An urban tale about 8 guys, half a mil, a hearse, a cadaver, 2 kidneys, a lot of cocaine, and a little mistaken identity.
Here comes a little confession that will certainly shock you to your core: I requested this movie because it stars Michael Dorn. Pretty sad, no? As reviewers for The Verdict, we Judges know we're going to get titles we've never heard of, so we have to hope for the best. But, to purposely ask for a bad movie because it stars someone who played a Klingon on Star Trek? That's bordering on pathetic.
What makes it all the worse is that this movie is really quite awful. You can blame a lot on having to wear lots of makeup for your role, but when that comes off and you're still bad, there's no longer an excuse. This is what happens to B-list Trek actors after seven years: they become gristle.
Facts of the Case
Take a moment to reread "The Charge." That's pretty much The Gristle. To flesh it out just a little bit…
You have four groups consisting of two men each. Group A has $70,000 that they will use to illegally purchase a pair of human kidneys from Group B. Group C has $350,000 that they will use to buy cocaine from Group D, who has the drugs hidden inside a cadaver.
By unfortunate coincidence, the groups have all decided to make the switch at the same hotel/bar. When they get there, the bar is very crowded and the groups get each other confused, so Group A hooks up with Group D while Group B hooks up with Group C. This is possible because no one knows what the other looks like (aside from "he's black" or "he's Cuban"), and when they meet in the bar, they obviously don't come out and say, "Do you have my drugs?" Because the illegal goods both involve a body—kidneys and drugs inside a cadaver—you can see how this could happen.
From this point, chaos ensues, as everyone is confused and trying to get what they originally came for, except for Group B. Group B has decided they want all the money, making this situation all the worse.
How will all of this be resolved? Stayed tuned!
Or don't; the choice is yours.
Because a big ado is made on the packaging, I thought I would let you know that "The Gristle is the first movie in American history to be funded by a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan." Congratulations to them on that minor historical footnote. My only thought on that is it's too bad the film is so lousy that I simply see it as a waste of my tax dollars. I'm not here to quash the independent spirit, but let's try to make a better movie if you're going to use government money.
So, what's wrong with The Gristle? Almost everything, but let's first tackle the failed, overriding theme of this film: racial relations. The Gristle is meant to be a racial farce highlighting the innate prejudices of people. Unfortunately, this message is delivered with such a lack of finesse and tact that it feels like the proverbial sledgehammer is trying to pound the message into the audience. Our characters spout "messages" that feel completely unnatural yet are meant to hit the mark squarely. You're meant to stop and think and say, "Hey, he's right!" But it's just too obvious and forced. This whole idea stems from the composition of each group: Group A—a black man and a white man; Group B—two black men; Group C—two Hispanic men; Group D—two white men. Each group is meant to trigger automatic and prejudicial thoughts, which are then to be upended by the finale of the film. This is all a noble and interesting endeavor, but it just doesn't work.
It doesn't work because the attempted message of this film is lost in a mire of paper-thin characters who spout bad and cheesy dialogue combined with hammy and flat out bad acting. In addition to Dorn, there are a few other faces you may recognize (but don't ask me their names because I don't know them), but none of them can act for squat in this one. Instead of acting, it's forced exposition. They're not embodying their characters and talking; they're actors poorly reciting their terrible lines.
Because this is a straight-to-video dud, this disc doesn't offer much…including information. As far as I can tell, the video transfer is full frame, but I'm not 100% certain, since the packaging doesn't say. I've had no luck finding any definitive information online, but as I've said before, I don't believe movies shoot in 1.33:1 anymore. Still, the movie starts off poorly with a set of opening credits that made my eyes cross because they were so blurry. Luckily it cleared up once we got past those, but it's still a mediocre transfer with decent, mellow colors. The overall presentation was soft, lacking any pop. For the audio, it's a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that's pretty good, except for some occasional thinness/echo to some dialogue and minimal use of the surrounds.
The disc does contain the theatrical trailer and a 24-minute "Making Of" featurette. I wasn't overly impressed by the extras. Since I was bored by the movie, there's really no chance a special feature would be able to pique my interest either.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
It's not a complete loss as some of the message gets across. Much of what Dorn's character says is done in a joking fashion. While most of it will make you cringe, every now and then he does get one right.
But, still, you can't help but picture Worf every time he opens his mouth.
Shame on you, Warner Bros., for not including subtitles on this clunker. All DVDs must contain subtitles. Regardless, since maybe a thousand people will ever see this film, it's not a major loss.
In an attempt to highlight racial stereotypes and create an urban tale, The Gristle completely misses its mark. It's a righteous attempt to create a film like this, but its message is lost in the muddle. Bottom line, is this a black movie that that audience will rally to and appreciate? Is it a film blacks would be proud to use to bridge the racial understanding gap? I believe it isn't. Sorry. As such, I'm not recommending this film for anything. This movie truly is gristle: something useless that you don't want.
The Gristle is hereby found guilty of wasting taxpayers' funds.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• The Making of The Gristle
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