Bitch Slap (Unrated)
Directed by Rick Jacobson
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 109 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 22.98
Release Date: March 2, 2010
Review Date: March 3, 2010
Rick Jacobson’s homage to the low budget exploitation films of Roger Corman and Russ Meyer with their bodacious women and heaps of blood and violence comes to the screen with Bitch Slap. Its heart is certainly in the right place, and the writer-director has undoubtedly captured much of the look and feel of those cheap flicks with their goofy, convoluted plots, unreal action, and surprise revelations. But he’s let his enthusiasm go overboard with too much of everything resulting in a B-movie that’s way too long for the story it’s telling. It isn’t Faster, Pussycat, Kill! Kill! It’s more like Faster, Pussycat, Overkill!
Three kickass woman: Hel (Erin Cummings), Camero (America Olivo), and Trixie (Julia Voth), arrive in a remote desert location looking for $200 million in diamonds buried by the sleazy strip club owner Gage (Michael Hurst). While they look around for the priceless gems, the three are constantly interrupted by others threatening to get into the act and make their recovery of the diamonds impossible: police officer Fuchs (Ron Melendez) and the lethal combo of the sordid Hot Wire (William Gregory Lee) and his murderous henchwoman Kinki (Minae Noji). They must also be on the lookout for the nefarious and mysterious mob boss Pinky who could arrive at any moment to claim the diamonds for himself.
The script by director Rick Jacobson and his co-writer Eric Gruendemann makes sure to touch on all of the familiar aspects of this kind of exploitation cinema: girl-on-girl fights, girl-on-girl sex, several vicious beatdowns of the various men who get in their way, and violence with all manner of weapons both manufactured and improvised on the spot. Jacobson makes sure the camera doesn’t stray far from the chests and crotches and fishnet stockinged legs of the three female co-stars who are scantily clad in the tightest and shortest clothing possible (though there’s no real nudity, not even in this unrated cut), clothing that gets battered and torn significantly during the course of the film. But there are too many fights, too many breaks from the story to indulge in the girls’ dumping water on each other (in slow motion naturally) or indulging in too many arguments as they begin to mistrust one another, and, of course, too many back-from-the-dead moments that make one suspect no one actually dies in movies like this. They must hang around for an inevitable sequel. With his adoration of the film Memento clearly evident, the story also constantly jumps backward in time to focus on backstories of the ladies and gents of the movie. That’s fine, but with the expected (and numerous) surprise revelations contained in the movie’s last quarter hour, those flashbacks prove to be unnecessary misdirection sometimes, another reason the film’s running time comes in about a half an hour too long.
The three co-stars carry off their jobs with aplomb with special kudos going to Erin Cummings as the best actress of the three and America Olivo who makes the most convincing badass of the trio of ladies. Michael Hurst steals all of his scenes as the mobster at the mercy of the ladies’ whims (he takes the torture well), and William Gregory Lee is practically unrecognizable as the sleazebag Hot Wire. Since the director and his co-writer worked on the television series Hercules and Xena, it’s not surprising that Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless turn up in fun if unnecessary cameos.
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is presented in a transfer that’s anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. Filmed with an HD camera, the image is usually quite sharp and detailed though there are odd moments where a softer image prevails. There are also some minor moiré patterns in the grille work of the iconic Ford automobile the girls drive. Color is very solid and appealing. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is loud, loud, loud. Users are cautioned to decrease the volume level a bit before beginning the film as the volume is loud enough to cause equipment damage. On the limited budget at their disposal, the sound design is surprisingly sophisticated (Corman films never had this kind of luxurious soundtrack) with raucous rock and stripper music and plenty of ambient sounds being funneled throughout the soundfield to maximum effect.
There are two audio commentaries. The first includes director Rick Jacobson, co-writer Eric Gruendemann, and associate producer Brian Peck. The second features the three female stars: Julia Voth, Erin Cummings, and America Olivo. The girls’ chat is the livelier of the two commentaries as they’re seeing the film for the first time and enjoying the reminiscing. The producers’ track is all right, but much of what they have to impart is covered in the exhaustive making-of documentary also included on the disc.
“Building a Better B-Movie” is a very comprehensive overview of the making of the film from the initial table read with the cast through the director and co-writer discussing casting (with clips from the audition scenes from various cast members), stunt work, production specifics, and problems they dealt with during filming. The documentary is frequently interrupted by actor Michael Hurst appearing on camera to pontificate about the importance of the film they’re making in improvisational doubletalk that sounds important but means nothing. Presented in three parts, together the feature runs 99 ½ minutes and is in anamorphic widescreen.
2.5/5 (not an average)
Bitch Slap casts a fond eye back to the exploitation pictures of decades gone by. It’s not as well written or as imaginatively filmed as Grindhouse was (an obvious inspiration), but for a lark, the film is somewhat better than one might expect, that is, if expectations aren’t too high.