Saturday, July 29, 2017

Crime Zone

Luis Llosa is perhaps Roger Corman’s least talked-about “find.” The Peruvian filmmaker followed this Concorde theatrical release to Hollywood, where he directed SNIPER, THE SPECIALIST, and ANACONDA with major stars.

Corman produced this cheap sci-fi action movie in Lima with top-billed David Carradine, who appears to have put more thought into his performance than he usually did at this point in his exploitation-movie career. The real stars, though, are Peter Nelson, formerly on THE PAPER CHASE, and Sherilyn Fenn (TWO MOON JUNCTION), who landed the role of Audrey Horne on TWIN PEAKS not long after CRIME ZONE opened in theaters. I’m guessing David Lynch wasn’t there opening night.

In the oppressive future, martial law has made major crimes almost extinct. It goes without saying that the government’s totalitarian reign has also mostly wiped out freedom and joy for the 99%. So much so that ex-cop Bone (Nelson) and hooker Helen (Fenn) want to escape to a legendary city where rule is more democratic. Shady Jason (Carradine) offers them the chance to join the 1%, but only if they perform a series of robberies for him first. Jason turns out to have a hidden motive for his recruitment of the two lovers, but it’s doubtful you’ll wait around long enough to discover what it is. It’s dumb anyway.

Murkily lensed by Cusi Barrio (HEROES STAND ALONE), CRIME ZONE is hard to see and hard to sit through, jammed with limited actors emoting on cheap sets. Corman produced it in Peru to take advantage of favorable exchange rates, not the exotic locations. Even the exterior scenes are shot on dark soundstages blandly decorated in smoke and neon. Scripter Daryl Haney (LORDS OF THE DEEP), who was both starring in and writing films for Concorde, created a dystopian world with few consistent rules, which makes it hard to care about what happens to the people who live in it.

On that note, the actors also make it difficult to care about their characters. Carradine is cagey and interesting, but Nelson is a boring dunce, Fenn is fiery but unlikable (though striking as a blonde), and Michael Shaner as Bone’s best pal is the same obnoxious dolt he was in other Corman features. Llosa directed three films for Corman and produced several others before getting his big break on SNIPER. He later returned to producing television shows in Peru.

CRIME ZONE stinks, but anyone who is drawn to see it because of its amazing poster gets a free pass from me.

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