Crash and Burn (2008) is a DTV number meant to cash in on The Fast and the Furious as well as the whole Gone in 60 Seconds and No Man's Land car thief angle.
Kevin (Erik Palladino) is a car thief who returns to LA after two mystery years because his buddy died. He reunites with his best friend Hill (David Moscow), whose father runs a chop shop. Hill and his dad are doing business with gangland bigwig Vincent Scaillo (Michael Madsen) and Kevin wants in on the action. Pretty soon Kevin and Hill are out stealing cars for Vincent's want list and trying to avoid the local Latino gang, who are murderously intent on being the only ones stealing cars in their territory.
Of course, there is an ulterior motive at hand (and an obligatory female love interest subplot not worth mentioning). Kevin is working for the FBI, who have roped him in to uncover the Mr. Big behind Vincent. Because the opening scene reveals it, we also know that Vincent was responsible for the death- hell, he was the trigger man- of Kevin and Hill's friend, so there is the added revenge angle.
On one hand, I'd say I'm not the audience this flick is aimed at. I'm not the kind of person who is impressed with a car being able to go 0 to 60 in .05 seconds or whatever and thinks spinning shiny rims just look silly and ostentatious. You've got a classic muscle car? Good for you, mine gets better mileage, is easy to repair, has better insurance, and I bet I get places just as quickly on average as you do. On the other hand, the appeal of speed and chasing isn't beyond appeal to me, I am a man after all, and I was born and bred on classic 70's car chase/stunt flicks. So, there is that open door.
Crash and Burn is a very rote, by the numbers crime thriller. Twists and plot turns as well as characterizations are all glaringly obvious and cardboard. Not that I think that is a bad thing in a genre flick; however there simply isn't much inspiration or energy at hand here. The smiley bad boy trying to go good, the hot-headed best friend, the jokey old guy/father figure, the golden good girl, and the enigmatic sneering villain. Seen it before. Seen it better.
Action scenes are limited by the low budget and the seams show with limited settings/locales for filming. Its is generally not a good thing when your car flick cannot mask the fact that the actors are being dragged behind a tow trailer in their driving scenes. The film has two or three brief chase sequences but the budget doesn't allow for much elaboration or such mayhem as crashing. The most you get are some screeching tires and a tractor trailer truck carefully jacknifing on a barren road. Likewise, the plot drops in a bit about a rare, experimental, one of a kind car on Vincent's want list and one assumes it will be revving up and peeling out in the finale. Instead, they just break into the showroom and take it apart piece by piece in order to bypass the security system- that's it. The finale is an unremarkable dilapidated warehouse shootout.
As for Madsen, who gets cover billing, there was a time (actually a year, 1992) when I think we all thought he had the tough guy look, voice, and charisma to be the next Lee Marvin. But, perhaps because those kind of demand for grizzled mainstream stars barely exists anymore, he became more of an instantly identifiable character actor who plies away in any number of DTV b-flicks (imdb states a whopping 20+ films for 2008 alone), sort of a modern William Smith. He wears sunglasses for 90% of his screentime in Crash and Burn, pretty much phones it in and seems oddly twitchy and given to grand gesturing. Maybe it's a hangover, maybe its Madsen not giving a damn, maybe he filmed his scenes while he was having a bad week?
The director is Russell Mulcahy, the man Micheal Bay, David Fincher, etc have to thank for starting the whole music video turned feature director boom. In the mid 80's he went from Duran Duran videos to the cult classic Highlander. Mulcahy, like Madsen, has seen the bulk of his career over the past decade(+) in DTV flicks and some tv work, which made for some surprise when I saw his name on the last Resident Evil sequel. I'd like to tell you he elevates the material and budget constraints, but, despite some shaky camerawork, quick cuts, and split screen use to try and jazz up the proceedings, it still comes across as lifeless.
The DVD: Genius Products.
Anamorphic Widescreen. Looks fine, for what it is. Relatively good sharpness, color, and contrast details. Tech creds seem okay and there aren't any severe transfer issues at hand. It is just simply a flat film that looks every bit its DTV, low budget roots.
2.0 Stereo. Again, what we have are purely the basics. No whopping surround so the scoring and action fx has little pop.
I'll save you the puns I could make with the title or obvious car analogies. Crash N' Burn is probably an okay time waster if you are into low budget DTV flicks. The disc is totally barebones, so there really inst much incentive to check it out as anything other than a very casual rental. But for most of you out there, I know you've got better things to do with your time, so the overall recommendation is to skip it.