Anchor Bay // 2013 // 112 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // September 15th, 2013
Pulp Fiction goes redneck.
I am torn about this one because on one hand I get what it is doing, yet it's out of date: it's 2013 and it feels like something from the 1990s. Pawn Shop Chronicles pays homage to Quentin Tarantino, and it does so in a convincing way with a strong cast. Still, it feels like it's out of place doing what even Tarantino no longer does since it has long become predictable and pedantic.
Three hyper-violent stories converge in the end, all revolving around items found in the stock of a pawn shop in Southern Louisiana. The first chapter is about two methed-out neo-Nazis (Paul Walker, Fast and Furious; Kevin Rankin, White House Down) trying to rob their dealer of his stash. The second narrative concerns a man (Matt Dillon, Crash) who discovers his first wife may be alive, and he has a chance to rescue her. Finally, we get a down-on-his-luck Elvis impersonator (Brendan Fraser, The Mummy) who may have to make a deal with the devil just to get through his gig at the state fair.
Along the way, they run into Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead), Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), Vincent D'Onofrio (Men In Black), Thomas Jane (Hung), and Lukas Haas (Inception). The cast is awesome; it's just too bad that they are trapped in something that feels like a carbon copy of something much better. They have dialogue which strives to be like Tarantino, but it's tinny. They find themselves in spectacularly violent situations, but we've seen things like this before. It all feels like it has been done better, but I have to admit I watched until the end curious to see how it wrapped up.
Anchor Bay does a nice job with Pawn Shop Chronicles (Blu-ray). Colors are purposefully muted at times, but the transfer itself is crisp and pops when it is important for it to do so. Detail is nuanced enough throughout, and balance is struck with blacks and brights. There is only one extra which is a commentary with director Wayne Kramer and screenwriter Adam Minarovich. They have a nice rapport, and give you some insight into the production which was shot on location in Baton Rouge. Also included in the package is the DVD copy, so you can downgrade and watch a lower-resolution version with the same extras.
If Quentin Tarantino decided to adapt My Name is Earl for the big screen, it might just look like this. Maybe it's a good thing these guys beat him to the bunch, because who the hell needs that nightmare? It's interesting to see the cast here give Southern Gothic ultra-violence a go-round, but you wish there was just a bit more original things going on. This is a B-movie at heart, but it does have some memorable scenes and a great cast. It may just be worth the price of admission to see Brendan Fraser sing "Amazing Grace" with a naked army of recently liberated sex slaves wrapped in American flags supporting him. If that sort of thing grabs you, then perhaps Pawn Shop Chronicles is right up your alley.
Guilty of coasting on the good graces of a master of exploitation cinema.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* DVD Copy
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