Don't ever trust the law.
Talking with a work colleague the other day I postulated that there are three tiers of action hero: A-level stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Bruce Willis. B-level stars like Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Wesley Snipes and Steve Austin. Sometimes A and B level stars mix - B-level stars may have had prolific A-level careers in the early days, and A-level stars may take a pay dive every so often to appear in something smaller. But then there are the C-level action stars who never really get above their stature, rarely invited to play with the big boys. I can't think of two actors that epitomise this more fully than Don "The Dragon" Wilson and Olivier Gruner. Perhaps we'll allow Billy Blanks to the party as well; bless him and his Tae Bo.
When I tell my friends what movies I watch on the weekend for this blog I usually get looks of puzzlement. This would definitely be one of those movies that would result in head scratching from anybody I tried to explain it to. Nobody in regular film-going circles knows who Don or Olivier are but I got real excited when I found that they were both in the same movie. Not only that, but stars from the past like Fred Williamson, Gary Busey and hell even Martin Kove were in this as well! That's solid direct-to-video action gold on paper... but in practice?
In short, not really. The basic plot of Crooked sees Fred Williamson in a glorified cameo role along with another detective protecting a snitch in a hotel. While the two play cards the snitch orders in some prostitutes (unusual for protective custody, but there you go). One of the girls freaks out and decides to wait in the bathroom while the other gets on with the job. That's when the cops are attacked by assailants known to the snitch and are killed. That's right Williamson is already out of the picture and we are ten minutes in. The snitch is killed after revealing he has money hidden in a locker but has lost the key. The girl waiting in the bathroom, Angel (Diana Kauffman) finds the key on the floor and makes a run for it.
Detectives Danny Tyler (Wilson) and Phil Yordan (Gruner) arrive on the scene and it's obvious the two don't get along. Gary Busey as Chief John Rouse, who spends the movie with crooked glasses and talking into his lapel.. actually maybe that's why the movie is called Crooked?.. thinks it's a great idea to pair this mis-matched couple of detectives up to find the missing Angel and protect her from the killers still on the loose. Martin Kove as Jake Lawlor spends the movie standing in hallways drinking coffee, until the final act when he finally picks up a weapon.
So you can see already it's a Don and Olivier vehicle and everyone else is just along for the ride. It could still work, right? Eh, sort of. The production values here are pretty bad; think early 2000's Seagal DTV movies as he was making his transition from silver screen to small screen. Bad lines, bad delivery, bad acting, bad shaky cameras, bad stock sound footage. The shaky cam was so bad at some points that the two cups of tea I had just had felt like coming back up again. IMDB says the budget was 2.5m. That's pretty low in this day and age and it shows, quite badly. At least a car gets blown up, that's a good use of the budget.
Danny, Phil and Angel stay on the move throughout the movie and whenever they stop they are eventually attacked. This leads Gary Busey to believe there is a leak among his team and he keeps a "close eye" on them. Martin Kove continues to stand in hallways. Olivier and Don try their best to be the new Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee in Showdown in Little Tokyo mis-matched buttoned-down cop and get's-the-job-done cop, but there is very little chemistry between them and the lines they are given to recite don't help. Phil in one scene tells Angel to her face that she is a "fucking whore" and in the next scene buys her lunch. This needed a better writer.
Enough of that crap, how's the action? Mediocre for the most, but Olivier and Don still bring the swinging high-kicks to the table which is good. Don brings his angry fight-face a few times which is outstanding and easily the best parts of the film. Some of the fights (there are a few) aren't too bad but again they suffer from being zoomed in too much with shaky cam and off putting generic punch, kick and firing sounds. The shootouts are quite average and at one point one of the thugs that attacks Don looks like a bum off the street, complete with beanie and grey beard. At least the picture from the cover with Olivier firing two pistols cross-arms actually occurs, which is more than can be said for most DTV action covers. There's a totally inappropriate dual sex scene that borders on soft-core between Phil and his wife and Danny and Angel. If you ever wanted to see Olivier Gruner in a foamy bath with a girl who has breasts the size of watermelons, Crooked is for you.
It sounds like I hated this movie; not so. I was entertained and didn't fall asleep. I just expected more from the cast but for that, in this case, I am blaming the crew and to a lesser extent the budget. Actors can only work with what they are given and what they are given here, for the most part, is bland and unfulfilling. Worth a rental or 99c pickup, but keep your expectations low.
Nothing to write home about but a good enough widescreen picture on the R1 disc (under the title Crooked). The sound is fine except for the obvious budget issues that's caused by bad microphones. Runtime around 90 minutes.
eBay for 99c.