STICKUP, THE(director/writer: Rowdy Herrington; cinematographer: Chris Manley; editor: Harry B. Miller III; music: David Kitay; cast: James Spader (John Parker), Leslie Stefanson (Natalie Wright), David Keith (Ray DeCarlo), John Livingston (FBI Agent Rick Kendall), Robert Miano (Lt. Vincent Marino), Alex Zahara (Tommy Meeker), Leonard George (Chief Samson Redcloud); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Dan Howard/Shelly Strong; Blockbuster Videos; 2001)
“Clever little crime drama.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Rowdy Herrington (“Jack’s Back”/”Striking Distance”) directs and writes this clever little crime drama that has film noir pretensions it never fully realizes, but manages to affect a comic air around a very serious crime and introduce lead characters that have some depth. Herrington draws out the characters so we understand their desperation and motivations, and the filmmaker follows through with dialogue that is both pointed and intelligent. It’s one of those small films that slipped under the radar, and can be seen only on cable or by renting in a video store.
It’s set in this fictional mountainous pristine town of Vedalia, California, where someone dressed in a clown face and jump-suit robs the bank that holds the take of a half a million dollars from an Indian casino. The bandit used a sawed-off shotgun after cutting the power. Burned-out LA detective John Parker (James Spader), on leave from the force due to stress over his recent marriage separation and losing a partner in a drug bust, is resting up from his recent ordeal in his Vedalia vacation log cabin. Parker gets identified as the stickup man by the two local police officers Ray DeCarlo (David Keith) and Tommy Meeker (Alex Zahara), who spot him switching cars in the woods. The night before Parker was in a bar and attractive nurse Natalie Wright (Leslie Stefanson) picks him up and brings him home to sleep with her. Her jealous ex-hubby Ray happens to be the cop involved in the heist investigation, and knows she was with Parker that night. The FBI is called in to be in charge of the investigation, and rookie agent Rick Kendall (John Livingston) is more than thrilled to get his first case and a chance to earn a reputation.
When a wounded Parker asks Natalie for help, the confused woman takes a chance and patches up his wounds without reporting him to the police. From here on the film is filled with many twists: the FBI agent can’t figure out why Parker would show his face on the video surveillance camera if he was going to rob the bank ten seconds later, Parker’s drug task force team from LA surprisingly arrives in the small town not as friends to support him but to rub him out, and the Indian casino owners put the pressure on the law enforcers to get their stolen money back. Though things become a little too neatly pulled together in the third act for my taste, the acting is first-class and the incredulous troubling scenario holds up to scrutiny as being possible.
REVIEWED ON 7/4/2005 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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