Image Entertainment // 2007 // 81 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 11th, 2008
The crime lords of New Orleans just met their match.
If only this were a horror movie about a demon-possessed toll booth.
New Orleans has exploded with gang violence and no one can stop it. The federal government sends in its crack squad of DEA agents, but they'd rather snort coke and mess around with strippers than arrest anyone. The hapless mayor (Lou Diamond Phillips) paces nervously every night and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown over the murder rate. Meanwhile, two detectives aimlessly drive around in their cruiser, squeezing in sleazy excursions to a motel room in between a half-hearted murder investigation and lots of dudes shoot each other.
And as far as I can tell, that's about it.
Look, I know it's easy for reviewers to lob hand grenades of semi-witty barbs and insults in the direction of someone else's creative work, and typically I try to find some silver lining in most movies -- unless of course said movie represents such a profound threat to the psychological stability of anyone unfortunate to watch it that it would be criminally negligent of me not to warn as many innocent people as possible to stay the @#$% away.
Death Toll is such a movie, a collection of moving images that makes little sense and boasts the entertainment value of a wasp sting to the genitals. I think that director Phenomenon and his creative crew want to say something substantial, craft an insightful commentary into the day-to-day battleground that is inner city New Orleans and peer into the survival instincts of gang-bangers. As I said, I think that's what they're trying to do, as all aspects of the filmmaking, acting and storytelling are ridden with FAIL.
Start with DMX and Lou Diamond Phillips, billed at the top as the headliners. DMX is not in this movie. Yes he appears on your screen while the disc is spinning, but it's to no substantive benefit to the film's story. All he does is address the audience with vaguely worded diatribes about life on the street. The plot synopsis on the back of the disc claims he plays a character called "The Dog" who's "pulling the strings in a murderous web of deceit and terror spreading through the bloodstained streets of New Orleans." Um, no. All he does is stand in front of the camera and talk. And Phillips? Young Guns was a long, long, long time ago. Though he's in this for only a handful of scenes, it's enough to inflict irreparable harm on his professional reputation.
It only gets worse as you run down the remaining cast. The two cops that much of the film focuses on, led by Leila Arcieri (Son of the Beach), are ridiculous. No wonder crime is so high in New Orleans, if their behavior is indicative of the general disposition of the local authorities -- and from what is seen of their superiors, it apparently is. All these a-holes is do run around screaming their heads off and pulling guns on kids and laughing about it after. And they're the protagonists! Not that they having anything better to do, since the narrative is completely disorienting.
In the end, this is low-quality nonsense, featuring a hackneyed story that exists only as a jumbled framework to hang the occasional exchange of gunfire upon, two top-billed actors that essentially do nothing, acting of Biblically-atrocious proportions and on overall feel of flimsy execution that permeates the entire runtime. Don't watch this movie.
If you're still interested, 5.1 surround and 1.78:1 widescreen of middling quality and no extras.
An urban thriller of laughable quality, Death Toll is about as painful as it gets.
Guilty. The Sentence: Death by spicy Cajun seasoning injection.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R