Saturday, March 28, 2009


The Action Mutant…
brings to you Montezuma’s Revenge…in type form.

Downtown (1990)

review by Joe Burrows

(Editor Note: I haven’t been reviewing for a while. Simply got burned out on the whole thing. I don’t know frequent these will be from here on out but I will try to make an effort to get some new content out. As I started writing the perspective on this a few months back, I decided to make it into sort of a mini journal entry. Just like on a very special Blossom!)

January, 21, 2009
Your fellow AM went to see The Wrestler last week, in one of only four theaters it was playing in the Maryland area. You know, when you say your film is going into wide release, you may want to define exactly what that means because I don’t consider 144 theaters nationwide a wide release. So, off to Harbor East Landmark in downtown Baltimore I went, where the ticket price was $10.50 & the advertised “validated parking” was nowhere in sight. And yet, the movie started & I could have cared less about all of that. The Wrestler just plain rocked from a dramatic standpoint (though I thought the scenes with “Randy the Ram” dealing with his daughter were a little out of place in comparison to the rest of the flick) & a “wrestling nerd picking out all of the details” standpoint. I won’t go into how The Rourke deserves all of the accolades for his performance because that would just be reiterating the obvious.

January 25, 2009
Just got to the news about Rourke laying down his plans for Wrestlemania XXV. Guess he’s fucked out of his Oscar now, I suspect. The Academy was probably secretly waiting for him to slip up somehow because as much as they like redemption stories, they like them better when the board gets exclusively sucked up to. Doing any business with Vince McMahon is probably worse than slipping into a booze filled rampage in their eyes, as I can imagine they don’t want the terms “WWE” and “Oscar” anywhere near each other. Screw the Oscars anyway; I tuned out completely after Benigni did cartwheels in the aisles & I realized none of this political glad-handing would ever clock in less than four hours. Funny thing is that the WWE wanted nothing to do with The Wrestler (with it portraying the business as…well, sordid) but decided to clasp itself to its bandwagon once the awards started rolling in. Vince McMahon…media whore.

February 22, 2009
The Oscars have come and gone. I didn’t watch the entire boring spectacle, though I saw that bizarre Hugh Jackman musical number & James Franco verbally put Necro Butcher over on national TV. As I guessed, Rourke didn’t win for Best Actor which is just as well because those old codgers rarely pick the best choice anyway. Maybe they were trying to show how progressive they were by having Sean Penn win for portraying one of those “fancy lads”. Finally, Hollywood picks up the ball when it is dropped by real life politicians (and the voting public)! Sorry, but you can’t tell me that more went into a singular performance this year than did Rourke’s in The Wrestler (though I’m sure Penn calling the Academy “commie, homo loving, sons of guns” made them cringe a little deep down inside). Oh well, back to 1985 for me.

The Plot, as it was:
Anthony Edwards stars as Alex Kearney, a cop that works the streets of an affluent Philadelphia suburb. A choice run-in with local bigwig Jerome Sweet (David Clennon) leads to Kearney getting a one way ticket for his punishment: to the Diamond Street precinct, Philly’s roughest police district (it’s worst than Beirut, apparently). And wouldn’t you know it, Alex get paired up with the sourest hardass on the force: Det. Dennis Curren (Forest Whitaker). When Kearney’s former partner Mickey (Rick Aiello) is murdered, the two partners-at-odds must attempt to find to killer & find the link between the murder & a car smuggling ring. Will Kearney & Curren be at each other’s throats because of their differing backgrounds? Will they bond only after beating each other senseless? Can you figure out who will be behind the smuggling ring? Must you ask?

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
In the pantheon of Cop/Buddy teams, Edwards & Whitaker are no Nolte & Murphy. They’re no Gibson & Glover. They’re not even Treat Williams & Joe Piscopo! They might be somewhere slightly ahead of Turner & Hooch, though. Perhaps I’m being too harsh; especially in remembering the old phrase “You’re only as good as your material”. Some actors have experiences like this & in the case of Downtown scribe Nat Mauldin, he must not have wanted his actors to be very good. The guy obviously blasted through his cliché rolodex in making this pic, as they are laid on thickly even for a normal genre entry (quick inquiry: Who do you think had the cliché rolodex first…Joel Silver or Simpson/Bruckheimer?). You get the condescending insults, thinly veiled racism (though it’s against a white guy, so its ok…), conflicts over police procedure, befriending of the hardass’s family (those moments SO wanted to be like Lethal Weapon) and the inevitable “bonding fight”. Even Art Evans shows up as the police chief who’s loud enough to put Frank McRae to shame & spouts enough profanity for five Joe Pescis! Many times, Downtown comes off like the most profane pilot for a Cop/Buddy TV comedy, both in look & setup. And quality. Much like signing up Michael Jordan to your basketball team only to have him take part in a few practices, a production team would have totally lucked into having the two leads in this film if it were made today. The sad part is Whitaker & Edwards didn’t have as much award cred to them at the time as they would go on to have…and they still come off as slumming here! Edwards is serviceable with material that doesn’t go past “I like Beach Boys music and I dress like a nerd” and Whitaker does well with raising his material past having to bully the white guy & acting pissed off (might not have needed much motivation…). The only other semi-memorable performance is Joe Pantaliano making for a pretty spooky psycho, though that’s like asking Van Gogh to paint something passable. Unfortunately, the film is an Action/Comedy that’s not big enough on action or fun enough to sit through (ok, the punchline to the “wrath of God” speech made me chuckle). In order to get to the “big twist” at the end (which isn’t that big) & the requisite final shootout, you may need to turn off the sectors of your brain that process logic & political correctness. Oh, and a pot of coffee or four wouldn’t hurt.

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Glenn Plummer (Speed, Showgirls) is Valentine.

Body Count/Violence: 8. Until the obligatory “high noon” shootout, there isn’t much going on in Downtown action-wise. Along with occasional gunplay, there’s some beating, a slit throat and a car chase or two. Things get bloodier in the final scenes, including one doozy of a dispatching of one of the main villains. Let’s just say this one is gorier and more elaborate than when the same implement was used in Fargo.

Sexuality/Nudity: Kearney is stripped of his uniform by a large Mexican brood but nothing’s really shown....other than Edwards's skinny, white ass.

Language/Dialogue: Plenty of profanity, especially when the venerable Art Evans speaks about…well, anything (“Every backward, candy-ass, shit-for-brains fuck-up in the city, I get 'em!”).

How bad was it?:
Seeing as Downtown wasn’t very widely seen in its initial release (or since), there aren’t many reviews on it. That may be a good thing, considering that all of the reviews I picked up were as negative as could possibly be. My favorite review line: “The film was about as much fun as having your car stolen.” Unfortunately, I don’t think Cronenberg will be chronicling that fetish anytime soon.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Despite being a 20th Century Fox release, Downtown didn’t see much of anything in its dismal box-office history. Released in only 349 theaters on 1/12/90, the film only grossed $821,626 its opening weekend, good enough for 16th place behind newbies Internal Affairs, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and Ski Patrol (in the tradition of Hot Dog…The Movie…). It limped to a final gross of $2.3 million (no budget numbers available) & would end popping up on the FOX network a few times in the mid-90s. You can find it on Encore occasionally every few months but skip to the end because…well, that death…boy… whoo!

Film: *1/2/*****
Entertainment value: ***/*****

Copyright 2009 The Action Mutant.