Starring Christian Slater, this flick pits love against corruption as a couple snatches a bountiful bag from some rough hombres and bolt for freedom from their dead-end lives. Wait, are we talking about Tony Scott's True Romance? Negative. The focus is on Love Lies Bleeding, the new direct-to-video film from Keith Samples. If you've seen True Romance, however, then you've seen essentially the same story but with much more likeable characters and an infinitely tighter script than this. Love Lies Bleeding, in hindsight, is a film that just lays there lifeless outside of a typically magnetic performance from Slater as the key antagonist.
Let's be a little more thorough with the prognoses before proceeding. Young couple Duke (Brian Gerarghty) and Amber (Jenna Dewan) are down and out without a shred of luck. Duke is just a cumbersome good ole' boy looking for construction work, while innoncent little Amber isn't anything more than a 9-to-5er at the local food mart. Money's short in their small, dusty apartment, as are positive spirits for keeping up their hectic lives. A group of drug-dealing gangsters persistently raid their apartment for anything and everything of value, scraping the bottom of the barrel for anything they can salvage. It's a violent situation that anyone with common sense would escape from - if they had the means. Being poor and unavoidably working erratic jobs isn't exactly helping their situation, either.
One night, Duke decided that enough is enough. He stumbles into the gangster's apartment, with pistol in hand, to confront the thievery of his girlfriend's necklace. He steps in to find a display of nearly holistic carnage that ensued with the sticky-fingered gang, a cluster of meaner baddies (including Pollen, Christian Slater's character), and a giant bag full of cash. Duke, thinking on his toes, snatches up the bag, then plans to high-tail it out of town with his girlfriend. But, as luck would have it, Pollen catches a glimpse at him before Duke leaves, and his band of corrupt partners are quick on their tail to recover what is rightfully theirs.
At first, the only thing that kept my interest was the slightly intriguing story, even through its familiarity barriers. Thematically, it's unavoidably reminiscent of Scott's True Romance, but with cash replacing cocaine and corrupt cops led by Christian Slater instead of gangsters. It starts out with a voiceover from the main male lead, taking about the epitome of happiness in the form of a house, a child, and freshly squeezed limeade. Then, when the camera pans over into the dusty, dilapidated streets of the couple's ragtag town, a minor sense of empathy finds its way into Love Lies Bleeding. It's heavy-handed and a little bit of an obvious precursor that hints at two lovebirds bolting away with a fortune, yet still possessing a mild flutter of impact.
Duke and Amber are affable enough characters to care at least half a heart about, though they don't offer more than a meager tap at a heartstring. Neither delivers much depth or substance outside of their stock stereotypical reactions. Together, with the negative effects of their thievish surroundings, they still should understand the value and danger surrounding cash, especially when playing with other people's money. They're going to make a relatively solid and clever run for it once they hit the road with their loot, thus making for an engaging cat-and-mouse chase, right?
Sadly, Love Lies Bleeding hits a dim-witted streak with its script right around the point where they snatch up the loot, as it tosses in plot tweaks purely for the jerking amusement of trying to evoke audience compassion. In turn, it makes for some erratically poor decisions from the pair that really detaches much of the empathy gathered on their coattails as they left their home city. If the best idea the two have while starting out on the run from assumed maniacal drug dealers is to purchase a bright orange '57 Chevy in the same town, while along the dusty trail also stopping at a resort casino to gamble with the dealer's money at the craps table, then you've either got less brains or a lot more guts than most. Decisions like these are scattered across all of Love Lies Bleeding, which aid in decomposing a perfectly digestible crime flick into one rotting away from weak choices.
It's a shame the nonsensical nature of Duke and Amber's decisions mucked with a reliable formula, because all points considered the performance from Christian Slater stands out as a sound enough realization of a reliable mainstay. In fact, it sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of the film, as his manifestation is the only thing actually worthwhile in this production. He's in customary form here as the gruff Pollen, sporting a raspy voice and mouse-trap reflexes amidst aggravating situations. As to be expected, though, he's not near enough to pull the film from its wreckage.
One of the true shames of Love Lies Bleeding rests in the fact that Slater and his character's secondary plotline sheds much more engrossing dramatic light than Duke and Amber's rally for freedom. The film's spotlight is on the couple, but the only thing remotely cared about is the actions and ferocity of Slater's Pollen. Though intriguing, his narrative only draws us in as an interlink to the immediate conflict with the runaway lovebirds. Though, the side narrative about the lost stash and its impact on Pollen and Co. could've possibly become even more compelling than its origin story. Alas, the skeptic turn of events and underdeveloped connectivity with the focal pair of unlucky innocents makes Love Lies Bleeding a rather tedious and uninspired misfire.
Sony presents Love Lies Bleeding in a standard keepcase presentation with relatively goofy coverart.
Available in both 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 fullscreen presentations on the same disc, Love Lies Bleeding isn't a terribly impressive visual experience. Though color presentation isn't half bad throughout most of the film, the level of digital buzz and flatness of the picture really detracts from any nifty cinematography captured in Love Lies Bleeding. Sharpness isn't terrible either, as most of the detailed points in the negative pop out to be seen. Overall, it's not a terribly pleasing exercise for the eyes, but it'll get the job done.
Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, Love Lies Bleeding makes rare usage of the surround channels for anything other than its rather dull musical accompaniment. There's moderate separation at the front channels, and vocal clarity stands strong enough to hear most of Duke and Amber's mumblings. However, Love Lies Bleeding keeps a non-dynamic keel for practically the entire film, sounding more like a bloated Dolby Stereo track than anything else. A French 5.1 track is also available, as are English and French subtitles.
The only notable supplemental materials are the Deleted Scenes, helmed by an Alternate Ending on the second page of the material. With the exception of one character's death, the proceedings are practically the same at the conclusion of the film. Undoubtedly, this Alternate Ending makes a whole heck of a lot less sense, period.
The entirety of the deleted material, sitting at around 18 minutes is mish mashed between marginal and wise edits.
If you're in the mood for a fast-paced, intense rollercoaster about an enamored couple running away with the bad guys' loot, then Love Lies Bleeding isn't the option that I'd lean you towards. Groan-worthy dialogue, weak plot sensibilities, and poor decisions all around amidst a paint-by-numbers plot do nothing but swallow up Christian Slater's marginally solid performance. It'd be an easy decision to Skip It and floor it in another direction.
Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site