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STUDIO: Weinstein Company
RUNNING TIME: 92 Minutes
J-Horror as directed by Tony Scott’s twin absorbed while still in the womb. Or the product of Guy Ritchie having sex with a retard.
Tony’s bet in the “guess the gross” pool was off by about 627,397 dollars. And fifty-two cents.
Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo, Corey Large, Dominique Swain, Master P, Charity Shea
“I know what you’re thinking: John Stamos with a bloated face. But let me posit this: what if John Stamos is just a skinnier doppleganger of me, screenwriter/actor Corey Large?”
Um, I’ll try: Tom Sizemore sits in some room with a woman who seems to be equal parts call girl and psychic/medium who tells him his future is bleak a few times through the film. There’s no reason to repeat this information as it was abundantly clear the first time it happens, other than to sate those rabid Sizemore fans that need five minutes of screen time minimum. He hires a couple of goons (Trejo and Corey Large) to help find and murder his escaped lunatic daughter who apparently is cursed insofar as she kills anyone she comes into contact with. However, she’s picked up off the street by a kindly prostitute who’s looking to find her replacement in order to get free of her kinda not-so-bad-but-still-a pimp (P). This runs concurrently with a storyline in which we follow one of the two goons hired to kill the girl about a year later where he’s found a job at a strip club and fallen in love with one of the strippers. You know which one because she’s a) got a heart of gold and b) is the only stripper there who never has to take off her clothes. However, he’s keeps seeing ghosts and his reality is starting to crack. Eventually, these storylines converge and there’s a twist (of course) and everything comes together and you weep at the time lost in trying to decipher this mess of a motion picture.
The Dutch version of The Office took the verite set-up to its absolute limits.
The digital age has made it incredibly easy for people to get out there and expose audiences to their own particular vision without much in the way of studio interference. While for the most part movies like Toxic never find their way into theaters and are usually a direct-to-video dump, it’s a tribute to the filmmakers that they find the funding and have the passion to complete these works and put themselves out there for the world to see. And that’s the last nice things I have to say about Toxic, one of the most incoherent and needlessly stylized motion pictures I’ve ever had the misfortune of having to sit through. It’s telling what is a pretty basic horror/revenge story about a cursed girl who leaves a trail of dead behind her no matter her good intentions told in a completely fractured narrative with completely spastic visuals to hide the fact that it isn’t compelling or worthwhile.
“Shit man, I just wanted Amber Tamblyn’s autograph. Loved Joan of Arcadia!”
For starters, the script. The entire movie is populated with underdeveloped characters who exist more as clichés than anything else (stripper with a heart of gold, the stern but fair strip club owner, the stern but fair pimp, the stern but fair mercenary thugs and the callous and superstitious boss who directs them) who then flail around within the plot structure like chess pieces being moved by the developmentally disabled. And I know that its structured to represent our protagonist’s fractured psyche and the fragility of time and space and temporal displacement and all that rigmarole*, but none of that matters at all if the story is edited to the point of incoherence. Just as an example, we aren’t even able to get through a ten second clip of a man sweeping the floor with the film going all multiple exposures on us. It starts off bewildering with its editing choices and only slightly becomes less obfuscated as it goes along. All of the Avid farts in the world can’t cover up a poorly performed and threadbare storyline, though. It’s not even dressing up a turd. It’s cutting up a turd and then putting it back together differently. It’s a goddamn frankenturd.
Deus ex cockina.
The editing also has the unfortunate side effect of removing any chance that the actors involved could generate interest in their roles and performances. Most of them are so tangentially involved in the constantly revolving plot that you never have a chance to begin to be interested in their motivations or actions. The only performer who really has a meaty part that changes throughout the film belongs to (surprise, surprise) the screenwriter and co-producer Corey Large. However, he doesn’t seem particularly capable of effectively doing the heavy lifting the part requires. When he’s playing it tough it comes off as bullshit posturing, and when he’s supposed to be emotionally tormented with a heart of gold he comes off more confused than anything else. But credit should go to Large as a screenwriter at least in part; the revelations of his third act are cleverly dispersed through the movie and what occurs still manages to be effectively surprising. Unfortunately the craft of the filmmaking is so deadening that one could care less by that point and the foreshadowing and payoff would’ve been better served by a steadier eye and simplistic editing.
Awesome! Great Job!
There are some interesting things that could’ve been said through this film if they weren’t muddled by constant changes in exposure and overall banality. I think the film is trying to make a statement about the subjugation of women in our society and how they often have to dissociate from themselves to get ahead or even in life. Even though it’s wrong, it’s an interesting tack for a trashy b-movie to attempt to engage with gender politics at all, so there are at least brownie points to be had there. But the entire enterprise is so tone deaf and spastically put together that there’s no way anyone could derive interest or simple entertainment from this.
“What are you doing down there?”
“A little post-piss wipage with the Variety reviews of Toxic.”
“Variety reviewed this?!?!?”
The transfer is fine for what it is, with the film grains and exposures constantly shifting, and that’s about the nicest thing to be said for the DVD. The cover art is notable only because the photo of Tom Sizemore seems to have come from a family photo album, and the Danny Trejo photo has the clarity of an enlarged thumbnail. Kudos to the design team. Luckily, there aren’t any special features, so we are spared the depths of emotion and meaning that are hidden in this atmospheric work being plumbed out for our intellectual benefit.
*As well I should, as clearly I’m a film reviewer transplanted from the 1930’s.
4.2 out of 10
Magnolia 2: This is Something that Happens Harder.