Wednesday, September 17, 2008


“I’m not that kind of girl.”

“Oh with a little practice you could be.”

One of the nice things about Living in LA is the assortment of people wishing to sell you Asian imports of American Movies. When walking past one stand, my eyes happened across Crimewave. And after promptly flipping right the fuck out I happily purchased it from the somewhat stunned proprietor. I have a feeling it had been there for awhile.

Two important points.

1) I love Sam Raimi like fat people love chocolate. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the man changed the course of my life, and he remains one of the coolest human beings I’ve ever met.

2) Crimewave is the only Sam Raimi I haven’t seen (or owned for that matter). This is for good reason, the director hates it, it was barely released in The US, and has never come out on Video or DVD. The fact that both the Coens and Raimi where involved in this project and it still doesn’t have a cult following doesn’t exactly bode well. (It has to be said though, that half of the fun of this movie is spotting gags that the Coen’s and Raimi would reuse from this movie assuming that no one would ever see it. Personally I caught a few from Spiderman, one from Darkman, and one from Barton Fink)

Thanks to these less than auspicious I was expecting to put it on the shelf next to The Quick And The Dead and For Love Of The Game (yes I do actually own both of those). But to my surprise and delight, Crime Wave (Or the XYZ Murders, as Hong Kong apparently chose to preserve it’s orginal title) isn’t just not bad. It’s actually half good. It goes next to Spiderman 3 and The Gift for movies that are fine, but definitely second tier Sam Raimi (Yes I actually do like both of those, remember fat people, chocolate).

Now don’t get me wrong, Crime Wave has it’s problems priniciple among them the lead who has the inevitable task of acting in a roll tailored by the Coens for Bruce Campbell and spends the entire movie not being in on the joke. (Campbell on the other hand, is freaking glorious in his role of Renaldo The Heel).

But the joke is pretty damn good. The film’s plot and deadpan corny dialogue owes a bit more to the Coen’s then Raimi, a man on his way to the gas chamber professes his innocence, and leads his listener’s on a wild tale of sadism and circumstance. But Crimewave’s anarchic spirit really belongs to Raimi. The Film is directed like a Three Stooges short by Tex Avery. Filled with cartoonish caricatures, outlandish sight gags, a score right out of Termite Terrace and a truly unhinged sense of style. When a movie starts out with a car packed with Nuns ala clowns in a car, racing through the streets, and is immediately followed by Bruce Campbell’s cigarette smoke turning into a stripper, you truly know anything goes.

The cartoon vibe is best exemplified by the two thuggish hitmen responsible for the title Crimewave. These two actually seem to realize they’re living in a cartoon and act accordingly. Smacking eachother around, and literally bouncing off the walls, electrifying wire rim glasses with a nonchalance that suggests they are faithful subscriber’s to the Acme catalogue.

If there’s a flaw in the movie (and if it’s a flaw) it’s that the film is less about it’s story then it’s about Sam Raimi trying to cram as much crazy shit into his movie as he can. Nary a scene let alone a shot, goes by without some manner of insane gag, or non chalant bit of ultra violence happening. It’s like Raimi’s testing just how much he can get away with. And it’s a joy to watch.


Anonymous said...

I had never even *heard* of this movie before... An undiscovered gem -thanks for raising its profile!

Jay Clarke said...

Hey man,

Kudos to tracking down Crimewave. It did get a VHS release, we used to have it at my store, but its still hard to find though, as you know.

Don't ever be ashamed of any Raimi film in your collection, he's never made a bad film in my opinion - even Game made me interested in baseball for two hours and THAT'S a tall order. And I find QuickATD infinitely watchable.

I did a Raimi retrospective over at Mermaid Heather for the release of DragMTH, if you want to check it out.

Cool blog btw.