Judge Mike Rubino probably would have enjoyed American Crude more if it had been a self-guided PowerPoint on commodity trading.
"Tonight seemed like a good idea at the time…"
I can say one positive thing about American Crude, it is aptly named. The movie is filled with (mainly) Americans, and is, in fact, crude.
Like a bad dream, American Crude is a connection of loosely-paced, sexually-charged scenes with plenty of characters you've seen before. It establishes this right away with an incredibly lazy use of voiceover exposition; Johnny (Ron Livingston) introduces every character in the movie and tells you exactly the type of person they are. You know, so the screenwriters don't have to waste all that time on entry-level nonsense like "character development." From there, you're treated to a barrage of scenes or sketches that put the various storylines in motion. Johnny claims that every one of these stories—which involve things like transsexual prostitutes, lecherous elders, and vengeful Mexican gangsters—will collide to ruin his life at the end of one day. This technically happens, but only in the most forced way possible.
American Crude is a film that fancies itself much smarter and funnier than it actually is. It takes a few cues from Pulp Fiction, with its gangsters and disjointed story, but really relies on the bare minimum to get by (yet, before just ending already, it tries to shove in some convoluted political message about the American dream involving snuff films or something). I'm still struggling to think of one time in the film where I actually laughed, but I keep getting it confused with better scenes from better movies. Making matters worse, any directorial style or screenwriting cleverness on the part of Craig Sheffer is nonexistent. Instead, we get a cheaply made film that squanders all of the rich talent surrounding it.
Okay, maybe "rich" is a little hyperbolic, but the cast here is at least "decent." Ron Livingston was pretty good in Mike Judge's Office Space, and it's clear he's trying his best to make his snarky, Kevin-Smith-esqe character resonate. The same can't be said for Rob Schneider, who probably just did this movie to fill the void between cameos in Adam Sandler movies. And then there's Michael Clark Duncan, who is well-cast but not utilized, mainly due to the fact that he has to dote around with the annoying Jennifer Esposito the whole time. The only actual good performance in the film comes from Scrubs veteran John C. McGinley, who plays a quirky auto mechanic with a penchant for trannies. Surrounding them are other certifiably goofy stereotypes and character actors that will make you roll your eyes and yawn.
The story is confusing and trite, the comedy is vapid, and the production values are uninspired. Hey, at least the video quality is decent! The DVD transfer does look fairly good, with a nice color range and rich black levels. I was expecting this film to look a lot more "digital" than it actually did. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound is decent as well, although the soundtrack is pretty awful. Rounding out this package are three deleted scenes which never need to be watched. There is one good aspect of this DVD—it comes in a slew of different languages and subtitles. So you can watch this movie in Thai and Portuguese if you really want (it may be funnier that way).
So if you couldn't tell by now, American Crude is guilty of being a horrendous movie masquerading as a dark comedy. It's terribly written, poorly shot, and about as funny as the Zapruder film.
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