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Overall Rating

Awesome: 20%
Worth A Look70%
Average: 0%
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Total Crap: 10%

1 review, 4 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"Suspense chopped out as black comedy cuts in."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2011 BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL: Earlier in this festival, I saw a film described as a black comedy that played pretty well as a straight thriller. This one, meanwhile, is presented as a revenge thriller, but winds up being presented so broadly that it only really works as a comedy. Fortunately, if you're down with this sort of bloody, wise-ass flick, it can work pretty well.

Lance Reed (Billy Bakshi) is being faced with a really lousy choice - some guy (Timothy Muskatell) has kidnapped him and his half-brother Bobby (Chad Ferrin), then informed him that there's another man back home with his wife (Tanisha Mukerji), ready to kill her after having some fun. Time to choose. Oh, but before you do, there's something you should know. Well, Lance makes his choice, but it's the sort of thing that leads to cops and others asking Lance questions. Lance's question is about who this guy is and what his beef is - Lance was kind of a jerk in his addict days, but nothing about his captor is ringing a bell.

Things, of course, get worse. This is a movie about things getting worse, piling more blood, mayhem, secrets, and depraved behavior on until it blows past tension to absurdity. It's fast-paced and full of both amusing one-liners and abundant gore; the audience is unlikely ever to find themselves bored - the movie seldom allows a tense situation to simmer, always rushing toward the next nasty revelation or mutilation. In a way, it's a good thing that director Trent Haaga and writer Adam Minarovich are so committed to just going for the next worst thing; it gives Chop a consistently irreverent, almost cartoonish tone. This might be a happy accident, and Haaga's and Minarovich's goal might have been to make a nail-biter whose events shocked even as they made a well-hidden part of the viewer snicker, but in cases like this, it may be better to do one thing well than two so-so.

That it works as a comedy is due in large part to the efforts of star Billy Bakshi. Though it's not immediately obvious from the tense, no-good-choice situations that open the movie, Lance is a thoroughly amoral character, and as such may say or do anything that's to his own benefit. Bakshi goes for laughs, playing Lance's blatant insincerity to the rafters and having him shoot off rapid-fire attempts at bargaining that are really only interrupted by screams of horror and pain. It's funny all the way through, although there is also a great element of panic to it toward the start, as he's facing losing everything for no reason he understands and there's still the possibility that things might be played relatively straight.

Bakshi spends much of the movie working against Timothy Muskatell, who plays the antagonist as almost folksy, the laid-back and plain-spoken straight man to Bakshi's hyperactive extrovert. The more straightforward and seemingly earnest and decent Muskatell plays it, the funnier the contrast gets, and the more we've got a chance to wonder just who the good guy is here. Writer Adam Minarovich and Tamil Rhee are pretty much perfect as the detectives investigating this case who are hindered alternately by common sense and their own aggressions, while the likes of Ricardo Gray, Jeff Sisson, Mayala Manson, and Mark Irvingsen all have memorable appearances as folks with a bone to pick with Lance.

"Chop" isn't for everyone; though it looks nice and has pretty slick execution for a low-budget shocker - the cast of a movie like this usually has a lot of weak links, and this one really doesn't - the combination of slapstick and sadism is something that many fans just won't go for. And they really have to, because despite appearances, it just doesn't work as a serious thriller, even if it is a fine black comedy.

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originally posted: 04/18/11 02:04:12
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Boston Underground Film Festival For more in the 2011 Boston Underground Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2011 series, click here.

User Comments

1/02/12 Kyle Pretty hilarious and odd film. Good weird stuff. 5 stars
6/15/11 Kerry Neuman Very funny film! Muskatell was awesome! 5 stars
4/20/11 Scott Morris I can't believe this steaming pile got into Boston Underground. 1 stars
4/20/11 Sean Keller A upsettingly funny film. "Do you even know how to use a lawn mower?" 4 stars
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Directed by
  Trent Haaga

Written by
  Adam Minarovich

  Billy Bakshi
  Timothy Muskatell
  Tanisha Mukerji
  Chad Ferrin

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