Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Cinema File #38: "Poolboy - Drowning Out The Fury" Review

Not sure if this counts as a third superhero review, but for my money, Kevin Sorbo kicks ass with or without a cape.

A little while ago I reviewed a movie called FDR: American Badass, which based on every other movie I've seen that tries to win me over with a goofy title, I expected to suck incredible amounts of ass. To my surprise and appreciation, the film was in fact quite good, a madcap throwback to the Zucker/Abrams movies of my youth with a filthy South Parkian edge, and it even held up upon an initial re-watch. It was so good in fact, that I decided to do a little research and find out what other movies this studio and this writer have made, to see if there were any other hidden gems I'd missed out on. In my search, I discovered that the actor who played my least favorite character in FDR was actually the writer, and had written at least one other movie that I had immediate access to via Netflix streaming, which is the subject of today's review.

Poolboy: Drowning Out The Fury is a fake lost classic from 1990, supposedly never released until now, complete with color commentary from the insane eye-patch wearing director St. James St. James. The film within the film, a sequel to a fake film that was never fake released, follows a grizzled Vietnam vet (played by Kevin Sorbo playing actor Jan Van Hammer, playing Poolboy) who returns to America with a dream of starting a pool cleaning business, only to find that the Mexicans have taken over the industry, forcing him to take bloody justice into his own hands. If you've ever seen the British series Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, its basically the same idea, only using the purposely bad production to poke fun at action movies from the 80's and 90's instead of horror television. On that note, the movie is set up much like FDR: American Badass in terms of intentionally bad sets and special effects, though now done for a story specific reason, with actors being so bad that they continually read their stage directions as dialogue by accident.

While I liked the concept as much as I did in Darkplace, I do have to admit that it wore a bit thin here, though that might just be because so much of it was tied to the constant interludes from the fake director/actual writer, who puts on a character that, much like his southern gentleman in FDR, is not nearly as funny as he seems to think it is. That's not to say it is completely unfunny, though this seems to be a trend with these movies, where no filter seems to exist and everything is thrown out against the wall to see what sticks, and sometimes it goes so fast that it feels like they didn't have time to check with anyone to make sure they were still being funny. There were moments like that in FDR as well, but they were fewer and farther between all the good stuff, whereas here, several running gags fall flat and then just keep going, like the director's weirdly vacant assistant, or the sex scenes forced in later by the studio, which was a funny idea, but just went on so much longer than it had to and, like the scene with FDR's son shitting in a flower pot, just descended into crass nonsense.

And yet, also like FDR, there's a lot of good in here too. Poolboy's best friend, the disembodied arm of a fellow soldier, made me laugh even if it was a joke they brought back maybe one too many times, and the send up of cheesy Reb Brown style action movies was more spot on than it was off the mark. The fight scene between a skimmer wielding Poolboy and a gang of Mexican rival cleaners is chock full of awesome action movie silliness, and once again Kevin Sorbo steps up to the plate and makes me completely re-evaluate my writing him off as an actor for a couple of 90's shows I didn't like. I would have liked to see more of Jason Mewes, who gets fourth billing on the cast list but only shows up in the last few minutes for a cameo. The conceit of why his character is in the film is hilarious, but it also means he disappears rather quickly.

It should be noted that a lot of the humor here is very racially insensitive, however unlike the misogyny of FDR that made me groan every time, here, at least for me, its so over the top that it never comes off as mean spirited. Obviously, not being a member of the racial group getting the brunt of the jokes lobbed at them, that's a very easy thing for me to say, but there is a line that even I can recognize where I would feel uncomfortable watching and wouldn't want to laugh as a result, and Poolboy never quite crossed it as far as I'm concerned. Because those jokes are part of the general send up of the thick headed jingoistic mindset that goes into so many of these kinds of action movies, it always springs back as a satire of those who might genuinely hold those views, even if its never explicitly made clear that that's the point.

If you tracked down FDR upon my recommendation and liked it as much as I did, or even if this just sounds like your kinda comedy, its a pretty safe bet that Poolboy is a movie for you. Forgive it it's excesses and embrace the good as well as the bad, and you should be in for a fun night. And again, its on Netflix streaming, so you don't even have to go to the damn store to get it.

Have fun guys.
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