while back when I was working on an essay on Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, cussing out my film studies department on informed academia in the process. A bit inflammatory on my part, but Astell certainly knows his stuff.)

2. Jason Bailey - Fourth Row Center: (At present the film editor for FlavourWire, Bailey is a veteran of fifteen years of film criticism whose succinct, measured yet personal responses are a testament to the medium.)

3. Daniel Kelly - Danland Movies: (What can I say, I'm admittedly biased towards the guy who I've been watching movies with for the guts of ten years, but his way with words, lively and engaging writing keeps you hooked, and the absurdist humour, if there can be such a thing in film criticism, make him a unique presence in the blogosphere.)

4. Roger Ebert - Roger (I know he's not technically a blogger, and the blogging √®lite will be up with their pitchforks as much as traditional print critics, but Ebert was an innovator of the Internet way ahead of his time, and made use of this avenue to it's fullest. You can find over ten thousand reviews on his site, ensuring that his immeasurable presence will forever remain with us)

So, for all the latest and greatest in film, keep your eyes posted.

Without trying to break the line, or rather pretence of objectivity this early into the game, much as I love those four above critics, it could have subconsciously been a diversionary tactic to avoid getting into the review for today's film, Devils Of War. It's another film without a Wikipedia page (not that that's a bad thing, it just seems to be recurring of late as a rule of thumb on this blog), and although I gathered that it was from 2013, there was only one quote on the film I had to go on: on the front cover of the DVD, it reads "A Cult Classic - Iron Sky Meets Outpost." I can't say anything about Outpost because I haven't seen it, but for those of you who don't know, I really marked out for Iron Sky last year, which I thought was a ballsy and audacious sci-fi comedy. However, what struck me was that the quote had no source, as does just about every quote that's splashed on a poster or DVD, so as far as I'm concerned it's a work of self-mythologisation by the marketing department, because, lets face it, everything is a 'cult classic' these days. Speaking of direct quotes, here's one for the synopsis, because I'm conserving my energies for the review: "It's Poland, 1944 and a team of Special Forces soldiers are called up by FDR. Their mission... to stage a daring raid on a fortress where the Nazis are kidnapping women and experimenting with the occult to raise a demon army. Furious and inglorious, get ready to raise hell (the last phrase of which is plastered three times on the DVD case)." So, for an evaluation of this "cult classic" (I use those quote-marks because even if I'm sarcastic they could put my name to it for all their lack of sources!), let's get craicin'!

So, where do I start? I've spent the past five minutes looking at the Wikipedia page of The Room, and it's hard to find fresh inspiration in this film, and while it's nowhere near as ridiculous as that legitimate cult classic, it does have a number of very Room-esque moments. It has numerous little hokey things that are silly and scenes that are quite clearly designed to display the Ilsa-type Nazi woman's prominent cleavage (why not a relative close-up on her bare breasts instead of a medium shot?). One scene however stands out as one of the funniest moments in a film this year. They throw in your proverbial sex scene, but what makes it so absurd is the soundtrack playing some Marvin Gaye alike track on top, because, hey, the dude here is 'Black Hercules' on he's Black and we've gotta keep playing up on his Blackness throughout movie, and then comes well-trod killer line "I'm a virgin," despite the fact the character's played by a curvaceous model and such statements don't hold much validity. So, the only real thing to say in it's favour is that it's a short watch at seventy-two minutes and that it may hold a certain level of comedic value to those in who love the 'so bad it's good films' (although The Room, Battlefield Earth and anything by Ed Wood are the high-points of this ironic batch).

Despite there being the odd thing to get a laugh out of, Devils Of War is still for the most part just an outright bad movie without much of the humour involved in some of those films. I mean, heck, in it's own ways Scanners is a bad movie, but it just so happens to have a master in David Cronenberg and so many other things that give it real personality behind it. Devils Of War, however, is an attempted mish-mash of the elements of a number of different movies, and I don't have a problem with things being referential, but it has no personality of it's own. Obviously, there's invocations of Inglourious Basterds, and by way of that movie that of The Dirty Dozen, The Wild Geese et al, and the editing automatically attempts to conjure up the spirits of Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah, but does nothing but make them turn over in their graves, particularly with regards to the worst example of vehicular back projection since Garth Marenghi's Darkplace (wink wink!). Writer-director Eli Dorsey's work lacks the unique qualities to make the film stand out in it's own regard. The script is a horrendous piece with some of the worst dialogue I have heard in a long time, the scene and plot structure is all over the place (a local woman wants to shag one of 'The Basterds,' if you will, because she will be subject to the Nazis' experimentation), and any attempt at legitimate conflict or tension comes across as stilted and awkward, with resolutions coming rather too quickly. The acting on all fronts is terrible, Jerry L. Buxbaum's William Baldy the grizzled Richard Burton in the equation, but more akin expression wise to a Haliburton briefcase, Jamin Watson's charisma vacuum that is Black Hercules and Jeremiah Grace's racist hick Jasper doing nothing but leer and pull faces in a poor man's Klaus Kinski (not his fault, I might add.) Furthermore, I'm not German, but why is it that all of the actors portraying Germans have to inject their characters with massive levels of over-pronunciation? It's like "yes, we know that the 'w' is pronounced as a 'v,' but stop going overboard with this, the cow is well and truly milked." Bad, bad, bad, bleats the sheep! The music by Marcus V. Warner is another piece to add to the weave of this tapestry of terrible. Attempting to take a page from the Ennio Morricone-scored spaghetti westerns of the 1960s, the score not only doesn't fit the material, but in and of itself it just a bad bit of work. Full of horrendous incidental cues and themes that only have a consistency in that there will be maybe three-to-five chords played on an electric guitar, it's all over the shop and undercuts what is already a pretty shoddy production. There are a lot of things to be said about Devils Of War, but my conclusion with the issues lies with Eli Dorsey, who in both capacities as writer-director failed to control all the contingent elements that come with the film. These reference points are a splurge of nonsensical bits as opposed to anything of coherence, and if he wasn't too busy taking a page out of Quentin Tarantino's book (Quentin Tarantino has a hard enough time trying to be Quentin Tarantino as it is!), there might actually be something of genuine worth here. 

Devils Of Wars is by no means scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of bad films. There is the odd silly bit to invoke a giggle, and a hilarious sex scene in particular gave me one of my best laughs from a film this year, and as such, I'd be amiss to deny that there will be some who can get a certain level of Room-esque ironic humour from the film. For me though, it's still for the most part a really awful movie. Just about everything, from the script to the acting to the music to the direction and all the contingent elements that make up Devils Of War are just of the lowest order. It tries to riff off of the memory of far greater films, and having no legs of it's own to stand up on, it falls flat on it's face. A basterd-spawn of Quentin Tarantino and Quentin Tarantino (by way of all his favourite filmmakers!), Devils Of War fails in pretty much all regard.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 1.7/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Hungry (been eating like a horse lately, though thankfully my metabolism hasn't caught onto that one yet, mwahah!)

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