Charming Love Story about a Serial Killer, Some Car Thieves, and a Murderous Restaurateur
I watched this movie the other night with some friends in an online movie-and-chat room, and we all enjoyed it immensely. Although it is not unusual for the chatters to riff on the mostly low-budget movies we watch, not one negative word was said about this one. The main characters are a sadistic serial killer who likes to spout poetry and crackpot philosophy while he's raping and torturing his female victims, a couple of lady car thieves, and a soft-spoken restaurant owner whose wife was killed by a carjacker and who has made it his mission in life to kill every car thief who crosses his path. In most movies, viewers would have difficulty identifying with such basically unsympathetic characters, but the genius of this movie is that all of the characters, with the exception of the serial killer, come across as genuine, almost likable, human beings despite their obvious shortcomings.
Despite the low budget and mostly no-name cast, this film has the look and feel of a Hollywood movie. There is none of the amateurishness that so soften characterizes independently made movies. The acting, writing, direction, and camera work are all thoroughly professional. The acting, especially, is first rate. The one name actor, Lou Wagner (best known for his role as Lucius in several "Planet of the Apes" movies), steals every scene he's in as the shady car dealer who fences the automobiles stolen by the ladies. Ken Del Conte, who also co-produced, breathes life into the character of Greek restaurant owner Shandor Costas and transforms what could have been a completely unsympathetic character into someone you almost find yourself rooting for. Robert Balderson is deliciously creepy as the serial killer Lyle, and LoriDawn Messuri is excellent as the coke-snorting car thief Tess.
The story itself is about how the seemingly disparate lives of Shandor, Lyle, and Tess come to intersect in complex and interesting ways. It's a violent film -- the body count by my calculations was ten humans and one squirrel -- and the scenes that take place in the serial killer's lair are definitely not for the squeamish. Nonetheless, it is not a grim or depressing film, but rather at heart a love story -- a decidedly offbeat love story, to be sure. There are a couple of very imaginative dream sequences and a wonderful twist ending that left me with a smile on my face. Although completely unexpected, the surprise ending is totally understandable in the context of what has come before.
It is a shame that this film did not achieve wider release. It is well worth watching.
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