Jimmy Doodleberry might be suckered in, but we crafty reviewers know that slapping the come-on; "from a producer of 300 and Piranha 3D" on your DVD cover is as lame and meaningless as it gets. Yeah, for those with a brain, it will turn us away from a movie, which is too bad in this case, since director Nick Simon's weird psycho-thriller is much better than that.
I can understand to an extent. When your biggest name star is Oz Perkins (Anthony's son) you're not drawing in a ton of fan-faithful viewers. Billy Burke contributes, though, as does [full disclosure: my wife's co-worker's brother] Mark Kelly, both of whom do fine work, despite their relative anonymity. Expanded from a similar short subject, (also starring Kelly) Removal asks the professional carpet cleaners question, "What do you do if your client leads you to believe you're cleaning up after one of his murders?" (I haven't done that kind of work, but I'm sure it's a typical problem.)
Hitting the ground running, we find Eric Kershe (Burke) undergoing some intense police-type interrogation. Lean direction matches terse dialog and cracking delivery, ensuring a healthy and invigorating dose of tough-guy cool gets delivered. Kershe appears to be close with Cole Hindin, (Kelly) a schlubby, pill-popping carpet cleaner who's gotten Kershe out of a jam or two. While contemplating that relationship, Hindin meets Henry Sharpe, (Perkins) who offers Cole a quick 5 grand for an untenable clean-up job. As the job progresses, Hindin becomes more and more convinced that he's cleaning up after Sharpe's murder.
Doesn't help that Sharpe is a stone cold freak who frequently drops vague, sinister hints with barely suppressed glee, but it makes the movie a lot of fun. Perkins is delightfully weird, casually ostentatious, and fairly oozes danger from his pores. He sums up the main challenge of Removal in his bizarre persona: is the movie a thriller or a comedy? Though there's no genuine comedy element to be found, it works best when Kelly and Perkins descend into parody, lightening their tense situation by pointing up how ridiculous it is. Kelly himself seems a little unsure as to whether he's the leading man here, or simply inhabiting a supporting character role, a conundrum founded by the fact that the movie doesn't know either.
A back-story subplot is the weakest part of the story. Perkins and some slatternly ho (I think she's his ex-wife or something) argue around an Executive Desk and Leather Chair Set, as the narrative descends into The CW's version of Law & Order. Luckily things twist back towards the odd, with Kelly straddling the line between tortured husband and speed-freak vacuum jockey. Wrapping things up, Simon throws in the Thriller-Standard Twist Ending. (And a pretty easy to spot one, or at least I lucked into it after about 5 minutes - a first for me!) The weird thing is, this twist rather presumptuously seems to hint at a sequel driven franchise! The other weird part is, it just might work! Removal removes your suspicion that this is "just another direct to DVD thriller" with a pleasingly uneven tone and a minimum of distractions. Weird, wild, and not entirely serious, Removal makes for a fun night on the couch.