Shoot the Hero (2010)

reviewed by
Jerry Saravia

Reviewed by Jerry Saravia
RATING: One star and a half (D+)

Aping Tarantino crime pictures with oodles of self-congratulatory and self-aware irony has become such a cliche that any movie that tries it seems like it is shooting itself in the foot. Granted, there have been exceptions to the rule ("Things To Do in Denver When You're Dead" parades on irony but it was mildly exciting and its screenplay had been written long before Tarantino came into the picture). When another filmmaker tries to do a pseudo-hip-hop version of Tarantino, it becomes a cartoon that evaporates rather than percolates. Christian Sesma's "Shoot the Hero!" has a tinge more potential than it lets on but it lacks two crucial departments: wit and jeopardy.

When you watched "Pulp Fiction" or "Reservoir Dogs," you saw an alternate universe devoid of grittiness - it was a cartoon land of pulpy extremes with characters designed to live by their rules in their own moral (or lack thereof) universe. What made the world unique was Tarantino's engaging, ironic wordplay, his energetic direction, and his dynamic visual sense that gave the work potency. Also, the characters were big personalities that found themselves in dangerous situations beyond their control. Writer-director Christian Sesma aims for the ironic wordplay but almost no visual sense or big, colorful personalities or enough sense of jeopardy.

Take Nate (Jason Mewes, in an odd bit of casting), the nerdy guy who loves video games and DVD's but barely has enough money to buy an engagement ring for his bitchy girlfriend, Kate (Samantha Lockwood). He takes his girlfriend blindfolded to a jewerly store that is already closed for the evening. The owner lets him in, and suddenly a robbery is taking place. A double-cross ensues between the robbers while the unhappy couple bicker, hidden behind a jewerly case. Eventually, Nate proves his worth and knocks out one robber unconscious. The girlfriend is amazed. End of the first bit of narrative. Only problem here is Mewes is not believable; as a nerd, yes, but not as a fighter. The girlfriend is shrill. The robbery is shot with a far too shaky hand- held camera while a shooting takes place yet our eye has no idea where to focus.

The next narrative thread deals with the Smith Brothers. They are walking in the desert at night with two garbage bags filled with dirty laundry! Sound familiar? They come across some mercernaries who are partaking in a training session that involves guns a'blazin. The whole scene of the shooting drill lasts an eternity. The Smith Brothers leave their garbage bags out in the open while hiding and witnessing this drill. Cigar-chomping Fred Williamson shows up and what appears to be a semi-extended homage to the Gimp sequence from "Pulp Fiction" becomes so protracted that I lost interest. Nothing much happens except there is a quick getaway in a motorbike, and the brothers find themselves in the backseat of a car driven by...Nate and Kate! And then there is another shootout involving the Cleaners where so many bullets are fired yet so few seem to hit anyone. If you can't figure out by the three-quarter mark who the cleaners, by the way, consider the fact that we only see a handful of characters in this movie who bump into each other in conveniently movie-movie terms.

It is fun watching Danny Trejo as Crazy Joe, the big boss who is behind the failed jewelry heist. I also enjoy Nick Turturro as a hotheaded robber and Fred Williamson simply makes me smile. But the movie is shot in a slipshod manner with a camera that can hardly stay fixated on one single character long enough before you start wishing for the days of controlled hand-held camerawork from 1992's "Laws of Gravity." The camera is strangely too far away during some long dialogue sequences and sometimes it is behind a character's head (as in the car scene with Nate and Kate), especially in long shots or long takes where the characters' mouths and/or gestures clearly do not match the dialogue we hear.

"Shoot the Hero!" is one long, repetitive and drawn-out homage to "Pulp Fiction" and to anything by Robert Rodriguez (Sesma was inspired to become a filmmaker after seeing "El Mariachi") but it doesn't surprise us with anything we haven't seen a million times before. I admire some of the intentions of Sesma but he needs to write better script or he'll be thought of as a Tarantino or Rodriguez wannabe.

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