It begins with a conversation about faking an orgasm and being okay should a guy leave the toilet seat up. What inspired writer/director Aaron Harvey to leave in this bit of opening dialogue? Was it to pay homage to the opening pointless – but still very much to the point – conversations found in say Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs? Tarantino mastered his art by working, living and breathing in a video store for many years before he became a director. Harvey therefore still needs to take a few master classes for a promising script has been let down by the lack of chemistry between the characters and indeed with the audience.
Tes (Malin Akerman), Kara (Nikki Reed) and Dawn (Deborah Ann Woll) are waiting in a diner because their boss Mel (Bruce Willis) wants to find out who’s been dealing drugs in his district without his permission. The pick up was meant to take place at 2:30am but the clock hour has gone past 3am, so they pull their guns to the customers and diner owner demanding to know who deals there – but to their dismay blood starts to spill and havoc is set loose. The film then flashes back to the beginning of the day as to how the girls got together and what led Tes to get into the drug dealing business. Along their way to the diner, they meet a police officer (Forest Whitaker) who turns out to be something entirely different.
Catch. 44 is, in essence, an indie movie trying to compete with the big league. It’s purposefully cliched taking on elements like playing Bruce (aka Bruno) Willis’s song Respect from the 80’s while also casting the man himself. It’s brutal, but not shocking, violence is reminiscent of the 90s crime flicks like Goodfellas and Natural Born Killers – but the point of cliched movies is that they’re meant to be fun. This isn’t, nor have the amazing films Harvey tried to pay respect been respected at all. Instead he’s created a poor derivative version and to fans, who he’s aiming his film at, that is unforgivable.
The cinematography however is outstanding. The colours are rich and here Harvey clearly has a talent for telling a story with the camera as panning, wide, close up and point of view shots are all very well executed. The script does have its moment and imaging the text shows it was probably a very appealing project – there are lots of intercuts, flash backs, twists and snappy dialogue. Having John McClane and Idi Amin would certainly boast your directorial resume however not even they can resuscitate this movie when it died after Deborah Ann Woll told a terrible nun/penis joke. If Willis, who saved us from total destruction by blowing up an astroid, can’t save this film – then no one can. Whitaker even takes on a number of different disguises, perhaps to lighten the tone and give the thread some comedy – none of which work or suit his acting credentials. And while the film revolves around Tes’ experience there isn’t enough character development for you to truly care about her and her ordeal.
The set up to the final shoot out however is demanding. Extremely demanding. So much so, you hope they just stop talking and shoot each other because you predicted at minute 50 (from this 90 min film) this is how it was going to conclude.
A romantic comedy this is not. Nor is it a crime thriller. An Indie. A shoot-em-up. Or even a tribute to the violent fest/grindhouse movies that were re-emerging in the 90s. And that’s the problem – no one knows what this is meant to be.
Reviewed by Vaskar S. Kayastha