Case Number 02747: Small Claims Court

ASUNDER

Dimension Films // 1998 // 103 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // March 27th, 2003

The Charge

What God has joined together, let no man put...out on DVD?

The Case

Some days, it just doesn't pay to visit Knotts Berry Farm. When Chance Williams and his pregnant wife agree to spend the day with their best friends, Lauren and Michael Hubbs, little did they know it meant hanging out and from various attractions at the local county fair. After a freak Ferris wheel accident (are there any other kind?), Chance is left spouse and spawn less. And this really brings out his inner nutcase. Feeling guiltier than the "real" killers in the OJ case, the hapless Hubbs invite Chance to stay in their should-have-been-Willy-Tyler-and-Lester's crib where he proceeds to brood all over everything. Not that his host and hostess make life in their palatial love shack that inviting. Seems they are permanently pissed at each other for having extramarital monkeyshines: Mike with some wanton woman and Lauren with -- you guessed it -- our main mourning man Chance. Trouble is, she thought it was just meaningless sex. Our obsessed stalker type treats it like it was a rent-to-own contract for living room furniture. When hubby gets the hint that Chance may be once again trying to take one with his little lady, he shows him the door. A few Adrian Lyne inspired scenes later and the wacko weasel returns with a bad blond dye job and a butcher knife. Seems he thinks the baby in the now pregnant Lauren's belly is his, and wants the "family" he lost on that balmy amusement park evening back, pronto. And if they don't acquiesce, he about to be going all Asunder on they asses!

C&C Music Factory, that should-have-been-a-no-hit-wonder group made up of DJs, models, and people unpleasantly obsessed with personal fitness offered an apropos musical bon mot for Asunder with a song entitled "Things that Make You Go Hmmm..." (and no, they were not addressing why they had any manner of cult of personality). Modified to fit this dismal dung dullness, one could very easily find themselves humming a lyrically tweaked "Films that Make You Ask Why...?" as in why was this movie made? Why did they think that a stogy, tired, nothing new to offer spin on the obsessive, Glenn Close inspired Fatal Instinct slasher flick would somehow work dressed up in male African American garb? Why would Blair Underwood, usually dependable to bring pride and power to his performances, lower his standards to run around in a bad conked blond mat of Jheri curls buck-naked? Why does his character stand in front of a wall of photos pining away for a woman who wants nothing to do with him? Why is his lead loony named Chance? Why would Tim Reid, AKA the director behind the critically acclaimed Once Upon a Time...When We Were Colored, AKA Simon and Simon's Downtown Brown, AKA WKRP's wildly funky Venus Flytrap, revert to making a cheap faux erotic thriller and then take out all the sex and killing? And most importantly, why does it take one hundred and three tedious minutes to make its should-have-been-over-in-eighty point? What we have here basically is an angry widower taking out his lack of a loving family on the people he blames for their death. Fine, we can live with this. But to throw all the adultery and mixed sexual messages at the screen doesn't make Asunder any more sensual, thrilling, or scary. It's plodding, incoherent, and even mean-spirited at times (exactly what is the legal limit to how much rough physical abuse an expectant mother can or should endure?).

Maybe Asunder could have worked had Reid decided to out-craven Wes and turn this decidedly weak revamp of the whole Hand the Raked the Sidewalk style of movie mucus into a racy, randy nod to the blaxploitation action movies of the '70s. Casting Rudy Ray Moore or Fred Williamson in any one of the key roles would have given this turgid tripe a much-needed kick in the camera lens. As it stands, Underwood is awful, just working through the canon of better bonkers bad guys to achieve a kind of Zen psycho in a coma. One thing your insane knife-wielding movie maniac should not be is laconic. Debbi Morgan looks like she's in constant pain (must be from those hideously unattractive dreds she wears) and Michael Beach seems like he's auditioning for the lead in the Oran "Juice" Jones bio-pic ("I saw you -- and HIM -- acting in this crap"). Maybe the film fails to work for purely cultural reasons. For decades, black comedians have made a mint mocking the sad human targets hanging out at Camp Crystal Lake or near Freddy's Elm Street address. They all argued that an African American protagonist would either be smart enough to haul ass out of danger's dagger or kick some serious psycho booty upon the first inkling of trouble. Well, apparently all that talk was for the sake of a snicker, because the characters in Asunder do all the same stupid shi...izzle that Caucasian clowns do when confronted with potential peril: they walk right into it, jugular and delicate vital organs exposed. Asunder is no better, and a lot worse, than many perilous passion plays selling themselves as sensual slasher cinema. This is just a terribly formulaic erotic thriller given a chocolate coating that is way too bitter.

The sad thing here is that Dimension releases Asunder in a spectacular, crystal clear anamorphic widescreen DVD image. The 1:85.1 transfer is startling in its clarity and depth. Unfortunately, the Dolby Digital Surround is weak, offering very little in the way of separation, immersion, or ambience. Reid peppers the soundtrack with easy flowing jazz, but the product's presentation sadly hinders it from springing to audio life. Dimension also needs to learn how to handle extras. While offering trailers for other titles is fine, it would be nice to avoid all the back slapping self-congratulation in the manner of their packaging. Most people buy a DVD hoping to learn a little about how the production was made, not the roster of other middling junk a studio plans to foist upon the unsuspecting public. The biggest problem with the DVD release of Asunder, however, is the movie itself. Trivial, uninvolving, and stupefyingly deplorable, it has nothing inventive or fresh to offer on what is by now the most tired of all cinematic devices: the sexually obsessed stalker scorned. God may not want torn apart that which He (or Hollywood) has brought together, but when faced with a farce as heinous as Asunder, one has no choice but to rip it to shreds.

Review content copyright © 2003 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 42

Perp Profile
Studio: Dimension Films
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Trailers

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0160016/combined

* Official Site
http://www.asunder.com/