The action/horror/thriller "Toxic" is quite bold in the manner it begs the audience to not give a damn about any of it. Convoluted to a point of dizziness and made with frightful attention to pandemonium, the picture brings new meaning to the word "mess." Even as a lunkheaded DTV release with little on its mind except encouraging sour exploitation and the rusty instincts of appalling actors, "Toxic" plumbs new depths of awful.
It's a question of personal opinion to suggest there's a plot to "Toxic." Director Alan Pao (the man behind future AFI nominees "Loaded" and "Chasing Ghosts") throws so much visual manure at the screen, it's impossible to pay attention to the threadbare story. If I had to deduce what's up, I would say there's a truckload of criminals, idiots, and the confused out to find a lost girl (Charity Shea) who might possess supernatural powers of some sort. Aw hell, I have no idea what "Toxic" was about since I was marveling over the speed of stupidity the film travels at, not wrapped up tight in narrative invention. The bottom line: bad people vs. good people...who might also be bad people. I feel nauseous.
What defines "Toxic" besides complete no-budget buffoonery are the editorial and cinematographic choices made by Pao to help him survive the production. It's nearly impossible to describe the viciously frantic cutting, the saturated post-production smear, and deployment of everything short of star wipes to pump up the energy of this garbage. Pao pulls every cable access production technique out of his back pocket to lend "Toxic" an edge it can't develop naturally, and it's embarrassing to watch. It's not enough to simply make a lousy movie with "Walker, Texas Ranger" production values; Pao feels compelled to remind the viewer of his inferiority with every flash cut and out-of-focus shot.
The screenplay is equally as pathetic, hurling gangsta machismo, strip-club philosophizing (dispensed in a nudie bar that encourages the dancers to remain fully clothed), unbridled misogyny, and a dash of outright homophobia into a potent stew of moronic plotting that hopes to frighten viewers and razzle-dazzle them with violence. While the gunplay is plentiful (think Guy Ritchie with a head injury), the scares are strange, weaving a "Ring" vibe of psychological torment throughout the tough guy posedown malarkey. The logic behind it all is saved for the twist ending, yet "Toxic" never invites the kind of curiosity that would warrant a second viewing to see if it all pieces together properly. One lap around the Pao track is more than enough to compute that the director is incapable of even the most elementary cinematic moves, depending on chaos to numb the viewer into submission.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio), "Toxic" is quite ugly to watch on DVD. The saturated color scheme is displayed with high-contrast smear, turning the screen into a map of colorful blobs over true detail-oriented transfer precision. Black levels are also a mess, with ill-defined edges.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is a route offering, with adequate embellishment of gunplay and strip-club atmospherics. Dialogue is occasionally hard to comprehend, but I blame the marble-mouthed cast over any possible technical problems.
English for the Hearing Impaired and Spanish subtitles are included.
None. Thank heavens.
Need more proof that "Toxic" is...well, toxic? Check out this cast list: Tom Sizemore (who can't remember his lines), Bai Ling, Lochlyn Munroe, James Duvall, Master P (daringly cast as a pimp), Costas Mandylor, Dominique Swain, Danny Trejo (who should really learn how to turn down roles), Susan Ward, Steven Bauer, Cerina Vincent, Brande Roderick, C. Thomas Howell, and, as the icing on this ridiculous cake, Ron Jeremy. If you see this title at the video store, immediately run the opposite way. Find it recommended on Netflix, throw your computer out the nearest window. Pass by it on cable, burn your house to the ground. It's the only way to be sure no "Toxic" stink gets on ya.