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BLOOD, GUTS, BULLETS & OCTANE(director/writer: Joe Carnahan; cinematographer: John A. Jimenez; cast: Joe Carnahan (Sid French), Dan Leis (Bob Melba), Ken Rudulph (F.B.I. Agent Jared), Dan Harlan (Danny Woo), Hugh McChord (Reich), Kurt Johnson (Hillbilly Sniper), Mark S. Allen (F.B.I. Agent Franks), Kellee Benedict (F.B.I. Agent Littel), Max Ancar (F. Manzano), Mark Priolo (F. R. Priolo), Michael A. Saumure (Vernon Cash),Stew Oleson (Milt Huggins); Runtime: 87; Lions Gate; 1998)
“The film had energy …”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Another Tarantino lookalike indie filmed in thirteen days for $7,300, and it sure gets its money’s worth for the effort. The filmmaker has come up with a crime-thriller spoof done at a hyper-frenetic pace that is as good if not better than most Hollywood high-budget action films of this type. Joe Carnahan is both star and director playing a fat, sleazy, fast-talking used-car salesman named Sid French whose partner Bob Melba (Leis) in the Bob & Sid’s Auto Emporium, is almost as sleazy as he is but who is only more practical-minded. Faced with an eviction notice, their car lot located in the hinterlands of Needles, California has only unsellable gas guzzling cars on their lot and the boys are getting desperate to get their hands on some sell-able cars.

The opening scene is a contemptuous look at the salesman trying to hustle their customers. Their comedy routine runs through every bit of disdain they have for their customers and the integrity of their profession. But it went on for too long and the fun subsided and soon became grating just like a commercial that keeps going on.

But the quick pace of the film got things moving briskly again and with the use of quirky titled chapters to each little skit, it kept the film imbued with a sense of urgency. One such chapter was titled “Coldblooded Hotheads,” just to give you an idea at what the film was driving at.

Their former boss and now competitor, Danny Woo (Harlan), whom Bob & Sid absolutely despise, asks the boys to do him a favor — the IRS is doing an audit on his business and would they say nice things about him to their investigators and in turn he will return the favor with a favor. The boys agree, after bad-mouthing him to each other and telling about all the crooked things he has done.

Meanwhile Bob & Sid press their car broker to get them cars other than Gremlins and Pintos to sell, and he comes by their lot with an offer that they can’t refuse but are very suspicious of. It’s a vintage Pontiac Le Mans burgundy convertible that will soon be dropped off to them and they will be paid $250,000 if they allow it to sit on the lot for two days without trying to sell it or even touch it. They are told the trunk is wired to explode if they open it and there will be surveillance people watching them at all times, armed with shotguns to kill them if they try to weasel out of the deal.

The car has a history to it, as the FBI is aware that a driver of that car was killed by carjackers and they suspect a drug smuggling operation going on involving the stolen car.

Sid talks his partner into extorting $500,000 ransom for the car from the one’s phoning them. But before they can bring the car to a mechanic for inspection, a redneck is shooting at them.

The film comes to its slick ending after a number of preposterous twists, as the film winds its way to its final payoff. The immoral main characters end up talking about what is right and wrong with themselves and the world they live in, which adds a nice touch of absurdity to the already absurd story.

The film had energy, a ready made metaphor in the Pontiac and in the used-car lot, a semi-plausible plot, some promise in the filmmaker’s ability to tell a story, some choppy dialogue that could be amusing at times, and enough nerve to fill the screen with surprises from the actors who at times improvised and got by with it.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”