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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Love and a . 45
Love and a . 45
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // August 19, 2008
List Price: $9.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Phil Bacharach | posted August 19, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

By all rights, Love and a .45 should be an irresistibly greasy cheeseburger of exploitation-flick goodness. Writer-director C.M. Talkington assembles all the ostensibly necessary ingredients in his 1994 valentine to drive-in schlock: outlaw lovers on the lam, trailer-trash sexpot, blood-soaked carnage, torture, gallows humor and a heart-thumping soundtrack. And yet Love and a .45, despite such promise, doesn't quite lower itself to the occasion.

Our antihero, Watty Watts (Gil Bellows), is a convenience store robber who nevertheless adheres to a strict code of ethical conduct. Namely, he refuses to tempt fate by going about his criminal activities with the help of a loaded gun. That rule is put to the test when his no-good, psychopathic friend, Billy Mack (Rory Cochrane, a long way from the stoner dude he played in Dazed & Confused), persuades Watty to join him in robbing a store where the owner allegedly has socked away at least $10,000 to buy a boat.

Alas, things don't go according to plan (if they did, of course, we probably wouldn't have a movie). The female employee behind the counter is high as a heroin-addled kite, prompting a flustered Billy Mack to shoot her at point-blank range. It's the first of the movie's sizable body count.

Billy and Watty take off before the cops arrive, but Watty is hardly out of harm's way. When it becomes evident that the increasingly paranoid, drugged-out Billy also means to kill his accomplice, Watty stabs his chum in the hand and flees. He and hottie girlfriend Starlene (pre-Jerry Maguire Renée Zellweger) hop in their beat-up 1972 Plymouth Road Runner and floor it toward sunny Mexico.

Along the way, they must outrun and outgun the requisite array of thugs and crooked cops. Love and a .45 doesn't skimp on the heavies, and it helps that Talkington populates the proceedings with some wonderfully eclectic talent. Jeffrey Combs, perhaps best known as Re-Animator's nerdy mad scientist, has a ball as Dinosaur Bob, a sideburn-sporting, meth-laden henchman for a drug-dealing televangelist. Jack Nance, he of Eraserhead and Twin Peaks fame, has an amusing bit part as a road-strop preacher. Best of all are Peter Fonda and Ann Wedgeworth as Starlene's oversexed hippie parents. Fonda, who sends up his Easy Rider persona, is a particular hoot, flashing a toothy 1,000-watt grin as a guy who must use an electrolarynx to speak after having long ago ripped out his own larynx in the wake of an LSD experiment gone awry.

Nevertheless, Love and a .45 feels more like a pastiche of other movies than it does an actual, honest-to-goodness, standalone story. Watty and Starlene become quasi-celebrities via a Court TV-styled network, à la Natural Born Killers, but Starlene's infatuation with her sudden stardom doesn't register as more than a quirky flourish. Similarly, a climactic standoff involving Watty, Starlene and Billy Mack is one of the flick's more inspired moments, but it's lifted from Reservoir Dogs. Ultimately, Watty and Starlene just aren't terribly interesting. Bellows and Zellweger do a fine job groping one another and letting loose some obligatory yee-haws as they zip along Texas highways, but such theatrics don't hide their essential blandness. Mickey and Mallory, they ain't.

Is the flick rip-off or homage? It's not always easy to tell. The movie gets some mileage breathing in the fumes of exploitation flicks -- "Free Tex Watson" scrawled on a building is a fleeting tribute to John Waters' Pink Flamingos) -- but perhaps Love and a .45 just has the remnants of too many other movies rattling around inside its gas tank. Talkington approximates the style of Pulp Fiction and Natural Born Killers, but without the crazed humor and singular vision that made those pictures so memorable. Love and a .45 is a connect-the-dots addition to the genre, a passable diversion that lacks rabid poetry.

At least the soundtrack certainly rocks, jammed with terrific off-kilter tunes from the Butthole Surfers, Kim Deal, Meat Puppets, Flaming Lips, Johnny Cash and the Reverend Horton Heat (who have a cameo).

The DVD

The Video:

The DVD earns kudos for finally showcasing the movie in anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1. The picture quality is strong overall. Despite a few specks and traces of grain, the image boasts realistic skin tones, distinctive blacks and solid details.

The Audio:

The Dolby Digital 2.0 is certainly serviceable, but the movie's abundance of blasting guns and killer alt-rock music deserved better. Optional subtitles are in Spanish, French and English for the hearing-impaired.

Extras:

A commentary with Talkington, Bellows and producer Darin Scott is a boffo addition. The writer-director is enthusiastic to discuss his first filmmaking venture; both he and Scott are chock full of amusing anecdotes and insights.

Four deleted scenes, none of which are essential viewing, can only be played separately. Interestingly, one of the excised clips includes a bad guy (the televangelist I mentioned earlier) who never appeared in the final cut. Aggregate running time is eight minutes, 39 seconds.

Storyboards are included for two scenes, titled "Reflexes" and "Funny Man," allow viewers to compare sketches to what eventually made it on screen. There are some other fun oddities, too. The two-minute Father Pedro is another excised scene featuring the aforementioned televangelist. The 44-second Crime Channel is a clip of the fictitious TV network that turns Watty and Starlene into overnight celebrities. Also included are a theatrical trailer and a three-minute, 40-second Reverend Horton Heat music video for "Do It."

Final Thoughts:

While Love and a .45 falls short of the scuzzy heights of the films it imitates, C.M. Talkington's love letter to exploitation cinema still has plenty of sociopathic fun, from Renée Zellweger's sexy turn as Starlene to a Texas-sized cast of slam-dunk character actors.

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