Judge Gordon Sullivan's looking for a really good film about a one-eyed vacuum cleaner salesman.
It's going down!
Despite wide critical acclaimed, I know a lot of film fans who didn't enjoy The Artist. Their basic complaint was that it treats silent film as a genre unto itself and not as a collection of different genres all working without spoken dialogue; silent Western solved this problem in different ways than did silent melodramas. So, these fans complain, The Artist isn't compelling because it doesn't acknowledge the diversity of silent-era films. Some might be shocked to hear of an Oscar-winning film being spoken of in the same breath as a direct-to-video exploitation flick like Dust Up, but I think the comparison is apt. Much like The Artist, many retro-DTV exploitation flicks try to slavishly recreate a bygone era of filmmaking through reusing plots and adding fake film damage. What these films often forget is that there was a serious diversity in exploitation genres, from chop-socky to gore flicks, and the best exploitation flicks were the best because they offered something new and surprising. Though far from a perfect film, Dust Up succeeds in offering a bit of retro-exploitation while still being surprisingly weird.
Jack (Aaron Gaffey, Lo) is a one-eyed vigilante who's traded guns for inner peace. However, he meets Ella (Amber Benson, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), a young mother in hock to a cannibalistic drug dealer. Though Jack wants to give up his violent past, with the help of his hipster sidekick, he'll do what's right for Ella.
Let's get it out of the way at the start: Dust Up is not a great movie. It is a low-budget homage to the grindhouse golden age of the 1970s made on a shoestring budget. Also, don't be fooled by Amber Benson's presence; aside from her, we're not always talking about the best actors in the world (though they're all fine, given the generic considerations of grindhouse). The look and feel of the flick is low-rent, with a grimy tinge that helps the film's atmosphere but won't make it easier for non-grindhouse types to get through. Even fans of low-budget filmmaking might be turned off by the film's mixture of action and comedy and grindhouse homage.
With that said, those who stick with Dust Up will find a better-than-average neo-grindhouse feature. The premise is classic (Who doesn't love a one-eyed drifter?), the action fast-paced, and the gore plentiful. In fact, these are the three principle draws for the film. The one-eyed drifter going up against cannibalistic drug lords is just outrageous enough to be classic grindhouse, and the innocent young mother being protected works out well, too. The film also moves very quickly, which is a plus in a world of leaden homages to cinema's past. Even if you're not that into the film, it moves so fast that it's over before you know it. Finally, the violence and gore are plentiful enough and achieved quite well on a budget that didn't amount to much.
The film gets a cult-worthy DVD release as well. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer looks as good as it's supposed to; combining the film's low-budget origins and the grindhouse aesthetic and this disc won't challenge your home theater. However, for all that, the image is pleasing, with solid color saturation and decent black levels with a good amount of detail in the frame. The 5.1 surround track is well mixed, with dialogue clean and clear from the center. The music is balanced effectively, and the surrounds get a bit of use during action scenes.
Extras are really impressive and extensive, reminding me of a Troma release in the best possible sense for the mixture of informative and humorous supplements. First up is a raucous and informative commentary featuring the writer/director Ward Roberts and a quartet of actors (including Amber Benson) sharing stories of the production and the inspiration for the flick. More behind-the-scenes info gets spilled in the making-of featurette, as well as a set of interviews and on-set footage from the film. There's also some footage of the ADR session, The disc also includes some funny PSA-style videos used to promote the film, including a "Cannibals Anonymous" spoof. Finally, there's a collection of photographs also used in promoting the flick and the film's trailer.
The world did not need Dust Up, but this retro-grindhouse style feature is actually a cut above the rest of the DTV nostalgia flicks. Thanks to some solid acting, good gore, and a willingness to go full throttle, Dust Up earns a rental recommendation for fans of the current wave of neo-grindhouse films, and the excellent presentation and copious supplements make it easy to recommend as a fan purchase.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Breaking Glass
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