Review: Pawn Shop Chronicles
PLOT: PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES features three different stories involving revenge, kidnapping, meth labs and murder. Each revolves around an object bought and sold at a local pawn shop. With a trio of racists, an Elvis impersonator and a man searching for his missing wife, there is a ton of un-PC fun to be had.
REVIEW: White trash aficionados have something to celebrate this week! In the new low-budget action/horror/comedy PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES directed by Wayne Kramer (RUNNING SCARED, THE COOLER) there is a whole hootenanny of anti-PC goodness. With a cast including Paul Walker, Brendan Fraser, Elijah Wood, Norman Reedus, Matt Dillon, Vincent D’Onofrio, Thomas Jane and tons more, this surprisingly refreshing and quirky flick revels in racism, murder, revenge and bad taste in an entertaining way. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed Walker and Fraser more as actors than I have in this here motion picture. And just in case… MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
Presented in a CREEPSHOW sort of fashion, the comic book style format introduces the viewer to a pawn shop in the South where the Confederate flag still flies high. The shop in question is run by Vincent D’Onofrio and frequented by his pal played by Chi McBride tying all three tales together. Both D’Onofrio and McBride share some incredible funny conversations about Santa Claus and a big black pick-up truck that seems to be hunting D’Onofrio down after he flipped him off during a moment of road rage. In between this wraparound story are the three shorts involving racist rednecks looking to rob a meth lab, a man who may have discovered the whereabouts of his missing wife and a down-on-his-luck Elvis impersonator.
The first and last sequences in this Adam Minarovich script are the best. Funnily enough, most of his early scripts, those he also directed, don’t seem terribly inspired or good judging on the uber-negative feedback that I found – I haven’t sat down with any of them yet so I can’t really say yea or nay. Even still, PAWN SHOP could have easily been a disaster, yet Kramer is able to give it a smart and satisfying presentation with interesting camera work and top-notch actors letting loose to really play with the ridiculousness of it all. Kramer really keeps things looking polished with a handful of crazy shots and wild close-ups, yet it all feels right at home with the story presented. You could make comparisons to Tarantino and possibly Romero (and the list goes on), yet it is done in such a creative and exciting way it feels very much like Kramer and Minarovich’s own vision.
Each section revolves around an object bought or sold at the pawn shop including a rifle, a ring and a medallion. The first installment – starring Kevin Rankin, Lukas Haas, Norman Reedus and Paul Walker – is a gleefully trashy beginning, one which offers Walker and Rankin trying to figure out why exactly they are as racist as they happen to be. That scene and their bizarre admiration of the band STYX is absolutely hilarious. Things get especially wicked when they try to rob from a meth lab run by Reedus. All four of the actors seem to be having the time of their lives digging into the white trash of it all, and it is especially fun to see Walker get completely lost in the role.
The second section works, but not quite as well as the first with Matt Dillon discovering a ring he gave to his wife who disappeared years ago. Elijah Wood is on hand to play another weirdo, yet this time it is a very grounded and funny performance. However this segment tends to drag a bit as it feels slightly scattershot compared to the first part of the film. The entire running time feels unnecessarily long considering the manic nature of all the craziness on-screen. Finally the second part ends up tying itself together when the third segment revs up its engines. This final story offers up Brendan Fraser giving an inspired performance as an Elvis impersonator whose luck has ran out. The old “sign a deal with the devil” comes into play for a wickedly offbeat moment featuring a numerous pale, naked women wrapped in the American flag standing in front of an audience during an effective version of “Amazing Grace” sung by Fraser’s Elvis.
PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES is a wildly bizarre and politically incorrect mix of b-movie genres wrapped into one. Kramer – with the script by Minarovich – amps up the action and violence without pushing it too far – well at least for my personally warped taste. Will this offend certain groups? Of course it will and many may find its humorous look at such serious topics as revenge, racism and psychopaths far too unsettling. Yet thankfully for those willing to take this trashy B-movie wild ride – with the occasional detour - you’ll be in for a hell of a good time.
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