Vanguard // Unrated // $29.99 // September 24, 2002
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted October 25, 2002
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Scalpers a very indie comic film about a group of ticket scalpers, Sheila-the girl, Sammy- the sassy black kid, Lou- the middle aged, fat, bald white guy, and Joey, who looks like a squeaky clean 90210 casting reject. Particularly the lead is Joey, who has a sick grandma and learned scheming from his grandfather. Joey begins scalping on a gangster named Freddy's turf, starts romancing a fellow Sheila, Lou has gambling debts, Sammy is a wiseass, Freddy gets mad, Freddy's thug has an unfaithful wife...

I tried to like this in the worst way, give the cast of no names a chance, support independent film, but the movie just failed to satisfy. It doesn't really focus on the low level life of a con artist, like some bottom barrel version of The Grifters. Sure they scalp a little, one pulls a parking lot scam, some minor stuff like getting free meals and sneaking into the movies, but really the film is about comedy, specifically, it forsakes any realism for inane hipster dialogue, like "Quit calling me, 'boss.' This ain't Fantasy Island and you aren't Tattoo." and repartee that sounds like throwaway Seinfeld routines. For instance, there is one about "stall etiquette" in men's bathrooms (you don't take a stall right next to a guy when the rest are open). They even go so far as to begin talking about "double dipping"- which is a Seinfeld routine, and then as if to stretch the stolen gag out and call attention to it, someone says something like "What is this, Seinfeld?" Instead of being a funny tribute, it just marks the fact that the film is unoriginal and not as funny as the grab bag of comic sources it is trying to steal from. It is one of the plagues of indie film in the 90's, all of these Kevin Smith/Tarantino/Woody Allen-ish banter films.

It is just too contrived; the writing and the acting never feels like it hits any kind of honest note. Aside from the dialogue not working, the characters are all pretty flat. Over the course of its 80+ minute running time, we don't get much fleshing out of the group or the villain. They are all just stereotypes. The most the dialogue can offer are these dull routines, every character using this inane banter. The most backstory we get on Joey are tedious flashbacks, and far too many, of his childhood; from Joey's mouth we get to hear that he solved the problem of embarrassing public urination by sitting down to pee. Our villain is a cliched urban greaseball mob gangster. It makes little sense that he is so upset over one lone ticket scapler, seems to be wealthy, yet he only has two cronies, and when he fails to drive Joey away, suddenly the gangster is fuming and demanding Joey's death. Honestly, what slimy gangster is consumed by ticket scalping and so much that he's willing to kill over it? His henchmen are horrible, one a bland normal looking mob type, the other some long-haired guy, who looks like he belongs on the cover of a cheap paperback romance novel. And once again, the hipster element ruins them- they are introduced with the long-haired one telling a tale about trying to determine if his wife was cheating by looking at his gardener and pool boys genitals, then suddenly he sees a piano, he and his cohort begin to play "Heart and Soul" on it, only for the boss to interrupt them and get mad at them, implying that the song was a thinly veiled reference about him??? Hilarious, huh?

So, the film just doesn't amount to much. I haven't even mentioned the stereotypical and unconvincing side plot of romance, Lou's getting into trouble, the extended scene where Sammy is nude on a toilet after having sex and he runs out of toilet paper, the two stoner scaplers, who get this!, are stoned all the time and never sell any tickets... Well, I'm desperately trying to think of some positive point, but, the direction has lackluster composition, the writing is derivative, and the acting and characters not very authentic. This Canadian effort is so flat that continuity errors, like a female cop who wears her hair down and a gun that is left openly lying on the ground after an attempted murder, stick out like sore thumbs on an already infected hand.

The DVD: Vanguard Cinema

Picture: Widescreen. Well, the production is low budget, and the DP involved wasn't the greatest, so one must bear that in mind when considering the picture. Everything is a bit muted, the sharpness, the color; the image is a little muddy, lacking good contrast. Most of it seems to be the actual film and not the transfers fault, but maybe there was room for some tweaking.

Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Pretty standard, once again, any sound problems were from the actual production. Music is fairly generic, wavering between lounge funk to sappy Lifetime melodrama themes.

Extras: 12 Chapters- Trailer

Conclusion: Well, sorry to say, this independent outing is very bad. Technically the transfer is unexceptional but fine. The film itself is something most will want to avoid. Perhaps worth a rental if, oh I don't know, a friend of yours is in the film.

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