Thursday, 23 July 2009
SERIAL COPS (1997)
Directed by: Damien Lee
Screenplay: Damien Lee and Joseph O’Brien
Starring: Chris Penn, Jennifer Dale, Chad McQueen and Michael Madsen
Chris Penn and Michael Madsen were first on screen together in the groundbreaking (if overrated) Reservoir Dogs. They then appeared in Lee Tamhoroui’s flawed but entertaining Mulholland Falls. Now (well 1997 really) they return in Serial Cops (a.k.a Papertrail, a.k.a Trail of a Serial Killer) a low budget offer that has a few entertaining moments but ends up a load of silly nonsense.
Directed by Damien Lee (When the Bullet Hits the Bone) Serial Cops is your typical direct-to-video serial killer flick: good in concept, bad in logic and the talent/money needed to make it entertaining. Penn is burnt-out cop Jason Enola who is pulled out of the standard “I want my wife and kids back” depression by his buddy and fellow cop Brad Abraham (Madsen) to help track down a serial killer named Alone. Preying on young women, Enola suspects the killer could be one of Dr. Robertson’s (Dale) therapy patients. He enlists her co-operation and sits in on the therapy sessions keeping an eye on William Frost (McQueen). Each patient has a different phobia and all may have a motive for doing the killings. Will Enola find out who the killer is before he/she kills again? Will this film defy expectation and not descend into derivative drivel before the inevitable chase climax? Will Michael Madsen stop acting like he is reading off cue cards? Not so likely. Well Enola might find out who the killer is at least.
First off, this is a pretty standard film and has a passing resemblance plotwise to Richard Rush’s Colour of Night. It was obviously shot on a very low budget, meaning there is a lack of action scenes (save the rush to save the day ending) and the sets are distinctly bare. The plot is by the numbers and is not pulled off with enough style or tension to ever really be engaging. The final twist (admittedly unexpected) is so ludicrous, that any credit the film did manage to build up is thrown out the window. Due to a lack of any action the film tends to drag, even at 90 minutes long.
Acting wise, things aren’t much better. Penn phones in his performance and his scene where he gets mad at a possible victim is over-the-top hilarious. Jennifer Dale (Once a Thief) is adequate as the psychologist but mainly acts flustered and is seemingly more depressed than her patients. McQueen (Firepower) just smokes a lot and couldn’t be a more obvious red herring if he was wearing a T-shirt saying “I’m not the killer.” This brings us to Madsen. He acts so bizarrely in some scenes you wonder if he is drunk, on drugs, pissed at his agent or all three. In one scene, he interviews Dale’s character and it’s hard to tell whether he is supposed to be acting nervous or whether he is actually just trying to remember his lines. However, the best piece of acting goes to Don “The Dragon” Wilson. Yes, you heard right: the star of Bloodfist 1 to 3 million pops up in a brief cameo as another cop at one of the murder scenes. In addition to Wilson’s groovy cameo the film has a couple of tense sequences that work well. The scenes of a patient falling prey to her phobia, and when the cops raid the killer’s house and find what’s in the basement are quite well done. Alas, this is not enough to save the film from being just another generic and silly, albeit mildly entertaining, direct-to-video serial killer flick. For a film featuring Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Steve McQueen’s son and the great Don “The Dragon” Wilson this should have been a whole better.