It's difficult to describe a film such as Modus Operandi. It is an independently produced, micro-budgeted mélange of such disparate genres as Blaxploitation, giallo, spy thriller and noir, filmed (almost) entirely in Milwaukee, WI. Writer, director, editor Frankie Latina is either a certified film genius, or suffering under a deep obsession. Either way, we get to enjoy the cinematic confection he's whipped up.
The story (such as it is, and at its best it is tenuous and confusing) concerns ex-CIA super agent Stanley Cashay (Randy Russell). After Cashay's wife is murdered, he retires from the CIA to drown his sorrows in booze. When two briefcases containing sensitive material are stolen from presidential candidate Squire Parks (Michael Sottile), Cashay is pulled out of retirement to retrieve them. Cashay recruits two old friends to help, playboy Casey Thunderbird (Barry Poltermann) and the sultry Black Licorice (Nikki Johnson).
The cases are sold, stolen, resold and retrieved through a series of double and triple crosses by various members of the criminal underground, many of whom wear little or no clothing. (While there is significant female nudity in the film, in the interest of equity, Frankie also graces us with several shots of frontal male nudity.) Cashay and his cohorts relentlessly pursue the briefcases, urged on by CIA Director Holiday (Danny Trejo, joyously enthusiastic in his spotless white tuxedo), with no idea of what is in them or how their contents might be important. And in this kind of movie, we know it's unlikely to be girl scout cookies.
Modus Operandi is a film that should be enjoyed experientially, or holistically, not chronologically. Little effort is made to craft a coherent plot, characters drift in and out of the story like will-o-the-wisps, and whole scenes are included apparently for the sole reason that they look cool. And the film indeed looks cool. It's grainy and rough, and switches back and forth between black and white and color, and its miniscule budget is revealed at every turn, but is shot with a verve and style seldom seen in more polished fare. But this schizophrenic approach is actually quite endearing, most of the time. As each new character appears, the viewer can't help thinking if they'll become important to the story, or get killed, or simply disappear. One is charmed by the seemingly pointless asides, many of which involve breasts or Jacuzzis or lingerie clad Japanese girls torturing someone.
It's nearly impossible to follow the convoluted plot, and the putative main character barely does anything, and the performances are not stellar, and the production design is often terribly lacking. But nonetheless, the film is enjoyable. It certainly isn't for everyone, particularly those who are averse to male and female nudity, but for those that have a soft spot for all of those incomprehensible and exploitive genre films that played in the local grind house in the seventies, this is definitely a film to see. Recommended.
Special Introduction by Sasha Grey
Behind the Scenes
Audio Commentary by Mark Borchardt and Dave Monroe