Friday, October 20, 2017

Review: Strapped for Danger

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2017
Images from the Internet

Strapped for Danger
Directed and edited by Richard Griffin
Scorpio Films Releasing
73 minutes, 2017

So, here’s the thing: I have some film reviews to catch up on, and am even in the middle of one I am enjoying, but I was just given the opportunity to see this newest Richard Griffin film, and my writing world fucking came to a halt. Despite Griffin’s tendency to be extremely prolific by averaging two to three films a year up to this point, for those of us who revel in indies, this is an event to be taken seriously, no matter how ludicrous the premise of the film. As far as the ridiculousness level goes, well, check out the trailer below. Needless to say, I am chomping at the bit, as it were, in a non-S&M innuendo way.

Playwright Duncan Pflaster has come up with a script that sort of crosses a host of genres such as Ocean’s 11 (et al.) and Thelma and Louise (1991) group crime dramady, male stripper and drag queen love stories like Magic Mike (2012) and To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995), in addition to the wild frat houses of Animal House (1978), and then tossed the whole thing over the rainbow of any sense of sanity. But does it all work? Let you know when I’m done…

The basic premise is as follows: Some male strippers rob the club in which they dance, kidnap a copper, and hide out in an accomplice’s ex-fraternity, which happens to be during pledge hell week. While this takes place in Boston, it could be any college as in that city you can just about throw a Trojan and hit one.

Anthony Gaudette
We meet non-exclusive strippers and lovers Joey (Anthony Gaudette) who is the ringleader, and Matt (Diego Guevara), and their pan-sexual-yet-semi-closeted always-in-sunglasses friend Chuck (Dan Mauro) at the Bigg Club, where they work. And apparently where they rob, when they take off with the joint’s money, the customer’s clothes and wallets, and a kidnapped police officer named – of course – Rod (C. Gerlad Murdy).

With Rod’s partner Elaine (Anna Rizzo) in hot (in more ways than one) pursuit, you know it’s all circling around to a confrontation of a possible South-of-the-Border-named-stand-off (see the film to get the joke).

Unlike, say, Magic Mike, the love focus of the story is not boy-meets-girl, but boys-screw-boys, and there are a lot of male genitalia on display. Luckily, I don’t have that cultural thing that many straight guys have where they are put off by others’ peni because they are under the belief it will make others think they are gay. Body parts are body parts, and there’s always Sarah Reed’s nudity in the film to keep anyone else hopefully contented. But the male nipples and naughty bits, as it were, far outnumber the female. 

Diego Guevara
Which brings me to a point that I find quite interesting: as I mentioned Thelma and Louise above, this film is sort of the reverse side of it (and many other “chick flicks” – a term I’m not always comfortable with, by the way), where it’s the men who are the dashing anti-heroes, and the women are those who are obnoxious and overbearing. Please note that I find the idea of this quite amusing. This is the flip of a much more common thread of women good/men bad motif

There is a nice mixture of insane love, real love, and just rubbing against each other to cause sparks. As he has done in previous films such as The Sins of Dracula (2014), Griffin shows straight sex as boring and missionary, but male-with-male as much more exciting. But what makes this all work, honestly, is the level of humor employed. Pflaster’s writing is sharp as a tack, and I found myself laughing often. There’s no great Dickensian comeuppance, though I’m sure they could figure out a way to make that into a suitable innuendo as they do often in the story. However, there are many revelations and a few surprises in store. And my favorite line may actually be an ad lib, spoken by Rizzo, who demands, “What in the raging shits is this?” in a kind of updated Dorothy Parker query.

Speaking of which, let me discuss the cast a bit. Anthony Gaudette can be seen as the – err – straight man, as it were, as he is the one in charge, and he feeds the comic lines to others more than he takes them on himself. In the ‘60s, his character would probably have a name like Colt Steele. With dashing good looks in a pre-chub Ben Affleck kind of way, his has a good handle on who his character is about. Guevara, on the other hand, looks like a cute puppy with a biting wit and some killer dance moves. He makes Matt loveable, yet sharp, and Guevara has the ability to play to both sides well. The chemistry between the two is a large part of what makes this film work so well.

Sarah Reed and Dan Mauro
As for the two main female characters, Rizzo plays a classically hard-boiled, tabacca-chewin’ police officer who feels the unrequited nth degree for her abducted partner. She plays it a bit over the top, which is actually nice to see because she usually plays her parts very subtly and nuanced. As I’ve seen her do some quite serious and heavy roles, it’s nice to see her take a comic, anger-fueled character that if the genders were reversed, might be played by someone like Jack Nicolson or (and this is a stretch) Edgar Kennedy. The lead villain is the hyper-sexualized (i.e., the frat slut) Beverly, handled well by Sarah Reed. With a snort to punctuate the end of each sentence and a Lawng Eyeland-ish accent reminiscent of the Lina Lamont character from 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain and a personality reminiscent of Nancy Spungen, it’s hard to like her (which is the point, of course), yet you can certainly understand what the Chuck character sees in her, as she can be cute beneath the sneer.

Another funny side character is the person running a WonderSpa in one scene, played with gusto by Lee Rush, who only has a few lines and makes the most of it. During that one set piece, Samantha Accampora does a wonderful and silent Sam Peckinpaw-ish slow motion bit. The most sympathetic female character is a lonely quickie mart worker Carol, portrayed by Hannah Heckman-McKenna. I wanted to give her a reassuring hug after her scene.

Anna Rizzo and Johnny Sederquist
But the title of Scene Goniff Supreme by far is Johnny Sederquist’s turn as drag queen Piñata Debris, who makes every scene she is in his own. Even with enough face paint to make Lucille Ball seem bald and the exquisite Lady Bunny possibly blush, Sederquist makes Debris seem both ridiculous and a bit sympatric in a balls-out bitchy way (pun intended). He nails the drag queen persona, I am assuming in part because he actually does drag from time to time. Yeah, I’m a Sederquist fan.

There are the occasional weird moments, like a college student at the frat house calling the library the “lie-berry,” but it’s also part of the film’s charm, actually. But I want to make sure to make a comment on John Mosetich’s cinematography. Some of the shots are stunningly beautiful, such as one of a close-up of Guevara staring at the camera as flower petals fall in slow motion. That was just one of the moments where I verbally said, “wow.”

I haven’t delved much into the story because I don’t want to prejudice the viewer. There is so much that can be discussed that would give away too much of the story, and more importantly the fun. It really is a hysterically funny film going to places that most viewers rarely see. While taking wide swaths with its story direction, it’s actually a very tight film with few locations (as is common with indies). I can’t wait to hear the commentary track once it comes out on DVD. And fans of Griffin films are bound to enjoy a particular cameo that I am sworn to secrecy about. While I’m at it, be sure to watch after the credits.

Compared to most films that deal with the male-on-male milieu, this makes The Rocky Horror Picture Show look like Patton. If it’s not too much of an oxymoron, you might say that this film is a gay comedy that has very broad humor. But you don’t need to be either one to enjoy it, just be glad it’s not in 3D, sit back, and prepare to laugh.

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