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On Blu-ray/DVD: SPEED KILLS (2018) and THE CAR: ROAD TO REVENGE (2019)

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SPEED KILLS
(US/UK - 2018)


Remember last summer when everyone had a good laugh over how terrible GOTTI was? Who knew that it was just John Travolta's warm-up act for SPEED KILLS?  Well, congratulations, BATTLEFIELD EARTH, because you're no longer Travolta's worst movie. Another true crime saga that might as well be comprised of GOTTI outtakes, SPEED KILLS stars the two-time Oscar-nominee and former actor--also one of 42 credited producers and wearing what appears to be his GOTTI rug after it was left out in the rain and he tried to dry it in the microwave--as Ben Aronoff, a thinly-veiled and likely legally-mandated rechristening of Don Aronow, a champion speedboat racer and the head of powerboat manufacturer Cigarette Racing, who was killed in a Miami mob hit in 1987. The film then flashes back to his beginnings in 1962, after he made fortune as a New Jersey construction magnate and moved to Florida to pursue an interest in speedboat racing, quickly falling into a "business arrangement" with famed mobster Meyer Lansky (James Remar). His racing and his business soon take precedence over his family, much to the chagrin of his devoted wife Kathy (Jennifer Esposito) and their eldest son (Charlie Gillespie), who winds up paralyzed in a boating accident trying to emulate his superstar father. This dramatic turn is conveyed in narration from beyond the grave by Aronoff, who says "While I was winning championships, I was losing something far more important." He gets over that pretty quickly and is soon hooked up with Emily (Katheryn Winnick), the girlfriend of Jordan's King Hussein (Prashant Shah), who's one of Aronoff's clients. Through the years--it's often difficult to tell because the period detail is atrocious and no one looks any different from 1962 to 1987--Aronoff's speedboats are the transport of choice for South American drug smugglers, who come to him to buy in bulk as he willingly provides false registrations. This catches the attention of FBI Agent Lopez (Amaury Nolasco), who sports the same shaved head and perfectly manscaped stubble in scenes set from the late 1960s to 1987. Tied to Lansky's outfit even after the aging gangster's death, Aronoff tries to make some side deals, including massive government contracts manufacturing boats for both the DEA and the Coast Guard, which comes about after he sells a Blue Thunder speedboat to Vice President George H.W. Bush (Matthew Modine). This doesn't sit will with Jules Bergman (Jordi Molla), the Lansky organization's man in Miami, or with Robbie Reemer (an embarrassingly bad Kellan Lutz), Lansky's hotheaded nephew who wants his cut of Aronoff's action.






Like GOTTI, SPEED KILLS is a collection of scenes in search of a coherent story. It's no wonder director John Luessenhop (TEXAS CHAINSAW) took his name off the finished film, with credit going to apparent Alan Smithee protegee "Jodi Scurfield." It's hard telling how this gets from one point to another, even as you're watching it. Aronoff expresses an interest in speedboat racing, and the next thing you know, he's a speedboat legend with deep mob ties and a completely new family. Esposito just disappears from the film, as does another Aronoff girlfriend (Moran Atias), when he sees Emily, sleeps with her, then in the very next scene, they've got a toddler son whose name we never even hear. There's no dramatic tension, no logical timeline of events, and no reason at all to care. It's like Travolta saw Tom Cruise in AMERICAN MADE and decided to make his own home movie version of it. It's unacceptably sloppy, from the rudimentary, Playstation 1-level CGI during a boat race in a massive storm to a close-up of a subpoena with a misspelled "SUBPEONA" on it. A film so ineptly-made and irredeemably awful that you'll feel sorry for Tom Sizemore being in it, SPEED KILLS is Travolta hitting absolute bottom. When the camera focuses on Aronoff dying after being shot multiple times in his car (of course, there's a close-up of his watch stopping as he takes his last breath, for maximum hackneyed dramatic effect), Travolta's strangely cryptic narration intones "I was on top of the world!" So, who exactly are we talking about here? (R, 102 mins)


The makers of SPEED KILLS don't give a shit. Why should you? 





THE CAR: ROAD TO REVENGE
(US - 2019)


It was demanded by no one, but 42 years after the 1977 demonic car-from-Hell cult classic THE CAR, Universal decided to bestow upon us a DTV sequel from DEATH RACE 2050 director G.J. Echternkamp, who's not exactly shaping up to be the next Roel Reine. It's really a reboot at best, and actually feels more like a ripoff of the 1986 sci-fi thriller THE WRAITH. Shot on barely-dressed sets that make it look like BLADE RUNNER on a Bulgarian backlot, the dreary THE CAR: ROAD TO REVENGE is set in a dystopian future where James Caddock (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA's Jamie Bamber), an ambitious, unscrupulous district attorney, is going all out to ensure the conviction and execution of the city's criminal element. He's got a data chip containing a ton of incriminating evidence against Talen (Martin Hancock), a megalomaniacal scientist and crime lord who's created an army of genetically-enhanced street punks who look like they wandered in from a Thunderdome cosplay convention. Talen's goons break into Caddock's office, torture him, and toss him out of his office window, sending him crashing through the roof of his high-tech sports car. This causes a melding of sorts, Caddock's spirit fusing with the car to become an instrument of driverless revenge. Meanwhile, hard-nosed cop Reiner (DEFIANCE's Grant Bowler) tracks down Caddock's ex-girlfriend Daria (Kathleen Munroe), who was seen with him the night he was murdered and is now being pursued by Talen, the assumption being that he stashed the data chip with her.





What does any of this have to do with THE CAR? Jack shit, that's what. Universal's press release cynically mentions Ronny Cox "returning as The Mechanic," but considering he played not a mechanic but James Brolin's deputy sheriff in the 1977 film, it begs the question, "Has anyone in Universal's 1440 DTV division even seen THE CAR?" Cox turns up about 65 minutes in and exits five minutes later as a junkyard owner who finds Caddock's damaged car and switches its parts with an old relic that's identical to the customized 1971 Lincoln Continental used in the original, after which it repays the favor by running him over and killing him. Cox is never shown with any other cast members and it's doubtful they flew him all the way to Bulgaria for a two-scene cameo that looks exactly like something hastily-added in post to get someone from the original film onboard after James Brolin repeatedly let their calls to go voice mail. Filled with janky CGI, over-the-top gore, badly-dubbed Bulgarian bit players, and a bunch of shitty, dated nu-metal on the soundtrack (including a 2012 song by ex-Queensryche guitarist Kelly Gray and Queensryche drummer Scott Rockenfield sporting the prophetic title "No Redemption"), THE CAR: ROAD TO REVENGE is one of the most cynical scams perpetrated by a major studio in a quite a while. It's a sequel in name only, a reboot in the vaguest sense, and entertaining in no conceivable way. (Unrated, 89 mins)



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