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Down Twisted
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by Jack Sommersby

"If You're 'Down' for Inanity..."
1 stars

It was actually theatrically released back in the day, whereas today it would've gone straight to video in a nanosecond. Probably played at the bottom of a double bill in a sleazy Times Square theatre.

Down Twisted is an incoherent, sloppy Romancing the Stone rip-off that marks another downturn for director Albert Pyun, who displayed real moviemaking bravado with his excellent debut The Sword and the Sorcerer four years prior. Kidding the hell out of genre expectations while adeptly fulfilling them, he garnished the film frame with so much color and energy that we could more than forgive his coauthored screenplay's weaknesses. (It was far superior to the more-experienced John Boorman's shaky Excalibur the previous year.) His follow-up was the apocalyptic action-comedy Radioactive Dreams, which strove way too self-consciously at attaining cult-movie status; and his Dangerously Close, an abysmally scripted, unpleasant high-school thriller, was absolutely smothered with visual diarrhea. With Down Twisted Pyun has tried making something of a streamlined product, with a crime plot and action sequences amid gorgeous South American locales, but it's so poorly juxtaposed and edited that you need Dramamine to keep your bearings -- coherence is in direly short supply, uncouth sensationalism rearing its ugly head at each and every turn. The ratiocination-deprived story involves the breaking-in of a national shrine and theft of a valuable crucifix from the country of San Lucas, "an ancient symbol of the country," we're told; one of the thieves secretly switches it with a replica, she goes back to Los Angeles and involves her waitress/wannabe-businesswoman roommate Maxine (Carey Lowell) in her scheme. Through details too confusing to make sense of, the thief is killed in a car explosion in a downtown parking garage, and Maxine and innocent-bystander Reno (Charles Rocket) are captured and kidnapped and transported to San Lucas by the rest of the thieves, demanding Maxine give up the location of an airport-locker key she has no knowledge of. They implausibly manage to escape off a ship and make their way to land, with Maxine more or less who she says she is and Reno's stated profession changing from attorney to insurance investigator (he's out to collect the reward for the return of the real crucifix). An avalanche of even more plot twists abound in the form of double crosses that we couldn't give a lick about, and due to the shaky narrative structure we're never afforded the necessary underpinnings to keep us on firm footing; the rug's always being pulled out from us for the sole sake of doing so, and because we have so little stake in either the plot or characters, they're just humdrum pieces in an incongruent puzzle that even Hercule Poirot would have no interest in solving.

With The Sword and the Sorcerer Pyun was working under the auspice of a major studio, Universal Pictures; here, he's relegated himself to serving the less-reputable Cannon Group, headed by the brain-dead Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who may give a director free reign but seem to take over and artistically mangle their movies in the post-production stage. (I can't imagine a Universal executive looking at the final cut of Down Twisted and declaring it even remotely worthy of public consumption.) Scene after scene after scene cries out for proper shaping, and the actors often look adrift, flailing about trying to lend verity to characters who make about as much sense as "compassionate conservatism." The lovely Lowell was reduced to swimsuit eye-candy in Dangerously Close, and though she gives it her (limited) all here she still can't make anything believable out of the half-ass heroine role she's been handed; she does offer up several flattering profiles, and there isn't a second she's unwelcome on the screen. TV-veteran Rocket, whose role is even blurrier, gets somewhat better as he goes along, giving his line readings some ironic detachment that certainly work his way into our favor, though he's not nearly as charismatic as he apparently thinks he is -- there's a blandness about him that couldn't be shaken off with a hundred autistic fits. But Worbert Weisser, as the head villain, has all the screen presence of Lawrence Welk and about as much internal tension as a paperboy -- it's even easier to forget about the story what with this utter milquetoast of an antagonist. (Of course, dreadful dialogue by the likes of "Where's Jane, Tarzan?" could do anyone in.) And Pyun hasn't risen to the occasion. Rather than using his considerable skill to engineer propulsion and suspense into the proceedings, he more often than not submits to the screenplay's absurdities, having us take the movie strictly at face value, which with the innumerable built-in weaknesses it can't possibly withstand. Down Twisted (its title derived from the spelled-out, pseudo-literate line "The deal's going down, but it's going down twisted") lacks atmosphere and tension, and does the impossible in making the abominable Romancing the Stone rip-off from the year before, Jake Speed, look positively brilliant by comparison. You can't make any sense out of the goings-on, and you don't want to -- expending the brain cells trying to figure out the plot is a lot more effort than the moviemakers have spent trying to make a halfway-entertaining product. Maybe it was on-location malaria that did them in.

No DVD features to speak of because, well, someone has had the good sense to keep it in old-time VHS prison forever.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25366&reviewer=327
originally posted: 06/29/13 09:00:41
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USA
  01-Mar-1987 (R)

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