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Case Number 05841

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Renegade

Sony // 2004 // 124 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // December 21st, 2004

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All Rise...

This is the first French western Judge Mitchell Hattaway has ever seen, and if there's any justice in the world it will be the last.

The Charge

One man will journey beyond the boundaries…to claim the ultimate prize.

Opening Statement

Renegade sucks. You want to know why? Read on.

Inspired by the Blueberry series of graphic novels created by Jean-Michel Charlier and Jean "Moebius" Giraud, Renegade (released overseas as Blueberry) is the tale of Marshal Mike Blueberry, a Cajun man who spent his formative years in the company of Indians. Blueberry has forged a peace and understanding between his Indian brethren and the citizens of the Old West town he is sworn to protect, but this peace is threatened by the arrival of a psychotic cowboy who believes a treasure beyond imagination is hidden on the Indians' sacred lands.

This film is astonishingly bad. It gets off to a bad start and somehow manages to get worse as it goes along. Presented here, as a warning to anyone who might be interested in seeing it, is a chronicle of this film's insipid story, but be warned, I'm about to ruin the movie. (Well, that's not true—the filmmakers ruined it, but I am going to detail the plot.)

Oh, yeah—you might want to grab a sandwich and something to drink, as I think this is going to take a bit of time.

Facts of the Case

Blueberry opens with the young Mike Blueberry (Hugh O'Conor, Chocolat) being sent to live on the farm of his tyrannical uncle (Tcheky Karyo, Kiss of the Dragon). The wagon carrying Blueberry travels past the town brothel; Mike looks up and sees Madeliene (Vahina Giocante), a young prostitute. She longingly gazes back at him. A few days later Mike sneaks into town and climbs up to Madeliene's room (I'm not sure how he knows which room is hers). Madeliene knows Mike is a virgin, and, in a scene that wouldn't be out of place on late-night Cinemax, she delicately ushers him into manhood. Next thing you know, they're talking about running off together. Wow, didn't see that one coming. Oh, yeah—Madeliene's room is beautifully decorated, and is bigger than the town jail. McCabe & Mrs. Miller this ain't.

Mike and Madeliene, still basking in the afterglow, are confronted by Blount (Michael Madsen, Species), one of Madeliene's regular customers. He taunts Mike, and then puts his gun to Madeliene's head, saying he'll kill her if Mike doesn't leave. Things get ugly, Madeliene ends up with a bullet in her brain, and the brothel goes up in flames. Mike flees into the desert; exhausted, he falls off his horse, is attacked by a wide variety of snakes, and is eventually rescued by a pair of Indians. They take him back to their village, and nurse him back to health by lighting candles and blowing smoke on him. Mike spends several years with the Indians, learning their ways, doing mescaline, and reenacting Pink Floyd's "Learning to Fly" music video. The young Mike morphs into the older Mike (Vincent Cassel, Brotherhood of the Wolf), falls off a cliff, and ends up back in town as a marshal. Huh? Wait—did I miss something?

Aiding Mike in enforcing the law is the wheelchair-bound Rolling Bear (Ernest Borgnine, The Wild Bunch), who is wheeled around town by his idiot son Billy. (Billy the Idiot is portrayed by Jan Kounen, the director of Renegade, who is probably unaware of how ironic this bit casting actually is.) Mike also deputizes McClure (Colm Meaney, Con Air), who's the kind of guy who goes around throwing hapless dentists through windows. (You oughtta see Meaney's beard; it makes him look like Santa Claus from those old Rankin/Bass Christmas specials.) Mike has some sort of relationship going on with Mariah (Juliette Lewis, Cape Fear), whose father owns the town gambling hall/saloon. (Sullivan, Mariah's father, is played by Geoffrey Lewis, Juliette's real-life dad. You might remember him from Flo, or those Clint Eastwood orangutan movies.) All the townsfolk gather in the hall, where Mariah regales them with song. (When Juliette started belting out "Danny Boy," I felt like shoving a pencil through my eardrum.) Their revelry is interrupted one night by the arrival of Prosis (Eddie Izzard, Shadow of the Vampire), a local opportunist/geologist/cartographer. Prosis claims he and his partner Woodhead (Djimon Hounsou, Gladiator) were attacked by Indians, who scalped Woodhead. Prosis shows everyone a cut on his head, saying he was able to escape before he lost his own scalp. Mike doesn't buy the story.

Mike heads off to the Indian village to see Runi (Temuera Morrison, Vertical Limit), who was his closest companion while growing up; Runi is now the village shaman. Before he can reach the village, Mike is accosted by the band of Indians who attacked Woodhead; they give Mike Woodhead's scalp. Meanwhile, Woodhead makes it back to town, finds Prosis, and attempts to kill him for betraying him and leaving him for dead. (The only cool bit in the whole film occurs in this scene: Woodhead removes his hat, and we get a glimpse of his scalp-free head.) Just as Woodhead is about to pull the trigger, Blount shows up and kills him. Blount and Prosis are both jailed, and it is revealed that Prosis has acquired a manuscript Blount has been looking for. This manuscript, which Prosis has given to Sullivan, contains directions to the treasure Blount so desperately wants. Mike comes back, recognizes Blount, leaves the jail, throws away his marshal's star, and goes to get a gun. He goes back to the jail, planning to kill Blount, but is attacked by Blount's men, who have freed their boss. Blount and his men rough up Mike and McClure and set the jail on fire. Billy the Idiot wheels Rolling Bear up to the jail and, despite his father's protests, attempts to stop McClure; Billy is shot and killed. The fire reaches the munitions load stored in the jail, and the building explodes.

Blount, having learned where the manuscript really is, goes to Sullivan's home, shoots Sullivan, and takes the manuscript. Maria finds her dead father, gets all weepy, and sets out to track down Blount. McClure, having somehow managed to escape an exploding building totally unscathed, hauls the wounded Mike to the Indian village. Runi gives Mike some mescaline, and Mike starts tripping. The demon Mike has been carrying around all these years manifests itself, and it looks like something H.P. Lovecraft could have dreamed up after eating a plate of bad clams. (I think this demon entered Mike's body following the death of Madeleine, and has something to do with…ah, screw it. There's no point trying to rationalize it.) Runi comes back, chants, and computer-generated phantom snakes and lizards fly around the screen.

Mike, Runi, and McClure set out the next morning, hoping to stop Blount before he reaches the Indians' Sacred Mountain. They find Maria, who has been assaulted by Blount and his men. Runi heals Maria by chanting and blowing into his fist. Meanwhile, Prosis kills Blount's horse, injures Blount, and sets off for the Sacred Mountain. Mike and his companions arrive at the mountain, and Runi tells him he must find the way inside on his own. Mike jumps into a small pond, follows the stream feeding it, and ends up inside the mountain. Prosis, who has also made it inside, stumbles upon a bed of quicksand and is killed. Blount is also inside the Sacred Mountain, and he has discovered his treasure: an ancient Indian temple. (It's not much of a temple. It looks like something you'd find in a Roger Corman Indiana Jones knockoff.) He downs some super-mescaline and enters the spirit world. Mike enters the temple, sees Blount, and attacks him. Runi shows up and says Mike must enter the spirit world to battle Blount. Mike and Runi ingest some of the super-mescaline, and Runi begins chanting and blowing into his fist. (I tried this, but nothing came of it.) They travel into the spirit world, and their journey looks like the battle against the Master Control Program in Tron. Mike's spirit finds Blount's spirit, and they battle. (At least I think that's what happens. All I could see was a bunch of computer-generated centipedes, snakes, and spiders scurrying about.) Maria swims into the mountain and arrives at the temple, and just in time, too. It looks like Mike's spirit is about to be lost, but Maria sings to him and, in an interminable sequence ripped off from 2001, his spirit back travels back to this world. (Yeah, you read that right, Juliette Lewis sings—again.) Mike, who now looks like Christopher Walken during the Russian roulette scenes in The Deer Hunter, learns that he acquired the ability to travel between the physical and spirit worlds. McClure arrives at the temple (you'd think the Indians would have made it a little harder to get into the place), and smokes some of Runi's "tobakky." Mike celebrates his victory by skinny-dipping and getting it on with Maria.

There, I just saved you two hours of your life.

The Evidence

Okay, enough with the story. Let's get to what else is wrong with Renegade. The acting is uniformly bad. Vincent Cassel does nothing more than squint his way through the movie, and he never seems to be sure exactly how a Cajun who has spent a number of years living with Indians in the American West should sound, so he decides to mimic Nicolas Cage. (I can't believe Cassel would spend time away from his wife, the lovely Monica Bellucci, to waste his energy on something like this. You know what I'd do if I were married to Monica Bellucci? Never leave the house.) Juliette Lewis's Calamity Jane act doesn't work; she still comes across as a dopey teenager. Judging by his performance, Michael Madsen must have been drunk for the whole shoot, which probably wasn't such a bad idea. Eddie Izzard proves he needs to be wearing a dress to be entertaining, and Temuera Morrison doesn't make much of a shaman. Don Rickles made a more convincing Indian in an episode of F Troop I saw when I was younger.

As for Jan Kounen, this guy hasn't got a clue. He's taken rich source material, tossed aside the graphic novels' realism and depth, and instead substituted a nonsensical plot, way too many idiotic drug trips, and camera work stolen from Ken Russell and Sam Raimi. Good lord. This is a loose adaptation of the comics—very loose; in fact, the only thing looser than this adaptation is Paris Hilton. Some of the characters and locations have been ported over from the comics, but that's about it. And I guess Kounen's never seen Strange Days; otherwise he'd know not to let Juliette Lewis sing or disrobe.

The transfer on this disc is one of the worst I've ever seen. It's grainier than a wheat field and riddled with mosquito noise and artifacts; colors are washed-out, blacks are crushed to grays, and there's no shadow detail, which is a real problem considering how many scenes take place in dark locations. The audio is a little better, with a few good bits of surround activity, but the dialogue is often unintelligible (which isn't mush of a loss), and the bass is bloated and murky. Sony really screwed up on this one. The only extras are trailers for other films you'll want to avoid. You also get some up-front ads. Yippee.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Vahina Giocante looks nice with her clothes off. That is all.

Closing Statement

Blueberry is awful. Just plain awful. If you see this sitting on a store shelf somewhere, point, laugh, and be glad you're not me. Try to round up some of the graphic novels. They don't disappoint.

The Verdict

Guilty all around! Court is adjourned. Oh, wait one more thing before we go. Would someone please buy Juliette Lewis a can of Nair?

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Scales of Justice

Video: 40
Audio: 60
Extras: 10
Acting: 40
Story: 30
Judgment: 35

Special Commendations

• Bottom 100 Discs: #87

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 124 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Genres:
• Bad
• Western

Distinguishing Marks

• Trailers

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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