Fox Lorber // 1996 // 108 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Chief Justice Mike Jackson (Retired) // February 23rd, 2000
Money is the devil's calling card.
Put background cast members of Wayne's World, Forrest Gump, and Titanic in a movie. Release it in 27 theaters. Watch $24,000 roll in. Then, slap it on a featureless DVD. If you'd like to receive more of Mike Jackson's Secrets To Financial Success, send $5 to...
Five teens stumble upon a giant vise in a lumber mill built on top of an ancient Indian burial. After reading the cursed instructions on the side of the vise, one by one the teens are crushed to death in the vise's ghastly grip.
Oh wait. That would be the plot of a movie entitled The Big Squeeze if I wrote it. Here's the real plot.
Lara Flynn Boyle (Wayne's World, TV's Twin Peaks and The Practice) plays Tanya, a bartender working in a dive to support herself and her husband. Her husband, Henry (Luca Bercovici -- Scanner Cop, Drop Zone), played minor league baseball until he was sidelined by a knee injury. He never told his wife that he received a $130,000 insurance settlement. Instead, he stashed the money away in a bank account. Tanya finds out of course, and wants her half of the money. Henry refuses. Enter Benny (Peter Dobson -- Forrest Gump, The Frighteners, Drowning Mona) and Jesse (Danny Nucci -- Crimson Tide, The Rock, Titanic). Benny is a very small-time grifter who conspires with Tanya to part her husband from his money. Jesse is a nice-guy gardener who has a crush on Tanya and unwittingly gets drawn into the plot.
At this point, you can probably guess what happens by the end of the movie. Tanya gets the dough and runs off with Jesse. The plot the movie takes to get to that point isn't exactly direct. Benny's plot involves a fake miracle tree in front of a church and duping Henry (a devout Catholic) into donating his insurance stake toward repairs to the church. Usually, I'd complain that a movie was too predictable and took the path of least resistance between Point A and Point B. The Big Squeeze takes its time getting to any sort of point that by the half-hour mark I was already yelling at the TV to get along with the bloody story. It's around that time that we see there is going to be a scheme, and things finally get rolling. The next 77 minutes are spent with the budding infatuation between Tanya and Jesse, numerous replantings of a tree, and a few other things that add up to nothing. By the end I couldn't decide if I enjoyed the movie or not. I think not.
Fox Lorber Films released The Big Squeeze on DVD. It's hard to know where to begin. The transfer is full-frame. I couldn't find any technical details on the film, so I don't know the original aspect ratio. My guess is that it was 1.85:1 and that it's an open matte transfer, because no panning or cropping is evident. The picture quality certainly beats your average VHS recording, but isn't up to par with a good DVD transfer. Colors are accurately balanced and the picture is mostly free of dirt or scratches, but it lacks the sharpness and clarity you'd expect from a digital medium. Audio is presented in Dolby Digital Stereo. The mix is maddening to say the least. For the first half of the movie I jockeyed the remote, trying to find a volume level that would allow me to understand the dialogue without blaring the tacky soundtrack. I finally gave up and figured they weren't saying anything that important anyway. Even when the volume was sufficiently high to hear the vocals, they were muddled and difficult to understand.
The extras consist of a trailer that appears to be one of the lead-ins that you see at the beginning of most VHS rentals, and filmographies for the lead actors.
No further testimony is required, though the prosecutor will be allowed to mention that it's packaged in an Alpha keepcase. This review already resembles a five-car pileup caused by a train that was hit by a crashing plane. Nothing more to see here. Move along, move along.
You can strike The Big Squeeze from your must-have list. It's not worth buying. If I manage to get my horror movie of the same title produced, please be sure to look it up.
It might be worth noting that this movie was released in 1996. That was before Danny Nucci landed his screen-stealing role as Leonardo DiCaprio's friend who is crushed by a smokestack in Titanic. Maybe appearing in a low-budget, unseen movie is the golden ticket to five minutes of screen time in a three-hour movie that grosses billions after all.
The judge sentences writer-director Marcus DeLeon to continued obscurity, Fox Lorber to hard labor for releasing sub-par product, and banishes the DVD to bargain bins everywhere.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Fox Lorber
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated R