"Blood and Concrete" for a Billy Zane fan such as myself is a holy grail. A seemingly lost film of the early 90s that captured Zane at the rise of his career, following on the heels of his memorable supporting role in "Dead Calm" and coinciding with his brief but important role in the final episodes of "Twin Peaks." The directorial debut of Jeffrey Reiner (who co-wrote the script with Richard LaBrie), "Blood and Concrete" feels like a film made a good four or five years too soon, just missing the rise of the indie film where such a quirky bizarre spectacle such as this would have fit right in.
Zane is the suave Joey Turks, a two-bit hood who find himself menaced by a foul-mouthed goon in a scene that feels very much to be the inspiration for "The Way of the Gun's" memorable non sequitur opening. As in any good indie film, our hero gets in over his head and crosses paths with a kindred soul, this time in the form of Jennifer Beals as the suicidal, pill addicted Mona, the two obviously fall in lust and soon Turks is involved in a conspiracy that culminates in a logical finale that doesn't quit maintain the bizarre pace and level of absurdity that precedes it.
To be perfectly fair, "Blood and Concrete" is a consistently entertaining film, although its first half is very noticeably more gripping and smoothly flowing than its latter half, due in no large part to a steady introduction of supporting characters including a homicidal homicide detective played by Darren McGavin, Spuntz, a sleazy drug dealer who tasks Turks with finding his supply of the newest designer drug, and Mark Pellegrino as Bart, a former gay hustler turned muscle for Spuntz who strikes fear into the hart of Turks as he menacingly stalks him on the LA streets from his convertible blasting some of the most awful but catchy dance music imaginable. Pellegrino honestly steals the film, which is no easy feat given the presence of a truly unhinged, scenery chewing McGavin, and when Bart and Turks are facing off, the movie is flawless and at times will make you wish you could watch an entire film with the two trying to solve some absurd mystery.
While Zane and Pellegrino might have the film's best on-screen chemistry, the b-story romance between Zane and Beals' character is deceptively strong. The two share smaller moments together and the tonal shift between their interactions and the story at large can be a bit jarring, but by the end of the film, it's believable these two care for each other, even if the conclusion to the mystery just can't live up to the investigation. Beals gets one standout scene, a musical number, which I honestly didn't realize was her singing, until the end credits. Running a bit long, even at 99 minutes, "Blood and Concrete" is a truly demented, indie mystery. For the most part it hits the right notes, doesn't pander to its audience and is only guilty of telegraphing one plot point through the casting of Harry Shearer in a throwaway role. For Zane fans (and haters), it's the man at his best, exuding charm and knowing when to be low-key (i.e. anytime Pellegrino is on screen) and when to go over-the-top. It's no lost masterpiece, but still worthy of being rediscovered.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is a little warm on the color front and only average to above average in detail. Minor print damage is present, but never a major issue, however, some issues with compression artifacts are worth noting. Generally it's a decent transfer with solid contrast and no other glaring technical problems.
The Dolby Digital English stereo audio track is a little flat in the effects department, with dialogue amped up a bit too heavy, although the films score manages to push through effectively and the whole package is distortion free.
An imperfect, but pleasing independent mystery, "Blood and Chocolate" primarily serves as a showcase for four underappreciated actors, with Mark Pellegrino being reason alone to at least give this one a rental. Not aping a single other film that I could recall, "Blood and Chocolate" is its own, absurd, bizarre beast, taking a simple theft and twisting into a small-time underworld conspiracy that will leave you laughing as well as a bit (intentionally) confused. Recommended.