Dean Crept and Mike Mattress are two government agents, 'G-men' whom are murdered in an ambush and sent straight to the hot and fiery realm of hell. Dean and Mike manage to escape using a magical dimension traveling crystal to land them back on Earth where they decide to open their own private investigating service, with some stolen money from their killer Buster Lloyd, and soon land a fashionable office space with an attractive and loyal secretary-of-all-trades named Marete. Dean and Mike's first job is to help a mysterious femme fatal named Gloria Lake who fears her wealthy husband is plotting to swindle out of her inheritance. But before that can happen, the husband is murdered, and Dean and Mike are the suspects. With a relentless police detective tailing them, Dean and Mike try to solve the case, while dealing with the Devil's agent who follows them up from hell to bring them back within 46 hours. Written by
An incoherent mess, but somewhat visually attractive at that, and William Forsythe is at least decent, as always
William Forsythe is one of my favorite character actors, so I wanted G-Men from Hell to succeed. In fact, I tried just about everything possible to get into this film, but it just wouldn't work. In the end, it just seemed like one big incoherent, underdeveloped mess, although I felt it earned 3 points for the combination of Forsythe's performance, the odd usage of Gary Busey, the cinematography and the production design.
The story, based on comics by Mike Allred, tells of two FBI agents, Dean Crept (Forsythe) and Mike Mattress (Tate Donovan), who begin the film literally in Hell. Apparently they were corrupt FBI agents, so when they were set up and killed, they ended up in the underworld, which is ruled over by Robert Goulet as the Devil. The Devil transports himself back and forth from the Earth using a crystal (there are later logical problems with this, but that's the least of the film's flaws). Crept and Mattress steal the crystal and attempt to do enough good deeds that they can redeem themselves. They set up shop as private detectives and begin tackling cases. The case shown in this film involves Greydon (Barry Newman) and Gloria Lake (Vanessa Angel), and Greydon's association with Dr. Boifford (David Huddleston), who has been attempting human cloning experiments and lots of esoteric weirdness where he transfers "essences" and such.
Like far too many comic-based films, director Christopher Coppola (Nicolas Cage's brother) and his handful of scriptwriters try to do way too much in 90 minutes. I'm not familiar with the particular Allred comic, Grafik Musik, that served as the basis for the film, but it must have had a relatively lengthy run, or otherwise it must have also been a mess in terms of story. Every time we turn around, there is another character. Most of the characters remain unexplained. Besides the characters mentioned in my summary above, there are three characters who are made to look very similar, including one played by comedian Bobcat Goldthwait (who eventually gets turned into a robot--don't ask, it doesn't make any sense anyway), there is a sentient puppet, there is some other wannabe superhero guy named Cheetah Man, there is a "zombie" from Hell played by comedian Paul Rodriguez, there are a couple women who look similar, there are a couple detectives (including the gay one played by Gary Busey), and so on. All of these characters occasionally pop up throughout the film, say a couple lines, and then leave just as quickly. Little is done to establish who they are, what their relationships are to one another, why they're doing what they're doing, and so on. Occasionally scenes appear to begin and end randomly, and they even seem to be integrated into the film randomly. The characters begin to resemble decorations more than people, as if Coppola had decided to move a bunch of potted plants around his sets and locations.
The basic tonality of the film is a tongue-in-cheek spoof of film noir with a superhero comics attitude. It also has inexplicable elements of sci-fi thrown in and Little Nicky (2000)-styled supernaturalism. The only aspect that even halfway works is the film noir spoof, and that's primarily because Forsythe is so skilled as an actor that it would be difficult for material centered on him to completely fall apart. He's good at droll humor, especially when he gets to play against Busey. It would be nice to see both of them do more material in that vein. The sci-fi stuff needs exposition to work, but even that would be chancy, as too much exposition would have equally killed the film. The Little Nicky-flavored stuff just seems like a horribly lame Saturday Night Live skit gone awry. But the worst element, surprisingly enough, is the superhero stuff. It's about as smoothly integrated into the film as President Bush is smoothly integrated into Iraq. Why did Coppola and crew decide to take something so all over the map and just throw it on the screen? How would this seem like a good idea?
The cinematography, however, is another matter. It often easily matches the most faithful translations of the comic book aesthetic to films, such as the recent Sin City (2005). Coppola orders a majority of shots to be from extreme or oblique angles that exaggerate perspective. The production design matches the aesthetic, with supersaturated combinations of colors, interesting, complex textures and architecture and so on. Why this kind of care couldn't have been put into the script escapes me. On the other hand, if you're prone to dislike CGI, the few very rough computer graphic sequences in this film will surely turn you off.
Still, judging from the reviews on IMDb, at least, some people have enjoyed this film. I suppose if you're a big fan of Allred's work, and you're familiar with Grafik Musik, G-Men from Hell is probably worth seeing, and it should make a bit more sense, if it's supposed to make sense. The climax of the film, wherein the case is solved and the mystery explained, was so convoluted and ridiculous that I have no idea who the killer was supposed to be or what anyone's motivation would have been. For that matter, I was still confused about half of the characters in the scene. But it seemed like it was supposed to be intentionally confusing, and that it was supposed to be funny. Unfortunately I can't say I laughed out loud even once during the film, and neither did I care about the story or the characters.
If you decide to give it a shot, you'll at least be entertained visually, and that includes the presence of a couple extremely attractive women.
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