Worth A Look: 28.57%
Pretty Bad: 7.14%
Total Crap: 57.14%
1 review, 8 user ratings
by Chris Parry
There's an age-old conundrum that always seems to come to a head when an indie filmmaker sends us a movie that seems designed for nothing more than a little straight to video payday. See, these movies, sometimes referred to as 'Cinemax flicks', other times as 'softcore thrillers', invariably aren't very good movies in the slightest. They star many buff people who can't act, feature action sequences that are pretty laughable, and storylines that always seem to somehow get the main characters in a gym, strip club or secluded mansion as a large part of plotline. The score is usually awful canned muzak re-utilized from other similarly bad films. The directing, editing and camerawork are generally sloppy, the dialogue woeful and the characterization non-existent... but did I mention they have nudity?Solid Cover (one of the plethora of films each year that come out featuring a title containing combinations of the words solid, lethal, deadly, tough, hard, silent, weapon, cover, target, instinct, night and erotic) basically sucks.
"In straight-to-video hell... nobody can hear you groan."
If I can say anything positive about the film, that would be that the filmmakers know who their target audience is and they hit that target relentlessly. From the first five seconds of Solid Cover, you're offered the flesh of a ripe young maiden and invited to touch yourself as it parades on screen. But touch yourself quickly, because there's a dude in a black hoody behind 'Victim #1', and he's packing a blade the size of a baby's arm.
Having established the dilemma that our heroes of this day will face in near record time (we're a minute in and already we know there's a stab-happy loon on the loose), the director (in this case, screenwriter Jason Wolthuizen) moves right along into establishing why the police need to call in special help. See, the cops are all overweight old people, and since the victims of this serial killer (or 'this prick' as the Police Captain refers to him) are all enrolled in an 'elite gym', the cops need someone buff to go undercover... and under the covers!
See what I did there? See what I did? I could write for Rolling Stone with that kind of video box-ready double entendre. But I digress.
So enter Shane Minor. I'm surprised nobody has tried to change his name to Shane Major yet, because this guy is like the cheese and ham sandwich you send back because it's too darn hammy to stomach.
Minor is a former cop, trying to make his way as a bartender, and he's obviously cool with the ladies. We know this because some hot chick tries to slip him her number. Wow, this guy must be as good-looking as he... clearly is (Note to screenwriters: if your lead is 6'5", has the face of a model, and he's built like a brick shithouse, you don't need to prove that the ladies find him attractive using obvious plot devices - we can see the obvious, thanks).
So of course Minor gets into a fight at the bar with some kung-fu kicking loudmouth who beats on his girlfriend, because we don't need to imagine the bar is rough, we need it fed to us with a spoon shoved down our throats. A martial arts fight ensues, featuring the best martial arts available to a no-budget straight-to-video film shot in Canada. In other words, really bad martial arts.
Scratch that - the martial arts are clearly well done, by people who know what they're doing... but they're not 'movie' martial arts. See, in real life if you took on a black belt, he might twist our arm behind you and snap your wrist. Very functional, but not very flashy. The martial arts invariably used in low budget straight to video flicks comprises of local martial arts experts who can sure as heck throw you, or smash a bit of plywood with their forearm, but when you make them fake a fight with some musclehead who did a few months of Tae Bo some time last year, you're not excactly going to be capturing Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon glory on film.
Solid Cover, had it utilized experienced movie fighters, may have had something to anchor itself on. Strike one.
Then we have the special effects, which the makers of Solid Cover seem to think are good enough to warrant talking about on their DVD. Problem is, the special effects are really bad. In one scene, the hero puts a pistol to a bad guys stomach and shoots three bullets through his back... only the bullets exit in three completely different spots. Not only is this guy a really bad shot at long range (and he is - like awful bad), but he doesn't seem able to group his shots at point blank range either!
Another great laugh comes when someone shoots a Rocket-Propelled Grenade at a wooden shack that our hero is supposedly hiding in. We see the weapon fire, and we see a stream of smoke headed toward the shed, but there's no actual impact. No point of entry. Nothing hitting anything at all.
Yet the shed blows up from the inside, leaving the door and front wall (you know, the one the grenade was supposed to have penetrated) standing, untouched, as everything else behind it explodes with a fireball. Apparently this RPG is a magic weapon - you point it at something and that thing blows itself up. No grenade needed. Can't wait for Al Queda to learn how to use that one... Strike two.
And then we have the cast. I'd love to tell you that they managed to bring this flick back from the edge, but I'd be lying like a bastard. Female lead Danielle House (another one who really must change her name) brings all the acting credentials of a former Miss Canada to the party, and boy does she prove it. I half expected her to start talking about how she wants world peace and more wheelchair ramps in schools, while she ran around shooting her sub-machine gun at bad guys.
And then there's the bad guys. Chris Byrne is the head honcho of the gym where all the badness is going down. We know he's a bad guy, because he won't let our hero join his gym unless hero-boy agrees to inject himself with steroids. As bossman shows Minor how to inject himself, you may find yourself laughing out loud when the bad guy sucks about half a liter of 'roid juice out of the vial with his syringe - enough to keep an East German women's track team in gold medals for eight years, if my calculations are correct.
But maybe I'm being too harsh. I mean, good directing and editing can often make a sub-standard story with bad acting vaguely watchable, right? Unfortunately... strike three.
As a director, Jason Wolthuizen makes a fine screenwriter. Which is a pity, because as a screenwriter, Jason Wolthuizen makes a fine janitor. This film is terribly shot. The axis is crossed so many times you'd think they're playing hopscotch with the camera. The editing decisions succeed in allowing the audience to play 'spot the continuity error' if they get bored with the action on screen. And the preposterous penchant to go with extreme close-ups whenever the scene has to change locations is straight out of soap opera 101.
I don't want to beat the hell out of a film that was clearly designed to do nothing more than titilate, but man, is Solid Cover a dud. You can tell it was shot in Canada (the Labatt's and Molson beer taps in the bar give that away real early, as does the Matthew Good Band poster), yet whenever you see a headline, it's on a newspaper called the Buffalo News (a newspaper which seems to consist of a couple of photocopied A4-pages piled together, with what looks like a Word document printed out on the front page). The rampant placement of American flags also indicates that Wolthuizen wanted this to be seen as an American film, but his distinctly Canadian cast ("You go round the back, eh.") gives him away at every turn.
And we can't even blame the budget for things like this, because the very essence of the film; the one thing that comes free - the dialogue - is terrible. When a group of bad guys find out that the heroes have escaped, the head honcho tells the others, "You go around the back, and you set up parameters."
Parameters? He wants them to set up "a set of measurable factors, such as temperature and pressure, that define a system and determine its behavior in an experiment"...?
Oh wait, I get it... He meant 'perimeter'.
Wildfire Films is telling people that Wolthuizen has been involved in the recent Gene Hackman/Owen wilson action flick Behind Enemy Lines. While I don't personally see that as something to brag about, I also can't find any mention of Wolthuizen on the credits of that film. I personally have no problem with indie filmmakers trying to sneak a little extra cred than they might have earned by employing tactics like this, but they need to understand that any advantage it might bring them is quickly lost when the reality of the situation becomes clear. Solid Cover is awful, and whatever ambitions Wildfire has for Wolthuizen, take it from me, this film is no man's career stepping stone.But it does have nudity...
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8138&reviewer=1
originally posted: 09/15/03 15:42:00