Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Time to Die (1991)

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Tagline:

A time to fight or a time to die.

Back of DVD:

Traci Lords (Cry Baby, Not Of This Earth) is freelance photographer ackie Swanson, whose only desire is to make enough money to keep custody of her five-year-old boy.

After she is hired by the police to help their public image, Jackie takes one picture too many. Now she holds the only physical evidence to a police murder cover-up.

As her life is threatened, she doesn't run or hide, she searches for justice. But when the police use her little boy to get to her, Jackie trades in her 35mm camera for a 45-magnum.

She learns that the time to fight is not the TIME TO DIE.

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Movie Review:

The cover to this DVD makes it look far more exciting and explosive than it really is. This is no Explosive Action movie. It's more of a thriller with a little bit of gunfire thrown in, acted out by a former porn star. And no she doesn't get her kit off. Traci Lords made the transition from XXX to DTV over only six years. She was Penthouse Pet September 1984, two years before she was even legal (a story in itself), got a lead in the remake of Not Of This Earth, appeared as a regular on Melrose Place and became the lead feature in a few PM Entertainment productions - one of which is A Time to Die.

It starts off interesting. A couple of sleazy dealer types in suits are drinking on a roof top waiting for a buyer for their weapons merchandise. The buyer finally shows up and is shown the wears, but at the same time some punk kid is screwing around with the dealer's car down on the street. The kid is told to leave his car alone but doesn't listen so the guy shoots him with his pistol from five stories up (great scream) and the buyer runs off without paying. The cops arrive at the scene but are only interested in the body on the car and don't even realise there are two armed guys on the roof until one starts shooting at them. Traci is present and taking photos of the dead kid (she's a reporter/photographer type). One of the cops is shot next to her but she goes on taking photos - dedication right there. Detective Frank (Jeff Conaway) arrives at the scene, tells Traci to stay out of it and sneaks up stairs to get the shooters. Frank orders their surrender hilariously ("GIVE UP.. OR DIE!") and shoots one of the guys. As the other guy goes for his gun, Traci appears from behind and kicks the poor guy in the balls! Youch!

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To show his appreciation Frank takes Traci for a 'cup of tea'. I thought this was funny itself. It's an early 90's American action movie and the cop drinks tea. If I've learnt anything from American bad acton movies is that cops drink filthy black coffee from a percolator and not much else. Perhaps I should have taken this as a sign of things to come, because aside from a few scenes here and there, most of the action has subsided. I had some reassurance later when we are introduced to Traci's parole officer/police Captain who is straight out of the "around here we go by the book" school of Captaining, but it was short lived. Traci tells Frank her life story over tea (married, one kid) but this is partially a lie. At 3.30am she calls her ex-husband on the phone who has custody of her son and says she wants to see him but under the terms of the custody she is not allowed to. So Traci is a girl with a past that we see through various flashbacks as the movie goes on. During a photo shoot the police raid her studio and find cocaine which Traci claims belongs to the model, but as the model denies everything Traci gets her motherhood rights stripped and has to do community service photography for the police to try and improve their image.

The real bad stuff in this movie is the family scenes with Traci, her ex-husband, her kid and the ex's new girl. Painful stuff indeed, though some of the lines are unintentionally hilarious. Far too much "I love you mommy" going on and montages through a soft focus lens in A Time to Die and not enough explosions, though the kid making a typical kids breakfast when left unintended was a cute moment (milk with 90% chocolate sauce in it, etc.). Some other funny stuff is delivered by the cop Frank as he does his beat. He takes Traci along on a regular disturbance of the peace call and we get to see two lesbian lovers having a tiff that escalates into a hysterical sword fight! Frank has seen the two do this dozens of times before so just let's it go with a smile.

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Traci admits to Frank that she is actually divorced and has lost her kid. Then the two go on a wholesome date to the shooting gallery where Frank 'assists' Traci in shooting her gun. This of course leads to sex by an open fire and I started to groan in annoyance even more as to where this movie was going. Anyway she kicks him out of her house after doing the deed to which he responds "I am a cop.. but I'm a HUMAN BEING FIRST." I died a little. The next day Frank buys Traci a present - her own gun. Jesus Christ, is this just how things are done in America or is it too much to expect he give her flowers? I kind of like our "no guns" rule here in Australia.

Things get a little more interesting the next evening at their second date. Frank waits at the bar and gets talking with an old colleague of his, another cop Eddie (Robert Miano). He's a bit of a sleaze playing around with a hooker at the bar, and when Traci arrives she tries not to catch his eye. It's revealed through more flashbacks that Eddie was the cop that arrested her on the drug charges so she makes her excuses and leaves. Eddie also leaves with the girl and Traci decides to follow him in the hope of getting some photographs she could use to blackmail him. He drops her stoned arse off at the brothel and immediately her pimp comes storming in looking for "Sunshine". Half hysterical the pimp can't find Sunshine and looks for her in the back alley, but awaiting for him is Eddie with his high beams on and Traci in the shadows. Eddie blows the pimp away and Traci get the photo evidence but she unfortunately also makes her presence known and we finally get a car chase with a crash and explosion. This is 50 minutes into the movie mind you, and I'm starting to yawn.

The rest of the movie is Eddie trying to get Traci and the negatives from the photos she took of the murder, with a twist thrown in with Frank for good measure. That's another 40 minutes though with only the last 10 being any real good. It's just all too tedious with far too much Bold and the Beautiful shit going on that I couldn't care less about. Blow more things up for christ's sake. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for a mostly action-less thriller? I don't think I'll be compelled to revisit this any time soon to find out.

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The Video:

A clear enough presentation for a PM Entertainment DTV film from the early 90's. Pretty standard stuff; dark city streets, overly bright interiors. The audio is okay but a bit shoddy in some places where a boom microphone clearly wasn't used, like the scenes in her cavernous house. Runtime 89 minutes.

Trailer:

More Screens:

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5 comments:

  1. Yeah some Americans are pretty big on guns, mostly the Repulicans who REALLY take "Right to bare arms" Amendment to heart, you guys don't really have to worry about street gangs as much we do in the U.S. Anyways this still sounds like a pretty decent film, but if you want a Tracii Lords film with more action, then i'd suggest you check out Intent To Kill or Epicenter.

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  2. I have both Intent to Kill and Epicenter, it was a toss up which one I would review first. I'll make Intent to Kill the next Lords movie I watch.

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  3. I love Traci's kid in this movie! he is so happy and loves to play with his action figures! "I'm gonna smush you!"

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  4. I've been making my way through the PM Entertainment catalog myself, and it can be a crap shoot, because you never know if you've stepped into a thriller instead of an action film, especially since the trailers always show the action. I may still get after this one, though.

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  5. Oh yeh it's still worth a watch and perhaps I was a tad harsh on it, but I did expect more action from it. Really wish PM were still around.

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