Saturday, September 14, 2013

Blast Vegas (aka Destruction: Las Vegas)

The SyFy Channel original films that have been broadcast lately have actually been horribly enjoyable. Sharknado and Ghost Shark (I still have yet to experience the Shakespearean delights of Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Gators) were prime examples of how to take a ridiculous premise and run with it to create a “so bad it’s good” type of experience. If Blast Vegas was any indication as to the level of awesomeness these low budget event flicks are headed towards I am fully on board because this ended up being one fun little schlockfest.

A group of frat boys (Frankie Muniz, Michael Steger, Andrew Lawrence, Adam Walker) head to Vegas for spring break and accidentally unleash an ancient curse that consumes Sin City. Teaming up with some sorority girls (Maggie Castle, Summer Bishil, Jillian Nelson, Brooke Ann Smith) and a drunk lounge singer (Barry Bostwick), they attempt to stop the spread of the curse before it wipes Las Vegas off the map.
Blast Vegas was pretty ambitious due to it having been filled with virtually non-stop CGI once the curse was unleashed and the amount of ground it covered in its short runtime. I don’t mean 2001: A Space Odyssey ambitious, I mean that for a low budget television movie it went for broke and attempted to be as big as it possibly could within its limited means. That’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned.

If it weren’t for Frankie Muniz (Malcolm in the Middle, Stay Alive) being cast as the male lead I don’t think this flick would have worked as well as it did. He went above and beyond what is expected of an actor in one of these throwaway movies and sold all the craziness so enthusiastically that I bought into it as well. The kid’s talented, no doubt. The rest of the cast did a serviceable job, but everyone was there to play second fiddle to Muniz and the scene stealing Barry Bostwick as the Wayne Newton inspired Sal Rowinski. He looked like he enjoyed playing the alkie crooner so much that I smiled every time he showed up on screen. He’s not much of a singer (you know that deep down he wasn’t all that great in The Rocky Horror Picture Show either), but he’s obviously having fun so I didn’t mind much.
A big plus were the two cameos at the top of the film – legendary directors John Landis and Joe Dante played a couple of inept crooks attempting to steal the cursed antique sword from a delivery driver. They aren’t the best actors in the world, but they did look like they enjoyed bickering amongst themselves and attempting to act badass. I was laughing hysterically.

The script by Joe D'Ambrosia & Tom Teves is filled to the brim with cheap thrills and horrid dialogue, but it also has a great sense of campy fun that I ate up. There were also a few clever bits thrown into the mix as well, like during a tense elevator ride Muniz and Castle are listening to a computer voice telling them about the hotel they are in and one corny line of its pitch makes Muniz passionately declare “I hate alliteration.” It’s the little things like that that won me over. A little brains in a sea of stupid goes a long way.
Director Jack Perez (Wild Things 2, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus under a pseudonym) kept the pace fast, managed to make the characters likable despite the deficiencies of the script and showed some skill in making the low budget work in his favor. He won’t win any awards for this, but he did a lot with the little he was given and didn’t completely embarrass himself in the process.

However, there are some things that completely ruined the illusion and gave away the low budget. Namely the props and sets. For example: The finale took place atop a replica of the Eiffel Tower, and the CGI model looked just like the real thing. The set looked like it was constructed with generic wood fencing and a few sheets of discounted fabric. Another scene is supposed to take place on the patio of a gigantic Vegas hotel/casino where there are pools and bars and the whole works. What we got looked like someone’s backyard in the Hollywood Hills and all the reverse shots that should show the hotel in them had a one-story house instead. Even the interiors looked nothing like a Vegas casino.
And then one scene pops up out of nowhere that feels like it belongs in a totally different movie. It takes place in a parking garage toward the end of the movie. Muniz and Castle were trying to get to their car and a creepy dude with a gun came out of nowhere and began to act like an ass and kidnapped Castle in an attempt to, and I assumed this, rape her. It ruined the flow, felt like it was a reshoot to pad the runtime and was just awkward and unnecessary.

Outside of those minor quibbles I have to say that I was mightily surprised at how much I enjoyed Blast Vegas. When I started the film I had the typical preconceived notion that I was going to want to turn it off twenty minutes in. Instead I felt like I needed a bucket of popcorn and the urge to invite a few of my B-movie loving friends over to share the experience with me. If that was the intent of the filmmakers – Mission: Accomplished.

4 out of 5

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