If Judge Christopher Kulik didn't care, he wouldn't have written a 1200 word review.
No crime too big. No price too high.
Late last summer, the indie effort If I Didn't Care made a limited run at theaters. The few reviews it received were not impressive, and the film seemed to disappear soon after. The film has just now fallen off the shelf and onto DVD, with its title changed to Blue Blood. Even without an explanation for the change, Koch Vision delivers a nice DVD package.
Facts of the Case
Long Island husband Davis Meyers (American Psycho) is doing what he can to keep himself occupied, while his rich, successful attorney wife Janice (Noelle Beck, Fletch Lives) is off working long hours in the city. Aside from doing housework and walking the dog on the beach, he is also having a hardcore affair with sexy real estate agent Hadley (Susan Misner, Two Weeks). Realizing his marriage is on the rocks, Davis is petrified by the thought of a divorce leaving him with nothing. The Solution? How about having Hadley bump off his wife?
Hadley ends up shooting the wrong woman: the Meyers' maid Maria (Mirelly Taylor, Serving Sara). Enter veteran detective Linus (Roy Schieder, Jaws) who is determined to sniff out the killer, with the script throwing him every red herring in the book.
In case you do care, the original title If I Didn't Care is based on the classic song by the Ink Spots. The tune not only opens the movie but closes it as well. And while the tune does fit, thematically speaking, the opening curiously echoes The Shawshank Redemption a bit too much. I'd be willing to bet my entire checking account that the writing/directing/producing team, Benjamin and Orson Cummings, had nothing to do with the name change, and the fault lies with the distributor. The new title makes absolutely no sense and, out of respect to the filmmakers, I shall call the film If I Didn't Care for the rest of this review.
If I Didn't Care isn't a bad film, far from it. Despite its awkward character intros and shaky plot dynamics, the film does establish a certain level of competency. The major problem lies with script elements being way too familiar and, in many cases, illogical. Even with attempts to make this a classy, modern noir with all the style and finesse one could wish for from the genre, this is no Blood Simple and the Cummings Bros. are not the Coen Bros. I'm fully aware they're trying to inject their own style and follow up on their own impulses, but it just ends up being a dry, malnourished imitation of older, much better films.
It's easy to see how film noir is a safe bet for many fresh filmmakers. Take Rian Johnson for instance. His debut picture Brick had every noir nook and cranny imaginable, and it still rose above its restrictive roots. Strike that. Brick was a masterpiece which almost re-invented the mod noir, despite its unlikely setting and youthful cast. Unfortunately, If I Didn't Care is more concerned with recycling than re-inventing, and its many ancestors include Double Indemnity (which is subtly referenced several times), Body Heat, and even Fargo. There is nothing novel or hot off the presses here, and it lacks pizzazz, oomph, and mojo.
Its biggest sin is a lack of surprises. There are as many twists in this film as a pretzel stick. Even the ending fails to raise eyebrows. The best thing I can say about the Cummings' sophomore effort is that it's short, with a super-quick running time of 74 minutes.
To be fair, the Cummings do sprinkle some nice touches here and there, including a cool vomit scene and another involving a deer. The film's style is apparent, just hollow. If only they had polished things up more in the writing process, adding more character layers and unforeseen circumstances, If I Didn't Care would have played much better. As it is, the film barely rises above mediocre, and won't go far in home viewings.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
What does rise above average are the decent, even fine, performances from all involved. The leads are largely unknowns but do extremely well under the circumstances, considering their one-dimensional characters. As the male instigator, Bill Sage is a Jake Busey clone, but sells his slimeball slant with enough believability. However, he's easily overshadowed by his two female co-stars. Misner does a rock solid job as the femme fatale, and Noelle Beck is equally impressive as the unsuspecting wife who becomes a target.
Still, the real deal on the acting front is the legendary Roy Schieder (The French Connection, Klute, and, of course, Jaws), who sadly passed away earlier this year. Despite claims this is his final film role, he will be starring in another indie film called Iron Cross, which debuts sometime in 2009. Let's hope it's a better send-off than his minute role as Linus, the cop who seems to have a knack for solving the dumbest of mysteries. It's not that Schieder stumbles. He's the best thing in the movie. It's just that he's too good for it. Regardless, even Roy is not reason enough to recommend If I Didn't Care.
The DVD treatment from Koch is better than expected in every category. The 1.85:1 Anamorphic widecreen print is terrific, as it minimizes grain and disguises the film's low-budget roots from all angles. The audio is presented in two tracks: a 5.1 Surround, and a 2.0 Stereo track. Even though this is a very quiet film with very little music, the 5.1 has a marginally better boost emanating in the background. The only downfall of the tech specs is the exclusion of subtitles. There isn't even closed captioning. There are 53 minutes worth of bonus materials including cast interviews (sans Schieder), a discussion with the Cummings brothers, some brief behind-the-scenes footage, and a trailer. None of these are terribly interesting, but do provide some good info on backgrounds and work on the film in general.
If you still have some interest, I would strongly suggest a rental. Just be forewarned, this is one of the most unexciting noirs in years. From a stupid title and misleading cover art (the actors never wear those costumes), to a dead story and nary a surprise in sight, If I Didn't Care—AKA Blue Blood—is a supreme disappointment. However, the court is more than open to see what the Cummings might brew up next.
The cast and directors are free to go, but the film is sentenced to the bargain basement at Wal-Mart. Koch Vision is also cleared of all charges, due to their fine DVD treatment.
R.I.P. Roy Schieder (1932-2008)
Court is adjourned!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Vision
• Cast and Crew Interviews
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