Things are not quite what they appear to be in director Brett A. Hart's psychological thriller Bone Dry, a film heavily influenced by The Most Dangerous Game, Steven Spielberg's Duel and Breakdown to name a few. There is also an element of the old television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents to be found in Bone Dry, a film that diligently tries to be more than the sum total of its influences. And while close scrutiny reveals that the film is, by and large, not much more than the sum total of its influences, it is entertaining and stylish enough that it is easy to initially overlook such shortcomings.
Luke Goss stars as Eddie, a lone traveler driving through the desert on his way back home to his family. When he stops on the side of the road to relieve himself, he is abducted by Jimmy (Lance Henricksen). It would seem that Eddie has no clue as to why Jimmy has kidnapped him, and is now torturing him in the middle of the Mojave Desert. But whatever Jimmy's reasons are for tormenting Eddie, he certainly has thought things through. Initially, he simply sets Eddie loose in the desert with little more than a walkie talkie and tells him to head north. From there, Jimmy thinks of more ways to make Eddie's life a living hell, including stripping his victim naked and handcuffing him to a cactus. As Eddie wanders through the desert, he stumbles across some other people--including Tiny Lister--who happen to be drug dealers. Eventually, the whole thing builds to a climactic showdown between what we think is the hero and the villain of the film, and the true nature of Jimmy and Eddie's relationship is revealed.
Bone Dry is a fairly entertaining film, but at 100-minutes, it is easily 15 to 20 minutes too long. In fact, the film could easily have been an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which means it would clock in at just under an hour long. That's not to say that Bone Dry is overly boring, but it certainly starts to feel like it has been padded out when a leaner, more streamlined approach might have been better.
As a director Hart has a good sense of style, and the cinematography in Bone Dry is impressive. With a minimal amount of plot, and cast that is seldom more than two people, the success or failure of the film depends on the work of Goss and Henricksen. Both actors give solid performances, convincingly creating chemistry between Eddie and Jimmy, even though most of the film they are never on screen together.
Bone Dry is the sort of film you catch on cable television late at night and find yourself staying up to see how it plays out, but at the same time it isn't the sort of film you necessarily rush out to rent. It is what I like to refer to as "diversion entertainment"--films that keep you entertained by wasting your time.
Bone Dry is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The movie was shot on high-definition video, and the picture quality looks very good. For the most past it is difficult to tell the difference from 35 millimeter film. Some of the pictures suffers from an over-saturation of reds and oranges--meant to convey the heat of the desert--but the image quality itself is good, as is the transfer.
Bone Dry is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital. There is not much dialog in the film, but the music does get to be a bit much at times. I won't go so far as to call the musical score overbearing, but it could have been taken down a notch or two. The audio mix and transfer, however, are all good.
An audio commentary with Brett Hart and Lance Henriksen features the director talk more than the actor, which is too bad, because the actor is more fun to listen to. Hart talks a lot about how hot it was shooting in the desert, and some of the other trials and tribulations of being an independent filmmaker, but this is certainly not one of those inspirational commentaries that takes the film to a new level of entertainment. At the same time, the film seems to not drag as much while listening to the commentary, which I suppose is a good thing. "Mirages: The Making of Bone Dry" (19 min.) is a collection of video footage that shows the crew in action. This is the sort of behind-the-scenes feaurette that looks more like a home movie than anything resembling a documentary, and leaves you with the feeling of, "Why did I just watch that?"
If you are the ultimate diehard fan of Lance Henriksen to the point you own Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings--even though Henriksen isn't even in it--you might want to own Bone Dry. But owning this film is probably a bit extreme (and uncalled for). Bone Dry is entertaining enough that it warrants the price of rental, and if you can catch it on cable, then by all means take time to watch it.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]