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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Blue Iguana
The Blue Iguana
Paramount // R // May 23, 2006
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Cornelius | posted May 22, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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"The Blue Iguana" begins promisingly enough, a gritty comic noir with a very young Dylan McDermott as a wisecracking bounty hunter who has a nasty habit of getting his bounties killed; it's all crisp and cool and ultra-hip retro, and it works. But then Dean Stockwell shows up in a neck brace, and we remember a rule of comedy: neck brace = cheap quirkiness.

We keep watching because hey, it's Dean Stockwell. And he does not let us down, despite the too-obvious kookiness surrounding his character. Then comes Tovah Feldshuh, who gives a performance so manic and pushy that it does not just go over the top, it cannot even see the top from where it flies. She's trying to be a super-tough government agent, shouting and jerking around and doing everything she can to make us realize hers is a funny role - which misses the point, actually. Noir parody works well when played in a low key, and not the broad heights to which she aims.

And yet we're only getting warmed up. In the film, written and directed by John Lafia ("Child's Play 2," "Man's Best Friend"), McDermott is Vince Holloway, a man who seems to have stepped right out of any solid late-1940s detective thriller, if not for the fact that McDermott is a bit too young and too baby-faced for the part, and if not for the fact that Lafia seems more concerned with writing catchy-sounding dialogue than he is with getting his story to groove along with it. This is not a dead-on take on old-fashioned tough guys, but a half-baked goof made by people that enjoy the sound of noir but do not know how to make it themselves. Through it all, McDermott never looks like a tough guy; he looks like a kid playing one.

Holloway is a bounty hunter (or as he prefers, "recovery specialist") sent to a nameless Central American craphole, where he is to find the criminal haven city of Diablo, track down a bank that specializes in holding illegal funds, and retrieve 20 million dollars for the IRS. Once there, he gets a little Yojimbo action going, working both the dragon lady bank owner (Jessica Harper) and the local gang leader (James Russo) who's out to nab that cash for himself. He also falls for the gang leader's girlfriend (Pamela Gidley), who runs the local nightclub, a little dung heap called the Blue Iguana. It's a spot that gives us our title and provides an easy place for overlong musical numbers and other ill-conceived scenes.

What's surprising about this film - aside, that is, from the curious absence of any Latinos as anything other than extras, despite the movie's locale - is its lack of fun. This is a neo-noir (despite the slangy dialogue and old school cars, it takes place in the present) that's supposed to be light, bouncy, and manic, especially in its twists and turns. And yet nobody here can get a handle on the material. The characters are often overplayed for intentional comedy when a more deadpan approach is required; the script hopes to set up a series of surprises, yet none of them surprise; the direction is all over the place, effectively hitting noir-like moments in one scene, bungling it up with sloppy, transparent attempts at kookiness.

And what to make of a shoot-out in which every hit is accompanied by the sound of a carnival bell, suggesting a duck shoot game? It's a joke that comes out of nowhere, does not fit with the vibe of anything that comes before or after, and crashes horribly upon arrival.

There are some clever moments sprinkled throughout, and the pulpy story that serves as its core is decent enough to get us through. With a tighter script, a lesser desire to overplay the funny, and a more smartly cast leading man, "The Blue Iguana" might have clicked. As it stands, it's little more than an interesting failure, a not-so-clever execution of a clever idea.

The DVD

Video


"The Blue Iguana" is a low budget flick from 1988, and it looks it. Paramount has done little effort to clean up the image (presented here in anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen); softness runs rampant, and dust and debris pop up a little too often. There are a few shots that shine, thanks to a vibrant color scheme, but these are few and far between.

Audio

Thankfully, the simple but decent Dolby 2.0 stereo mix isn't as shabby as the video. The lousy rap theme song comes across crystal clear. Optional English subtitles are available.

Extras

None. This is part of Paramount's no-frills bargain line.

Final Thoughts

It's easy to see why the film went mostly ignored upon its original release and never really found any sort of cult following on video. There's enough promise on display to get me to say fans of neo-noir and detective knock-offs might want to give this a spin; there's enough of that promise that fizzles that gets me to say you'll do just fine if you only Rent It.
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