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Fantasia Review: In a Valley of Violence
Three women show up at a roadside diner looking to score a truckload of dope (literally) for their boss. The trio think that it's a test, since they screwed up their previous job. But it still sound pretty easy, right? A diner in the middle of the night, 3-on-1, wiley woman charms and such. Unfortunately, a guy named Ronny shows up who happens to know more than any of the ladies realize. He also has a vested interest in the dope himself, and he's been busy racking up a body count to get it. If that didn't complicate things, the local sheriff also shows up, and he's not too sane, either.
At first glance, CATCH .44 sounds like a Quentin Tarantino film. In fact, the back cover proclaims that it's "in the tradition of... RESERVOIR DOGS". The film appears to have a number of the ingredients of an homage to the man who gave us RESERVOIR DOGS and PULP FICTION, including Bruce Willis who starred in the latter. Plus, you also have Oscar winner Forest Whitaker and everyone's favorite Oscar nominee genre man Brad Dourif in the mix. Sounds like a fun party.
I give writer/director Aaron Harvey credit for trying his best to make a film "in the tradition" of Tarantino. Harvey throws a lot of stuff in that QT fans will recognize: a strong set of female characters and some characters with their unique quirks (Bruce Willis loves them pecans), a mix of quirky dialogue with wanton violence, a flashback-heavy continuity and a soundtrack full of old-school pop songs. It's enough to make fans of Tarantino's early work squeal with glee at the "Holy sh*t, remember that scene in PULP with such-and-such? This is just like it!".
CATCH .44 also earns points for managing to handle all of this and keep a steady pace throughout its 94 minute runtime, as well as being nicely shot. The CGI blood is painfully obvious, however. The film earns even bigger points for Forest Whitaker's performances. Whitaker manages to juggle three different accents with his character, as well as make a nice evolution of the character from when the viewer first meets him stranded on the side of the road. Very good stuff!
However, CATCH .44 can't catch on to the fact that it's a painfully derivative film. Really, after those Tarantino fans finish squealing, they'll probably be reaching for one of QT's movies instead of watching someone do a poor man's version. Remember how in DEATH PROOF you had those ladies talking to the point of ad nauseum? Get ready for more of it. Plus when you think about it, our three female protagonists ironically aren't strong enough to support the story. What's even worse is that the slick dialogue that Harvey emulates comes out contrived and artificial. Also, despite Bruce Willis' character being fun, he along with Brad Dourif are painfully underutilized here. Bruce also comes off as phoning it in at a certain point, since there's nothing new to it. And really, that sums up the film itself: Harvey does a mashup of Tarantino's best films and comes out with a Frankenstein's Monster that we've all seen before.
There's probably a good reason why CATCH .44 wasn't released in theatres. It's not the fact that the star power wasn't enough. It's the fact that everyone watching this film will almost immediately feel a sense of déjà vu and start thinking about how much better it was done the first time around when Quentin did it. And rightfully so. From the dialogue to the way the film progresses to the tense three-way Mexican standoff, it screams Tarantino. And if it screams Tarantino, then why bother watching someone ape it and fail?
Video: The film's AVC encoded 2.40.1 1080p widescreen transfer looks pretty good. Detail is nice and, well, detailed from the texture of fabric to the lines on Bruce Willis' face. Colours are nicely reproduced, and the CGI blood is appropriately red.
Audio: Presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, the mix is more front-heavy than anything. Still, dialogue is clear and crisp with a nice low-end to give gunshots and car engines their punch.
The only extra included on the Blu-Ray is an audio commentary with writer/director Aaron Harvey and editor Richard Byard. You probably won't be converted into loving this film with this track, but it still provides enough information on the makings of the film, including the ideas (ha ha) that made their way into the film's story. Harvey also mentions that the film was originally meant to be a "small movie" that he wrote in a week and a half, and when the big A-listers got on board he rushed into production. Kind of explains a few things, don't you think?
CATCH .44 is a Xeroxing of Tarantino's work cut and spliced together in hopes that it'd be a great tribute to the man, but ultimately comes off as being nothing more than that. How the likes of Willis and Whitaker got roped into this, I don't know. Even with them in this film, it's still not worth watching, even if you aren't a Tarantino fan. The sole extra won't make you love the film either, but at least the film looks nice.