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On Blu-ray/DVD: CRYPTO (2019) and SLAUGHTERHOUSE RULEZ (2019)

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CRYPTO
(US/UK - 2019)


No movie that features someone yelling "That's not Dad's tongue, Caleb!" should be as dull as CRYPTO, a Bitcoinsploitation financial thriller that's destined to be the ROLLOVER of the cryptocurrency era. Martin Duran (Beau Knapp) is a savant-like fraud investigator with the ominously-named Manhattan financial behemoth OmniBank. Despite the support of his immediate supervisor (Jill Hennessy), he pisses off the company's CEO, who busts him down to a local branch in his podunk western New York hometown of Elba, and if you think there's a clever "Napoleon's exile" metaphor there that a smarter film would leave unspoken, don't worry, because the filmmakers actually have Martin say "Exiled to Elba...this is just like Napoleon." He hasn't been back to Elba since his mother's death a decade earlier, and he's completely estranged from the rest of his family--rage-case older brother Caleb (Luke Hemsworth, Chris and Liam's elder sibling), who hasn't been the same since Afghanistan, and their stoical potato farmer father Martin Sr. (a slumming Kurt Russell), who's facing bankruptcy and foreclosure. But something else is going on in Elba, and the more Martin digs into OmniCorp's files, the more evidence he finds that the Russian mob has taken over the town and is using the bank to launder money involving smuggled paintings at a swanky new art gallery, along with a Bitcoin scam run out of a local bait shop, and a human trafficking ring operating along the Niagara River at the US/Canada border.





Martin figures all of this out with the help of his high school buddy Earl (Jeremie Harris), who owns the local convenience store and conveniently moonlights as a hacker with a high-tech command center in his stockroom. About as enthralling as listening to a hipster talk about Bitcoin, CRYPTO is competently directed by John Stalberg, Jr. (his first film since 2010's little-seen Adrien Brody stoner comedy HIGH SCHOOL), but it's so draggy and listless that it never engages until it's too late, and it doesn't take advantage of the potentially politically-charged notion of the blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth Elba townies completely oblivious to all the Russian crime going on right in front of them. Knapp tries to create something with a character who's likely on the spectrum, but the film pretty much drops that aspect after demonstrating some examples of Martin's tendency toward faux pas and misreading signals ("I'll get out of your hair now," he says after questioning his predecessor in his job, a cancer patient undergoing chemo). Hemsworth again demonstrates why he's the perennial third-string Hemsworth, Alexis Bledel has little to do as an art gallery employee and potential love interest for Martin, and Vincent Kartheiser resembles a young Russell Crowe as a Russian mobster incognito as a skeezy Elba accountant. In a role that will never be lumped in with the Snake Plisskens and Jack Burtons of his legendary career, Russell is uncharacteristically bad here, using a weird sort-of Noo Yawk accent that he simply forgets about midway through. At this point, the beloved icon really should have better things to do than schlep his way through one of these kinds of Redbox-ready, Lionsgate/Grindstone VOD clunkers with 38 credited producers. (R, 106 mins)



SLAUGHTERHOUSE RULEZ
(UK - 2018; US release 2019)


Don't go into the abysmal SLAUGHTERHOUSE RULEZ expecting another fun Simon Pegg/Nick Frost teaming. The SHAUN OF THE DEAD fan favorites have supporting roles and share only one scene together in this tedious and painfully unfunny mash-up of '80s REVENGE OF THE NERDS-style slob comedy and slimy, TREMORS-esque creature feature. Slacker ne'er-do-well Don (Finn Cole of PEAKY BLINDERS and ANIMAL KINGDOM) is read the riot act by his widowed mom (Jo Hartley), who enrolls him in the posh Slaughterhouse boarding school, a beacon of class and upstanding citizenry since 1770. He becomes fast friends with sardonic misfit Willoughby (Asa Butterfield of HUGO), whose previous roommate committed suicide. There's a vicious social hierarchy at Slaughterhouse, and at the top is the cruel Clegg (Tom Rhys Harries), a William Zabka-like asshole who lords over Slaughterhouse with the wink-and-a-nod approval of sneering headmaster "The Bat" (Michael Sheen) and spineless administrator Meredith (Pegg). Don ends up part of Sparta House, the de facto Lambda Lambda Lambda for the Slaughterhouse dorks and dweebs, but their top concern is a fracking tower installed at the edge of the Slaughterhouse property by powerful conglomerate Terrafrack. The Bat is in favor of partnering with Terrafrack, but Sparta House, inspired by a group of shroom-enthusiast environmental activists led by Woody (Frost), take a stand against it, which seems to be the appropriate idea once Terrafrack opens a massive sinkhole that exposes a series of subterranean tunnels and caves that have been home to large, lizard-like creatures that come crawling to the surface and attacking the school.






Directed and co-written by Pegg buddy and Kula Shaker frontman Crispian Mills (son of Hayley Mills, and also the director of Pegg's career-worst A FANTASTIC FEAR OF EVERYTHING), SLAUGHTERHOUSE RULEZ takes over an hour for the creatures to figure in, and when they do, the horror action is so dark that it's nearly impossible to see what's going on amidst the severed limbs and splattery goo. Until then, it's a glacially-paced YA bore that quickly collapses after some occasionally amusing bits in the early going. The film seems significantly longer than 104 minutes, and Mills is far too indulgent to Pegg, who gets entirely too much screen time begging and pleading to get back together with his ex (a Skyped-in cameo by Margot Robbie) in scenes that have nothing to do with the story and everything to do with Pegg mugging shamelessly (eliminating just these pointless Pegg/Robbie scenes could've cut this down to a still-awful but more reasonable 90 minutes). There's little wonder why Sony buried this on VOD with no publicity, but after this and the unwatchable A FANTASTIC FEAR OF EVERYTHING, the real question is how many more times Pegg will keep stepping up to get the green light for his buddy's terrible movies. (R, 104 mins)


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