Writer/director Aaron Harvey's Catch .44follows the exploits of three women: Tes (Malin Akerman), Dawn (Deborah Ann Woll), and Kara (Nikki Reed). When we meet them, they're hanging out at a diner, not up to anything suspicious at all, really. Well, it turns out these three ladies are the service of a drug dealer named Mel (Bruce Willis) and he's got them there so that they can deal with a trucker full of dope that Mel, who definitely enjoys dipping into his own stash, would just love to get his greedy little mitts on. This should, by all accounts, be a pretty easy gig for the three ladies - grab the truck with the dope and get the Hell out of there as quickly as possible, drop it off for Mel, and get paid.
Of course, it wouldn't be much of a movie if it went off without a hitch, right? Enter a guy named Ronny (Forest Whitaker) who knows more than either of the ladies realize and who has a vested interest in the goods himself. If his presence weren't problem enough, there's always the weird local sheriff (Brad Dourif) - it all spirals out of control for the girls from here, and before it's over, it'll get pretty violent too.
Harvey obviously drank deep from the well of Tarantino when he scripted this movie, that much is obvious, but somewhere along the line that influence took over and his voice got lost in homage. The end result is a very talky film with lots of quirky characters and sporadic violence, the same sort of things that make Tarantino's films instantly identifiable, but without the same sort of charm. Case in point? Bruce Willis as Mel. The film does a good job of casting him against type and setting him up as a complete slime ball, which should by all means be an interesting role for him to play. From there, however, it does nothing with that aspect, really, and Willis winds up playing this character the same way he's played pretty much every other character he's been cast as in the last twenty years. He brings nothing new to this part, and why should he? The script doesn't ask him to. He's simply been cast here as Bruce Willis and he phones it in. The three female leads are all fine in their roles and have the added advantage of some natural sex appeal working in their favor, but their characters aren't memorable enough for this to matter.
As in Reservoir Dogs, the timeline jumps around a bit to keep you guessing but we know early on that this is going to turn into a series of double crosses and it does just that. Fine, you may not figure out the ending too early on and you may even be surprised when you get there but everything along the road that takes us to that destination seems to familiar that the film turns out to be the cinematic equivalent of your drive to work: it might be perfectly fine if traffic is okay but sometimes it's nice to take an alternate route and enjoy some new scenery. Harvey doesn't give us any new scenery. The violence lacks impact because we can't really care enough about the characters for them to matter much and the hip, talky dialogue doesn't come across as natural but instead contrived and cool simply for the sake of trying to be cool.
The pacing of the film is good and Forest Whitaker and the criminally underrated Brad Dourif are both decent in their supporting roles and the film earns some points for being nicely shot and well put together on a technical level. This doesn't really matter, however, when the lead performances don't amount to much and the storyline is a hackneyed as it is this time around. Had Harvey tried for something more original than what he's tried for here, there's no doubt in this writer's mind that he could have turned out an interesting and enjoyable movie worth your time - sadly, Catch .44 isn't that movie.
The AVC encoded 2.40.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer for Catch .44 is decent, if not perfect. Black levels don't always look as deep as you'd expect them to and facial detail can sometimes look just a little bit washed out. Detail as a whole isn't bad, with some nice textures evident on the exteriors of various buildings or the dusty hood of a car. Skin tones sometimes look just slightly off but this isn't a constant and if you're not looking for it you probably won't notice it. Color reproduction is decent if a little hot in spots and there are no problems with compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement. Not an amazing transfer but one that certainly bests what standard definition can offer by quite a margin.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix with optional subtitles available in English and Spanish. This is more front heavy than anything else but it does what it does quite well, offering up a bouncy score with some serious resonance and providing crisp, clear dialogue. There's plenty of good channel separation throughout the mix as well and a strong low end to offer some punch behind the gun shots and car engines that rev up throughout the movie. This isn't reference quality material the way a more active mix might be but it gets the job done and very well at that.
Aside from previews for a few unrelated Anchor Bay releases, the only extras is a commentary track wherein the film's writer and director, Aaron Harvey, is joined by editor Richard Byard to discuss the making of the picture. If you dug the movie you'll appreciate the track, and if you weren't exactly blown away by the movie, you probably won't get much out of it. Regardless, covered here are some of the ideas that worked their way into the storyline, working with the A-listers that they got on board for this project and location shooting - all fairly standard stuff but it's good source of information on the movie if you want more.
Catch .44 is generic, predictable and uninspired. You've seen all this before and you've seen it done with more style and originality than it has this time around. There are a few moments here and there that seem inspired but otherwise, this is just not that interesting a movie. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray looks and sounds good and the commentary moves at a good pace, but you have to be a diehard crime thriller fan to want to bother with this one. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.