The Action Mutant…
review by Joe Burrows
You know how you see a film sometimes and you just can’t find the words for what you just saw…
The Plot, as it was:
Oliver Martinez (Unfaithful) stars as Jack (or Shezzyack, as he pronounces it), a French dude that dabbles in bullfighting. One night, his girlfriend Laila (Domenica Cameron-Scorsese) lets her daddy’s bull loose for S’s and G’s and ends up getting gored herself. She tells him to get out of town because her dad, a vicious crime boss named Cordobes (Michael Parks), will hunt him down once she dies. And sure enough, he gets his old bank robber/Elvis enthusiast buddy Jones (Jared Harris) and a bunch of other people to go after him. The only one to help Jack is a religious light show performer named Mary (Michelle Forbes). Before you know it, Jack is having visions of “being chosen” and Mary is to give birth to a messiah named Pumpkin. Oh, and there’s flashbacks, visions, on screen comic book captions, more visions, a priest that appears as a medieval knight (Willem Dafoe) and MORE VISIONS! If you’re following all of this, check yourself into the nearest mental establishment for evaluation.
Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
To paraphrase David Spade’s thoughts of Scorsese’s Casino as it applies to Bullfighter: “Bullfighter? Bullshit! And I liked it better when it was called El Mariachi!” Indeed, Bullfighter is one of those hyper arty Indie/Action films that tries really hard to be comparable to the Robert Rodriguez trendsetter but ends up being nothing more than a pretentious rip-off. All of the elements are there: mysterious ethnic hero w/mumbling accent, angelic muse, disturbed crime boss, gimmicky killers, an almost mythic story base, etc. The difference: It’s so incomprehensible and badly edited that there’s no way to tell what the film’s motives are. Danish director Rune Bendixen employs a lot of flashy camera work and atmosphere but it gets too showy, with a frequent example being the transitioning of scenes. The last image of the present scene and the first image of the upcoming scene inter-cut three times, which proves to be really annoying and distracting after the 3rd time or so (Note: I realize the same device was used in Easy Rider but…this is NO Easy Rider!). The revenge fantasy would have just made this a somewhat competent action fare but the inclusion of all of the holy imagery and done-to-death Messiah story just smacks of pretension and lack of fresh ideas. Martinez and Forbes actually work well off of each other but everyone else is all over the map, mainly because of the odd material. Parks does his usual slow burn and Harris hams up the Elvis angle like you would expect. Dafoe’s role is, at best, a 2-3 minute cameo that ends up looking pretty embarrassing by the end. Hell, even Rodriguez himself shows up as one of the hitmen in the big town shoot up. Obviously, the man is all for supporting Indie projects but he could prove to be more selective in the future if Bullfighter is any indication.
Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Guillermo Del Toro (director of Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone) is one of the killers.
- L.M. Kit Carson (David Holzman’s Diary, CQ) appears very briefly as “Country Bob”.
Body Count/Violence: 12. Though not as bloodthirsty as El Mariachi or Desperado, Bullfighter has its moments of bloody gunplay. There’s also death by rocket launcher, building collapse, asphyxiation, bull goring and an ingenious spot involving Jack shooting lye out of a leaf blower to poison two guys.
Language/Dialogue: Mild to strong and that’s that.
How bad was it?:
Incoherent. Blatant rip off. Tiresome. Incomprehensible. These words are staples of the reviews for Bullfighter, who really couldn’t make heads or tails of this goofiness. The same thing goes for the fan feedback.
Did it make the studio’s day?:
Carson’s production company MainPix co-produced the film with Scanbox Entertainment and Gilmartin Film in Texas in 2000. It never got a U.S. theater release and sat on the shelf until 2005, when Screen Media released it on DVD on 1/4/05. No record of the budget or take for the film.
Entertainment value: **1/2/*****
Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.