Honestly, there's nothing wrong with some films having more style than substance. Don't get me wrong, because I can only take such films in measured doses; but from time to time it is nice to watch something and just enjoy all the pretty lights. Of course, if a movie is going to be style over substance, then at the very least it should be coherent enough to be easily understood and followed with minimal amount of effort. And therein lays one of the fundamental problems with Toxic, a film that has plenty of style, very little substance and a story that is so convoluted you simply can't keep track of what is going on.
Trying to describe the plot of Toxic is almost as difficult as it is pointless. This is one of those films where you find yourself wondering, "What's going on?" very early in the game. Seriously, after only fifteen minutes, you're likely to be so lost that you will need to pick up the DVD case so you can read the back again, just to see if it can help make sense of what you're watching. For the record, the back of the DVD case has this to say: "In this high-octane action thriller, a beautiful mental patient goes on a murderous rampage after her own father puts a bounty on her head."
I suppose that description is true, in that it describes one aspect of the plot. But somehow it fails to really capture the full story, which is a crisscrossing, nonlinear narrative that combines multiple storylines into one jumbled mess. Trying to pass itself off as clever, Toxic jumps back and forth in time, but the nonlinear story simply becomes more and more confusing with each agonizing minute you try to endure this nonsense. Very early on things get so confusing you'll begin scratching your head in so much bewilderment that your scalp is likely to start bleeding.
Tom Sizemore does play a morally bankrupt man whose daughter (Charity Shea) has escaped from a mental hospital, and for reasons that are not explained right away, he wants her stopped. Sizemore blathers on about the trail of dead bodies his daughter leaves in her wake, but there is more going on here than meets the eye. Meanwhile, there are more convoluted plotlines involving a bartender, a pimp, a hooker, and a bunch of other one-dimensional characters that are supposed to represent the underbelly of society. And all of this would be fine if the underbelly in question was more interesting, but that's not the case.
There are so many problems with Toxic that it is simply easier to say, "Don't bother watching it," than it is to generate a list. But if a simplified, cursory list is required to avoid this film, feel free to check off bad writing, bad acting, convoluted story, and forgettable characters and an overall lack of cinematic quality that is both unsettling and unbelievable. But don't take my word for it. On the back of the DVD case it clearly says, "Toxic is an edgy, action-packed thrill ride that is guaranteed to both shock and awe." Shock and awe indeed--only not in a good way.
Toxic is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality itself is good, but the film relies heavily on a variety of visual tricks and editing gimmicks that ultimately becomes distracting (although it does help divert attention from the script itself). The visual look of the film is probably the best thing going for it, but not necessarily reason enough to watch it.
Toxic is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital. The sound, much like the editing and the story itself, is a jumble of conflicting dialog, audio effects and music. The result is a hodgepodge of sounds that is decently mixed, but ultimately proves to be distracting.
There are no bonus materials.
If you are a diehard fan of Tom Sizemore, Master P, Danny Trejo, Bai Ling, Ron Jeremy or Costas Mandylor, then you might want to consider watching this film out of misplaced loyalty. Otherwise, feel free to stay clear of this nonsense.
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]