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Dust Up
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by Jay Seaver

"Just enough skill to make enthusiasm work."
3 stars

"Dust Up" has some very cool opening credits, clever throwbacks to the 1970s exploitation flicks it emulates over a rocking soundtrack; it's got a couple of nifty posters along those lines, too. Like those movies, the actual product is seldom as awesome as advertised, although they replicate and exaggerate the fun parts better than most.

You wouldn't necessarily think that a guy who lost an eye in the Middle East would want to settle in another desert, but that's what Jack (Aaron Gaffey) has done, spending most of his time hanging around with Mo (Devin Barry), a Native American twentysomething trying to get back to his roots but not really researching them beyond cliches. He occasionally does work as a handyman, which is how he meets Ella (Amber Benson), a young mother whose husband is earning money as a roadie. Well, that's not right; Herman (Travis Betz) has actually dug himself deep into debt to local bar owner/meth dealer Buzz (Jeremiah Birkett), who wants his money now. Naturally, Jack quickly develops a soft spot for Ella and wants to help.

Of course, things go south in the wackiest, most over-the-top ways possible; the old movies sold on blood and guts and it's almost impossible not to attack a project like this without irony. The good news is, writer/director/producer/editor Ward Roberts has a decent handle on how much of each the movie needs. There's plenty of gore, and even when it's played for a joke, the joke is more often "that's horrible!" than "ha ha that looks so fake!" Similarly, when it's smirking at the characters and their actions, it mostly for being ridiculous as individuals as opposed to just mocking genre staples. That's nice; it makes the film's goofiness its own rather than just parody.

Some of that goofiness does come from the movie doing things that sub-B-movies do; the plot is goofy, the jokes broad, and the acting not exactly the sort of thing where you'll say the cast is better than the material. Some of the actors do at least manage to be good matches for what they're given: Jeremiah Birkett, for instance, is asked to be completely deranged and delivers, and Travis Betz does his job as the sleazy meth-head husband. Amber Benson has a few moments, but doesn't establish the strongest of personalities for Ella. Vierwers' mileage will likely vary on Aaron Gaffey and Devin Barry - they start out maybe a little too arch and dry, but either improve or or grow on the audience over the course of the picture (though it could be all-or-nothing either way depending on the viewer).

Much of the rest of the movie is that way. Roberts actually handles action fairly well, and gives the audience a few nice gross-out moments as well. Still, even considering that the movie is meant to be poking a bit of fun, it makes ninety degree turns that don't make much sense at all, and has bits that are not nearly funny enough to make up for being in questionable taste.

That's sort of par for the course with this sort of movie, whether made forty years ago or today. It gets far enough on enthusiasm to be entertaining for most of the folks who would be interested in it, and though that's not the highest bar, it's one that many of this sort of movie don't clear.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=24450&reviewer=371
originally posted: 10/12/12 20:50:27
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USA
  28-Sep-2012
  DVD: 13-Nov-2012

UK
  N/A

Australia
  28-Sep-2012
  DVD: 13-Nov-2012


Directed by
  Ward Roberts

Written by
  Ward Roberts

Cast
  Amber Benson
  Aaron Gaffey
  Devin Barry
  Jeremiah Birkett
  Travis Betz



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