REVIEW BY-DEVIN KELLY
CAST: Scott Brown, Steve Reaser, Jackamoe Buzzell, Tezz Yancey, Gerrence George, Adam Yoder, Gordon Mitchell, P. David Miller, Senita Deveaux, Steed Corulla, Julius 'Dutch' Schwall, Matt Sjafiroeddin, Justine Baker, Laurence R. Griffin, Edward Patry, Jeff Burbank, Joseph Szewczyk, Ted V. Mikels, David Schmoeller, Jordan Sterling, John Tarang, Michael Gallagher, Christian Sahlen, Josh Glover, Jack Winston, Robert Amstler, Mike A. Martinez, Nick Groff
DIRECTOR(S): Mike A. Martinez, Nick Groff
PRODUCER: Brian KarasFilm Harvest / Scythe Productions
RUNNING TIME: 126 min. 48 seconds
DVD SOURCE: Screener Courtesy of Mike Martinez
Sometimes an independent and relatively unknown film can catch you off guard with just how great it turns out to be. That was my very reaction to fast soaring film makers, Mike Martinez and Nick Groff's dizzying and appealingly erratic, MALEVOLENCE (2004). A street drama and crime flick all rolled into one (and not to be confused with Stevan Mana's horror thriller of the same year), this truly packs a punch and crams in the oddball characters to the maximum. Combining the sordid lives of a variety of undesirables all into a well woven story of loyalty, respect, racism, and of course, the resulting violence, MALEVOLENCE is most definitely not your run of the mill night at the movies. It's portrayal of real people in the scary reality of everyday life is effective and not so far off from what may really be. Opening with an admittedly strange sequence in which the ebony tits and ass obsessed, David Calaruso (Steve Reaser) is bizarrely analyzed by a pair of quack psychiatrists, this sets the stage for much of MALEVOLENCE's feel - a roller coaster of ups and downs among a number of disturbed human beings who are set for a crash course with one another. While this is going on and David discusses the desire he had and still has for his dark skinned, ghetto booty babysitter (Senita Deveaux), we then are taken to the home of one of the most feared mob families around - the Robaldo's.
The current head of the sternly run organization, Antonio Robaldo (Steed Corulla), tells the story of a young man (Matt Sjafiroeddin) who just couldn't get it together and pay up the large $100,000 debt he owed to then top dog of the group, Giuseppe Robaldo (Julius 'Dutch' Schwall). Turns and double crosses are all in a day's work for these mafioso's though, as the then second in command collects for the big boss before blowing his brains out from behind. Hold a minute - we quickly find out that twists, flashbacks, and dream sequences are a huge part of what makes MALEVOLENCE unique, and soon Antonio goes from telling this story to the hopeful upstart to waking up from wishful dreaming and coming into reality that he is the man who owes the Robaldo's...and it's payday! As, in a completely different area, David is still being "observed" by the two weirdo shrinks, Antonio heads over to the Robaldo mansion to take care of business. Well, take care of business he does, as he pays up to main man Giuseppe with the assistance of pal, Tony Arzenta (P. David Miller) (yeah, Mikey likes his Italian crime), and they wipe out the big shot and his boys. Of course, they make off with the briefcase full of loot too. It's not long before we've got two double crosses in as many minutes, when on their escape, Tony puts a bullet in Antonio's brain, splattering him all over the passenger side window. "Ask yourself this...are you a Robaldo now? You dumb mother fucker!!".
Tony soon realizes he's got more shit in his pile than he can wade through though, as he's not only left with disposing of the body of Antonio, but he quickly realizes that the only real money in the briefcase are the first bills on each pile...the rest is paper! He'll be deeper in blood than shit though, when the Granddaddy behind the whole operation, Capo Fabrizio De Martino (the late, great Gordon Mitchell), sends his less than understanding hit men to collect a mysterious bag Tony had in hispossession, containing something very valuable to him. Unfortunately, Tony takes off right into the screwy path of our old black bush craving pal David and his recently escaped convict brother, Jimmy (Scott Brown). The two offer him a ride and end up at a seedy motel, with mystery bag in back seat now, as our running scared friend Tony has stupidly forgotten it. Jimmy has his own problems though. The law is after his ass, his face is all over the television and he's got few places to hide. He and David find themselves in a dingy motel room, where a coked-up hooker (Justine Baker) pops by looking for someone else and soon after becomes a corpse wrapped in plastic, as while getting banged by Jimmy, he strangles her after she recognizes him from a news report. Shit happens... Let's not forget two other crazy subplots involved in this thing. One being a look into the disturbed mind of the hooded Gray Corolla (Jackamoe Buzzell), who sits in the park across from the thug littered apartment complex of a gang of street tough homeboys. His conscience badgers him to all hell as he contemplates loading a pistol and wiping them all out for a mistaken beating they gave him prior.
Gray is truly the most fucked up dude in MALEVOLENCE. A ticking time bomb if you will. The other subplot invloves one of the members of said gang - Tim "One Shot" Brown (Tezz Yancey) - who's clean cut brother Craig (Clint Wilder) tries desperately to take him away from his dangerous drug dealing, pistol packing lifestyle. Sadly, the maniac he answers to - completely corrupt Detective Ernest Brickley - has a tighter grip on him...one that may eventually squeeze the life out of him in brutal fashion. All in all, I must admit, as much as I loved (and I'm not just using that word, I really did) MALEVOLENCE, I had a hard time reviewing it as there was just so much going on. Some would say, too much happening at once, but I didn't find that the case because the majority of the characters introduced came together, whether by accident or not, in one way or another. First and foremost, the acting was 95% impressive. The cherry on top of this whole thing was the opportunity to see the iconic Gordon Mitchell (ATLAS IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS, REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE SATYRICON and a million others) grace the screen one last time. Not only was he a kind friend to myself and Cinema Nocturna, but he became a good and incredibly sweet pal to director Mike Martinez, and had already made a cameo in one of Martinez's prior short films, AN ENRAGED NEW WORLD (2002). His untimely death before the completion of MALEVOLENCE was surely a sad blow to all involved with the film, but he remained a highly active human being and a gentle, helpful soul right up to his final days and Mike and Nick acknowledge Gordon with heart in the closing credits with a nice dedication. Gordon really is a hoot in this during his few short scenes too, as he runs the show and laughs heartily about owning the police, and seems to be truly enjoying himself.
Certainly an unforgettable person and most definitely missed. Everyone else just about is also on top of their games here, and the performances were a pleasant surprise. From the supporting cast criminals - such as the sneering, sly Julius "Dutch" Schwall as mafia slickster, Giuseppe Robaldo, to the excellent effort of Steed Corulla as the intimidating Antonio, as well as Paul David Miller as the slimy and resourceful Tony Arzenta, the bad guys in this are very believable and bang on in their parts. Especially scary is Gerrence George in the role of Ernest R. Brickley, a character who can make anyone who fucks with him disposable, which shows his talented acting range, considering he seems such a big teddy bear in the disc's outtakes. Also really well done is Tezz Yancey's, Tim "One Shot" Brown character - a guy who truly seems locked in the street life. His final confrontation with Brickley is one of the more disturbing scenes by far. I also really dug Gordon Mitchell's hired collection team if you will, comically named Larry (Laurence R. Griffin) and Flynt (Edward Patry), and both actors looked as if they've been doing this for years. They come across as two guys that you'd swear you've seen before. The fight between Flynt and Arzenta though - whether intentional or not - was a riot. Our two main stars, Scott Brown and Steve Reaser, as Jimmy and fetish consumed brother, David, passed well as siblings from different sides of the spectrum. Brown really stood out as the best performer in the film and as Jimmy, excelled as a slimeball with few morals. I loved the moment where they walk into the office of film maker Rene Cardoza Jr. (great reference here and a highly entertaining cameo by real life trash flick king, Ted V. Mikels) and Jimmy takes him out after some hilarious "inside" dialogue. "My last movie was a bomb. The only money I get is when I sell a movie. You guys wanna buy one?", asks the director.
Really fun stuff there for veteran horror and exploitation hounds. Incidentally, MALEVOLENCE was shot simultaneously with Mikels, CAULDRON: BAPTISM OF BLOOD. While we're on the subject of cameos, look too for another old B pro, director David Schmoeller (PUPPET MASTER, CATACOMBS) as a high school janitor. Jackamoe Buzzell as insanity driven, Gray Corolla, too gets high mention for being one really messed straight jacket candidate. Jackamoe's a big reason to see this, especially if you like your films laced a little loony. Above all else, Martinez and Groff made this thing serious, but at the same time with little spots, quite fun. The direction is well organized and the film well written, and having seen a couple of Martinez's other films, showed great growth in the film makers. Although the editing is pretty frantic with the flashback and dream sequences and such, it works for the way the story is meant to unravel. The original music contributed is also solid and the in-jokes are great (look for the history teacher's lesson on LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT!). The disc I received from Mike himself is impressive, especially with the little bonuses of a candid outtakes section and a cool little trailer. Neat things to have included for a hopefully soon to be more widely discovered indie offering. Mike Martinez, as well as partner in crime, Nick Groff, both have tremendous sky's the limit futures in film, and if MALEVOLENCE is any indication of this, I'm ready for more. MALEVOLENCE - WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO BAD PEOPLE
STORY: 4/5 BITCH SLAPS
PICTURE: 5/5 BITCH SLAPS
AUDIO: 5/5 BITCH SLAPS
EXTRAS: 4/5 BITCH SLAPS
OVERALL FILM: 3.5/5 BITCH SLAPS
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