She's had a few parts in big movies -- Liar, Liar and Instinct to name a couple -- but most probably know Maura Tierney's small screen work as NewsRadio's driven, but sexy Lisa Miller. Oh, and she's on that ER show. I hear that's popular. Anyway, Maura's film school buddy, Richard Shepard, cast her in Oxygen (1999, 92 minutes) along with The Thin Red Line's Adrien Brody. And, together, they've made the best woman-buried-alive movie I've seen this year.
The movie: NYPD detective Madeline Foster (Tierney) is a dirty, dirty girl. Her hubby isn't delivering the sort of boom boom in the bedroom she's hankering for, so she hooks up with this slimy European dude, who gets her liquored up and burns her with his cigarette while they do the deed. Kinky. Too bad they didn't put any of that on the screen. What they do show is this skinny psychopath with braces, charm a rich broad on the street, only to smack her silly and haul her off to the woods. Harry (Brody) and his buddy bury her alive and send her rich husband a creepy ransom video. That's when Madeline gets involved. She's supposed to catch the bad guy and save the nearly nekkid gal about to suffocate in the coffin. The flick moves pretty well, until some long interrogation scenes, but actors and writers LOVE that stuff. My Vomit Meter went completely nuts during one of them. Some people bite their nails, well, Harry gives us an intimate look at HIS unique nail care technique. Ouch! And he never once loses his I-know- something- you-don't- know smirk, either. Speaking of uncomfortable guys, watch for Happiness creepmeister, Dylan Baker, as the jabber-jaw FBI guy.
Notables: No breasts. Two corpses. Foot chase. Orthodontic trickery. Grave digging. Gratuitous elevator operator. Thumbnail tumbles. Flashlight footage. Car chase with crash. Shoot out.
Quotables: Madeline says to her husband and fellow cop, "I hate summer, because everybody shoots first." Harry taunts Madeline, "You're a helluva looker, you know that? I mean, for a cop." Cheers to Laila Robins, the woman buried alive, for making her muffled cries for help so goldang disturbing.
Time codes: Maura emotes (17:45). A future Mary Katherine Gallagher monologue (19:47). Car chase through downtown New York City (35:00). "Should have used Energizer!" (39:10). Wacky talking box gag (1:16:55).
Audio/Video: The image is clear throughout and is presented in an anamorphic widescreen format (1.85:1). Nice audio as well.
Extras: An unexpected surprise was the quality of the commentary with director/writer Richard Shepard and stars Maura Tierney and Adrien Brody. I enjoyed it more than the flick itself. It's both entertaining and informative. There's also a story-board guided look at the big car chase scene ... with commentary from editor Adam Lichtenstein and Shepard. More slick animated menus from those folks at A-Pix Entertainment. Nice to see that sort of attention to detail.
Final thought: Think Silence of the Lambs meets The French Connection meets Taxi Driver meets the Lifetime network. And I don't mean that in a BAD way. Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.