We’re entering a weird new era in cult film. The way it used to be was that some smarmy business man would declare himself a producer and make a movie that was intended to make the most money on the least amount of effort. To do that, the script he came up with would be loaded with the most id-satisfying elements. If you gave the audience enough roaring engines, bullet wounds and tits, they’d tell their friends and the movie that cost ten grand to make would turn around and make a million. Between the 50’s right to the mid-80’s, this was a monstrous industry of exploitation that turned out thousands of pictures so shitty that they were charming. Home video comes along and dozens of botique VHS labels immortalize these pictures. The video store culture spreads the word through word of mouth. Voila! An unlikely fan culture is born. That fan culture then grows up and goes to film school. They make a couple of indie pictures in the early 90’s that are heavily inspired by Roger Corman, Russ Meyer and Lucio Fulci (and in Tarantino’s case almost directly ripped off of Ringo Lam) and then graduate to make bigger budget movies with the same trashy elements. Time marches on and these former fanboys turned Hollywood powerhouses amass a dedicated cult of college age assholes thanks in part to their movies’ inclusion of lap dances, decapitation and gangsters. Those assholes then go to film school with the vaguest notion of what a grindhouse picture actually is. They also grew up with the internet. Their idea of exploitation is this warped concept that has been filtered through a second generation of filmmakers only now these guys feel obligated to flood their scripts with video game sensibilities and shit they saw in Bang Brothers videos.
In the end you wind up with something like Bitch Slap.
The tough bitch, the wimpy, naive bitch and the wild, violent bitch head out into the desert looking to dig up a righteous cache of loot that belongs to a gangster that may or may not exist. This gangster’s legend inspires fear in criminals of all stripes as he has killed tremendous amounts of badasses. They are constantly interrupted by a collage of other criminals and a sprawling back story illustrates how each of the girls know each other and how they’re all about to betray each other. For what this picture is, it’s all rather complicated and as I’m about to explain, it’s not very good. Not at all.
If there’s one thing drives me crazy about the current wave of hip young filmmakers, it’s that you can tell who grew up with a regular dose of Pulp Fiction. The guys who shoot for this sort of aesthetic are usually not terribly creative. Bitch Slap director, Rick Jacobson is clearly one of those guys. He also thought the twist in The Usual Suspects was so clever that he never let it go and even went so far as to steal Bryan Singer’s awesome flashback of the Keyser Soze. Snatch is probably a favorite of his, too, but he probably tells everyone that Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is “the one”, even though he saw it once and didn’t really like it. Like his idols, he wanted to make a movie that celebrated the good times of the 70’s and incorporated every movie that Quentin Tarantino ever name checked. He was shooting for Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! but wound up with something closer to Crank only not nearly as fun.
You must understand, I’ve only been bested by three movies in the past: Freddy Got Fingered, Underworld and The Pest. It took every ounce of my will to make it through to the end of this piece of garbage. I love a trashy movie. The sleazier the better, usually. When a bad movie wears its shortcomings on its sleeve, I’m even happier. There’s something to be said for a movie that just doesn’t care and only wants your money. At least it gives you a good ride to the credits. It’s tough for me to figure out where the disconnect is, though. The kings of exploitation made lucrative careers out of lifting ideas from bigger Hollywood pictures. Bitch Slap does this, too, but somehow manages to suck like few movies do. It’s as low rent as anything Russ Meyer ever put out but it never even comes close to approaching the big fun of Beyond The Valley of the Dolls or Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! The language of the movie is supposed to mirror that of Cleopatra Jones and Switchblade Sisters but it completely lacks the rhythm and macho swagger that those bad girl movies come packed tight with. Every fucking second of Bitch Slap is intolerable. There is nothing good about any of it.
I think Bitch Slap fails in that a major component of the motor that runs this creature is deliberately cheese and poor acting. It’s supposed to be that way and while I’m sure it wasn’t much of a stretch for America Olivo and Erin Cummings to come up short in the acting department, it feels forced. The plot is constantly twisting and transforming into something else, revealing a little of the backstory at a time but it’s completely obvious where it’s going from the start. If you’ve seen The Usual Suspects, you know how this is going to end. I’m shocked that no one in the production was sued for plagiarism and not just by Bryan Singer. This movie rips off everyone. Pulp Fiction gets the treatment, too. Everyone who made a hyper-stylized crime flick from 1990 up to 2008 got robbed. Even that fucking piece of shit Joe Carnahan flick, Smokin’ Aces.
Revival cinema can be fun when it’s in the hands of someone who knows where their inspirations lie and knows what makes those old grainy exploitation movies tick. Bitch Slap has no clue. It’s a ham fisted cover of a cover song from people who saw Grindhouse and thought that the world needed more cheap thrills. While I certainly agree with that sentiment it seems like Rick Jacobson’s idea of cheap thrills difers from my own. The world of Bitch Slap is saturated in the worst greenscreening you’ll ever see and this is coming from a guy who reviewed The Room not too long ago. If you sped all the slow mo in the movie up to regular speed, the whole movie might run twenty minutes if it’s lucky. It would seem that a giant inspiration for Bitch Slap was any given music video by Hype Williams. There’s more body length slow-mo shots and slick photography of sharp looking cars than there is plot and for a movie with so many sustained cleavage shots, there’s hardly any exposed flesh to actually speak of. This includes a couple of absolutely fucking insane rough panties-on sex scenes. For all the girl on girl oral jokes that the movie makes, it never puts its money where its mouth is, not that I’m expecting actual hardcore lesbian sex scenes or anything but you can’t make a movie that looks sexy on the box and give your audience nothing.
I honestly don’t know what they were thinking when they made Bitch Slap, The b-movie, the cult film, the midnight hit, all won those titles because of some quality that made them so excessively weird or just plain excessive but you can’t catch lightning in a bottle and there is nothing worse than a movie that sets out to be one of those things. It’s a disturbing trend that I’m seeing more and more of these days as incapable filmmakers put energy and effort into making a movie that is deliberately b or cult but you just can’t reach out and do that. Categorizing your movie on your own is a recipe for disaster as Bitch Slap has adequately demonstrated.
Fuck this movie.