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10.01.08

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Phaedra

Love and a .45

One disc; Lionsgate; $9.98

Reviewed by Michael S. Gant


I'm tempted to blame this overly arch killers-on-the-run pastiche on the baleful influence of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, but since they all came out in 1994, I suppose that the zeitgeist is the real culprit-with 1993's Kalifornia as accomplice. Gil Bellows plays Watty Watts, a philosophical small-town stick-up man who imagines that he is some kind of outlaw artist; he narrates the action with asides about the power of casting the I Ching. His girlfriend, sex kitten Starlene (Renée Zellweger in torn denim hot pants), wants to get married in the worst way. But a robbery gone wrong sets Watty's old partner, Billy Mack Black (the names are a dead giveaway that writer/director C.M. Talkington is too clever for his own good), and assorted broadly caricatured bad guys on the young lovers' trail of mayhem through Texas and into Mexico. The presence of some genre stalwarts (Jack Nance, Peter Fonda, Jeffrey Coombs) makes the bordering-on-camp violence go down easy, but Bellows and Zellweger are no match for Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis in the white-trash psycho department. Just consider this: Bellows' biggest credit is as Billy on Ally McBeal. Zellweger, pouts, squinces her eyes and delivers her lines in a grating Daisy Mae accent. As Billy Mack, Rory Cochrane (Dazed and Confused, CSI: Miami) goes into hyperdrive even before his character gets a shot of pure speed in the neck. One brief scene in a chicks-and-guns strip joint with dancers boasting Day-glo tattoos anticipates the Titty Twister bar in From Dusk Till Dawn, but the dialogue is hardboiled to the point of calcification: "The possibilities of the straight life spread out in front of us like an ever-expanding pool of blood." It's not much of a compliment to say that the soundtrack (Meat Puppets, Butthole Surfers, Johnny Cash) is much better than the film. Extras include a couple of outtakes and a cool music video by Rev. Horton Heat.

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