Home Video Hovel: Black Out, by West Anthony
This review originally ran for the film’s theatrical release.
A guy wakes up with a bloody corpse in his bed and no memory of how it got there; shortly thereafter, many eccentric and allegedly colorful gangsters are demanding the return of twenty kilos of cocaine that — wait for it — the guy does not remember taking. Oh, and he’s getting married tomorrow. If you are not silently asking if I am kidding, you either haven’t seen a movie in the last two decades or you have a lot more patience for worn-out story gimmicks than I do. Thus begins Black Out, a Dutch film that strains mightily to be an irreverent, hyper-violent crime caper filled with a wacky assortment of bad guys, but it just doesn’t get the job done.
Raymond Thiry stars as Jos, the guy who wakes up with the bloody corpse and the impending nuptials, but he can’t recall the events of the last day or so that led to the corpse and the criminal underworld insisting that he’s got their twenty keys of coke. He isn’t as entirely innocent as he at first appears though, for Jos is a former criminal himself who walked away from it all for the love of his life, who may inadvertently have been placed in mortal peril by his unrecalled shenanigans. With an unsuspecting fiancé to placate and a crooked cop on his tail, Jos races against time to piece together the mystery and restore the missing cocaine to its rightful owners. Among the obstacles in his path are a former Russian ballet dancer who is now running a drug empire out of a bowling alley, a couple of small-time crooks with a dog-grooming business on the side (or vice versa), and a pair of vicious henchwomen who carry on conversations about the lack of strong feminine archetypes in crime movies. Jos has a couple of friends on his side, namely a big dimwitted sidekick and a former drug-dealing ally who is the Johnny Smith of cocaine — she can seemingly just pick up a kilo of the stuff and tell you its weight, purity and country of origin (hey, everybody’s gotta be good at something). But his allies are largely ineffectual, so our antihero has to solve a lot of problems on his own; fortunately, he has rather a lot of far-fetched coincidences and improbable outcomes working in his favor.
Maybe you get the idea. But if you think this sounds forced and tired, try watching it. For a setup that is potentially loaded with violent action and black comic energy, Black Out is sorely lacking in both. As Jos, Thiry is practically sleepwalking through the picture — I can’t tell if he’s acting that way because the character’s supposed to be hungover or if the actor was instructed to assume a kind of laconic Jason Statham attitude, but the crucial difference is that Statham’s laconic pose masks a spring-loaded set of fists ready to punch anyone and everyone – yes, even ducks – while Jos merely ambles into action with all the alpha-male energy of an overweight cat that’s just been told to get off the couch. The dialogue isn’t sharp enough (although perhaps that’s just the subtitles), the action isn’t actiony enough and the violence isn’t violent enough. Director Arne Toonen clearly fancies himself the next Quentin Tarantino or Guy Ritchie, but he’s not even the next Troy Duffy. (Look him up.) I really wanted Black Out to be a big loud filthy crime spectacular, but came away thoroughly enervated instead. I may have to punch myself in the face a couple of times just to make up for it.