Judge Gordon Sullivan is a frumpy evil genius.
Revenge is a bitch.
Successful independent filmmaking is often made possible by the exploitation of available resources. Have a brother with a backhoe business? Put a backhoe in your movie and make it a plot point for instant production value and backstory for your backhoe operator/drifter main character. Have a friend who can juggle chainsaws? Rent some chainsaws and suddenly you're making a horror movie about a chainsaw-juggling circus performer. Or, in the case of Sexy Evil Genius call in a bunch of favors with talented actors with lower box-office profile and give them a bunch of funny stuff to say. Though I can't vouch for a backhoe operator/drifter or chainsaw-juggling clown flick, Sexy Evil Genius is a clever low-budget comedy/thriller that will certainly please fans of the actors, even if it doesn't have the highest replay value.
It sounds like the setup for a joke, but Seth Green and Michele Trachtenberg (both from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) meet in a bar. It seems their characters, Zachary and Miranda, have an ex-girlfriend, Nikki (Katee Sackhoff, Battlestar Galactica), in common and they start to bond over this fact. When another ex (Harold Perrineau, Zero Dark Thirty) shows up, everyone starts to realize something is up, and once Nikki arrives with her lawyer (William Baldwin, Backdraft), it's obvious Nikki has a plan for everyone.
Sexy Evil Genius is a delightfully modest feature. Most of it takes place in a single room, and though its story has a handful of nice detours, it's a revenge tale that most people can relate to in some way.
Of course, the film's chief pleasure is in the cast. Though none of them are mainstream marquee names (though they should be!), most movie and television viewers will recognize the main cast with ease. It helps that they're all ridiculously talented. Seth Green is his usual funny self, while Michelle Trachtenberg gets to play a slightly more mature role than she's had the chance to tackle. Perrineau is smooth as silk talking about music, while William Baldwin plays a smarmy lawyer to perfection. Most viewers won't have trouble believing that an entire cast could be obsessed with Katee Sackhoff.
The actors are aided by some solid dialogue by screenwriter Scott Lew, who doesn't have many other credits to his name. However, both he and director Shawn Pillar both worked previously on television's The Dead Zone series (which also explains Anthony Michael Hall's appearance as well). Nothing about either of their filmographies suggest the slightly noirish, almost hardboiled quality of either writing or the visuals. Putting such comedically talented actors in this setting works really well and gives the film an edge that it would lack with more action-oriented stars.
The flick is also helped by this DVD. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer does a fine job with the material. The film appears to have been shot in HD, and the lower budget sometimes shines through with some slightly flat lighting. Otherwise, though, everything looks good. Detail is strong, colors are well saturated, and black levels are deep enough. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track perfectly workmanlike. Dialogue stays clear and audible throughout, solidly balanced with the music. There's not a whole lot of directionality, but for a dialogue-driven film that's appropriate.
The main extra for the film is a commentary track featuring director Shawn Pillar along with Seth Green and Perrineau. It's a rowdy track throughout as the trio share production stories, jokes, and insights into the characters. Pillar tends to dominate a bit, with Green holding his own and slightly less from Perrineau. The other extra is focused on screenwriter Scott Lew, who struggles with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's disease). The 17-minute featurette talks about his struggles and the ways he's adapted to continue his career and passion for writing. It's not directly related to the film, but it's a nice addition.
Of course, Sexy Evil Genius is a film that doesn't have a profound message or offer any deep insights into the emotional lives of its characters. It's a puzzle-piece kind of movie that'll probably be forgotten by most of the audience after the credits roll. Also, given its puzzle-like nature it probably won't get a lot of replays by most viewers.
Sexy Evil Genius is the perfect kind of film for late-night cable, with enough recognizable faces you can stop on it with no expectations and be pleasantly surprised. Fans of the actors, though, shouldn't have to wait for a random viewing. They should seek out this DVD and enjoy a decent little comedy/thriller with some fun performances.
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