MTI // 2008 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // September 22nd, 2010
What's a few million dollars between friends?
To somebody who has watched and loved a lot of film noir and crime thrillers, it might seem easy to make a film in the genre with all the conventions. Unfortunately, twists, turns, hardboiled characters, and screwjobs all added together often amount to less than the sum of their parts. It takes more than plot points to make an effective thriller, and Cat City just doesn't get it.
Cathedral City, CA, is a quiet city whose residents like their quiet yuppie ways. They really don't appreciate disturbances, so it's bad enough that Victoria Compton (Rebecca Pidgeon, Shopgirl) has discovered that her husband, Nick (Julian Sands, Boxing Helena), is cheating on her with her best friend. That she has to host a friend of Nick's colleague for a full week is really vexing. When Jonas McCaw (Alano Massi) shows up, he's charming enough, but he quickly starts to show a dark side. He knows that Nick has really bad money problems and, unlike Victoria, he knows why. Jonas isn't who he claims, and he's come to Cat City to reclaim what was taken from him.
The tension in the plot of Cat City has to do with a real estate scam, but the details of what happened are never made clear enough to care about. All we really know is that Nick has been paid off for something, and that he's going to use that money to leave Victoria for her best friend, Allyson (Shawn Huff, 100 Mile Rule), and run away with her. The whys and hows are never really discussed, but it doesn't matter all that much; it didn't seem like a very interesting scam in the first place. There are a few lurid liaisons, plenty of hardboiled talk, and scummy characters. Writer/Director Brent Huff (Welcome to Paradise) has all the pieces of a crime film, but none of the heart. He never gives us a reason to care about the characters or the situation, and the performances don't help a bit.
How Huff was able to secure both Julian Sands and Brian Dennehy (The Belly of an Architect), who plays a private detective, is beyond me, but he doesn't seem to have had a clue how to use these journeyman performers or, really, anything else. Cat City never reaches total ineptitude, but its best moments barely reach mediocre. It seems like the kind of film that might have aired on Lifetime. It doesn't quite feel like an amateur production, but it isn't quite professional, either. It's simply bland, dull, predictable, and lame.
MTI sent a screener for Cat City, so technical details are totally suspect. As it stands, the picture looks okay, with a little grain, but few defects. The image doesn't perform so well in the darker scenes, but it's nothing too bad. The sound is a bland stereo mix, with tinny but audible dialog. No extras.
Cat City is a watchable film, but there are many, many better crime films out there. If there are Brian Dennehy or Julian Sands completists out there, then this is the film for them. Otherwise, go watch something that actually works.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R