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Love Ranch
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by Jack Sommersby

"Ruinous 'Ranch'"
1 stars

Came and went during its limited release; and the fact that it got released to an unsuspecting public is proof that the Centers for Disease Control isn't doing their job.

One usually gives a movie at least twenty to thirty minutes before calling it a lost cause; with Love Ranch, due to the participation of the usually-reliable director Taylor Hackford, I stayed about twice that before abandoning my post, for there was at least an hour to go, and not a single interesting character had appeared on the screen, just a barrage of ultra-tired familiarities, boring camerawork, uninspired acting, and wretched dialogue (so help me, someone's teasingly called Mr. Wild Bullshit of the Pampers). One wouldn't think a completely boring piece of cinema could be had centering on a real-life legal Reno brothel, and this is probably still the case, for Love Ranch isn't concerned with the inner workings of what it pretends to be about, but about one ho-hum cliche after another -- it's just using a catchy setting and locale for sensationalism's sake. Didn't Hackford and his off-screen, Oscar-winning wife, Helen Mirren, who plays the brothel's madam, read the script? With a budget that was far from extravagant, it couldn't have been for the money; or if it was, then the whores of the story aren't the only ones selling themselves on the cheap. Ugly to look at and unbearable to listen to, the movie is truly awful, which should have been apparent to the studio that released this unspeakable calamity. In a perfect world, not only would it have not been made in the first place, but relegated to a straight-to-video release so the silver screen could be spared the ultimate stinking up. (At least Paul Verhoeven's equally nauseous Showgirls had some fluent pacing and visual vivacity, not to mention pacing not akin to a drunken snail, which couldn't leave a slime trail this long and repugnant.) This is the kind of movie where everything you see is what you get, all sodden surface value and not so much as smidgen of subtext. Not a single person populating the screen offers up a whisper of surprise. What they say isn't any more revealing than what you've overheard on a crowded bus or subway. And to leave no rock unturned, which the obnoxious Joe Pesci, playing the madam's scheming husband and doing his temperamental-loudmouth routine for the umpteenth time, seems to have crawled out from, a Disease of the Week is even thrown in with the subtlety of a used condom on a sterling-silver serving tray. Wait, there's also a has-been prizefighter from Argentina, who the husband owns a piece of, trying to make a comeback; and though Sergio Peris-Mencheta, who plays him, is a moderately fresh face, the crushing stupidity of the role does him in before he can speak his first line. Even Gina Gershon (from Showgirls), one of the most beautiful and sensuous actresses Hollywood has ever produced, comes off as untalented and devoid of sex appeal.

Paul Schrader's Los Angeles-set Hardcore was frustrating in its distanced indifference to the porno world put before us, and Love Ranch is just as negligent in its non-existent observation and erotica. We get a quick montage of male customers selecting from a variety of girls, but rather than following through on the details once the money is paid Hackford cuts to some action outside the brothel, and we see that neither he nor debuting screenwriter Mark Jacobson is really concerned with the setting. (It's quite telling that the only time we see a john with a girl, he's a deranged ex-soldier trying some rough bondage with an Asian and slashes a bouncer with a knife when he's thrown out. Nice.) There's the rural sheriff who's bought and paid for by the brothel, a prissy-missy religious woman staging protests to shut the place down, a wet-behind-the-ears newbie who the husband is banging on the side, and enough sappy "moments" (like the madam firing one of her veteran girls and giving her a wad of money so she can start a new life as a receptionist now that she's finally got her college degree) to show it's got Heart. For so-called humor, we have Pesci shouting (and, boy does he shout a lot) to Mirren (who won the Academy Award for The Queen four years prior), "Who do you think you are, the Queen of England!?" In-joke; har, har. Love Ranch lacks narrative and atmosphere, not to mention functional cinematography and expressive composition. Hackford, a former documentary filmmaker (though any powers of acuteness in this area deserts him here; he can't even make the brothel come off as an everyday working establishment), has always had a good eye for visuals, especially when he turned to delicious widescreen framing in Dolores Claiborne and The Devil's Advocate; but here, working in the non-'Scope aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the movie looks unappetizing and boxy, like a mediocre TV director trying to adapt to big-screen technical specs for the first time. And the substandard way he shoots everybody, with the girls never close in enough and Pesci way too close in (in one particular quarter-side shot, he looks like Michael Lerner), not a single flattering profile has been committed to celluloid. Yes, Mirren is supposed to look haggard and "seasoned," but she displays no personality or verity; she looks whipped not from the character's many years at her profession, but from the bottom-of-the-barrel material that offers nothing to take off from. None of the actors and actresses look like they had the slightest bit of fun on-screen; and going by this irrefutably rancid production, with such shoddy construction it couldn't hope to hold up so much as a child's Slinky, they're likely not going to fare any better after reading the movie's guaranteed brutal reviews.

Gag me.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20596&reviewer=327
originally posted: 04/10/12 20:33:49
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  DVD: 09-Nov-2010


  DVD: 09-Nov-2010

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