Monday, February 2, 2009

Jason previews Cinequest: Capers

Okay, I just saw a screener of what's sure to be a comedy hit at Cinequest. Julian M. Kheel has made his feature debut a sparkling gem worth stealing. Three gangs of crooks all try to break into a pawn shop safe in their own specific genre. And by genre, I mean competing movie genres. Capers is framed by the feisty pawn shop owner Connie (Phyllis Somerville). She bitches about how her Brooklyn neighborhood has gone downhill since her family (the Italians) were in charge. Now instead of organized crime, they have nothing but a bunch of idiots. First there's "The Amateurs" (Danny Masterson and Michael Cecchi), shot as a 70's grindhouse flick, complete with film scratches and pops (yeah, I know it was done in Tarantino and Rodriguez's Grindhouse, but it still works). They're so dumb they'll spout off stuff like "You need an Oriental to do a job--for computer stuff and martial arts!" Then there's "The Moolies", led by Ronald (played by Leon). They're the black gang, and shot like an MTV rap video (complete with a boom box they carry everywhere for background music). But the best part of their gang is Emily (Mackenzie Milone), an 8 year old white girl they took as payment and then grew attached to. And lucky for them, Emily's got game. And finally, there's "The Sputniks", (Aysan Çelik and Jonathan Hova), Arab Chechnyans living in New York and looking for citizenship so that she can sing on Broadway (she's a painfully awful singer) and he can work tech support (he's no better). They're shot as a depressing, pretentious Eastern European/Russian art film, complete with black and white (which makes it a bit weird when their world collides with other worlds). The format actually allows for an ingenious mix of lowbrow and highbrow humor. The lowbrow comes from the absolute stupidity of all three gangs. The highbrow comes from the mixing of genres and the clever transitions. Basically it's some very smart people making a movie about some very dumb people, and it's all a lot of fun. Oh yeah, and there's a cameo by Cinequest Emerging Maverick award winner Blanchard Ryan as a sexy FBI agent who gets to do a little lesbian titillation with her partner, Dominique Swain. Awesome!


mrgn said...

Great catch on the Blanchard Ryan cameo! How could I miss that?

Favorite line: "Prepare yourself for night of brutal Russian sex"

Dadmaniac said...

Not only is that a great line mrgn, but kind of illustrates the whole style of the movie. A great film. I also very much liked the music that was used throughout. Very upbeat and drove the pace well. Plus, let's not forget about the clever credits and "napkin interludes." This is a "must see." Too bad I won't be able to see it on the big screen...I'll STILL be in Hawaii.

s/Jason's Daddy

Anonymous said...

As we saw in the last election, satire is still the best way to impugn the wicked. Balanced by a fair amount of slapstick and a hilarious ensemble cast, the racial and social humor in Capers addresses and eventually explodes both topical and filmic tropes.

But mostly, it's just funny as hell.

Also, the filmmakers' use of three different "looks" -- 70s grindhouse, hip-hop video and Bergmanesque black and white -- is something I haven't seen before (at least, not in one film.)

This is a good one. Not surprised it's winning awards.

baceman007 said...

I have to admit that I was impressed by the 3 distinct styles that this movie uses for each character set. For about 45 minutes the characters were interesting and the story was building up well. After that I just felt like I just could not handle any more stupidity. Each set of characters was so dumb that after about 45 minutes I actually think I felt my brain start to rot. I don't enjoy dumb humor in general so I'm sure that this review is biased, but like all movies some people will love it and some will hate it. I am somewhere in between. I'd say 3 out of 5 stars. Some very cool visual concepts, the camera work and costuming were excellent, but well I've already said the but.

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