Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Slipstream (USA, 2005)

(Spoilers) Slipstream is the first feature-length directorial effort of David van Eyssen, who hasn’t been heard from again since his 2005 debut. Odd, for going by this film, his comprehension of stylistic flash and glitter should open a way to a solid career—providing he eventually also learns how to direct actors. Slipstream, for all its knowingly facetious dialogue and plot development, over-the-top action (for such a low budget movie) and visual trickery, has some big plot holes and some of the worst acting—and some horrid miscasting—to be found in a direct-to-DVD product since, well, DVDs began. The plot holes can possibly be overlooked, but the casting...
Of the three main roles—Sean Astin as the scientist Stuart Conway, Ivana Milicevic as FBI agent Sarah Tanner and Vinnie Jones as the psychotic bank robber Winston Briggs—all are miscast (though none as badly as that of Sarah Tanner). But whereas Astin's charisma and naturalism manages to save him and his part, Ivana Milicevic never once manages to be convincing as anything other than a sorely miscast but hot-looking babe (who regrettably never gets nekkid), while Vinnie Jones (who thankfully never gets nekkid) delivers a textbook case on hammy overacting. OK, maybe Ivana Milicevic shouldn't have to be expected to do much more than look good, but considering the effective presence that Vinnie Jones has displayed in many an other film—such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998/trailer), Snatch (2000/trailer) and The Midnight Meat Train (2008/trailer)—the theatrical histrionics he displays in this film are unforgivable and incomprehensible. Where was the director?
Probably busy thinking out groovy shots and nifty visual tricks, for Slipstream contains some really awesome eye candy in this department. Fast motion, slow motion, different speeds within one shot, and rhythmic but contrasting editing are but a few of the tricks David van Eyssen pulls from his hat to decorate the at-times knowingly ironic and inanely excessive plot that none the less both sinks once too often into genre clichés and occasionally suffers from an obvious lack of funds. Indeed, as is often in the case when a willfully sardonic plot treads too close to cinematic or narrative platitudes, Slipstream occasionally seems to be exactly that that it is trying to take the piss out of (i.e., a cheap action film). In general the filmic direction of the film is also a bit too artsy for the audience this type of low budget film is intended for, and as such it very much misses its target audience—which in turn explains the general disdain and negativity Slipstream has unjustly been met by. For although the film is without a doubt flawed, it is also a quick, easy and entertaining 90 minutes and hardly deserves the derision it has received.
The plot is a semi-rehash of Retroactive, a violently fun and sun-burnt time travel flick from 1997. Not at all surprising, actually, seeing that the one of the two scriptwriters of Slipstream (Phillip Badger) wrote Retroactive and the other writer (Louis Morneau) directed it. But, whereas the hot FBI agent (Kylie Travis) in the Texas-lensed Retroactive had to enter a huge machine to go back 20 minutes, in the South-Africa-shot Slipstream the protagonists have to mess around with what looks to be a pink mobile phone to skip back ten minutes.
Stuart Conway, the inventor of the said device, decides to test it by repeatedly withdrawing the same amount at his local bank while trying to get to know the rather bitchy plain-Jane blonde teller (Verity Price). Unbeknownst to him he is being trailed by two bickering lovebird FBI agents, but even worse, a group of psychotic lowlife gangsters decide to rob the bank at the same time. Of course, the shit hits the fan and people die and time gets reversed and other people die and the bad guys escape with the time machine but get in a car accident and end up with a bus full of hostages and people die and time gets reversed and others die before the big showdown aboard an airplane where everyone dies before time gets reversed and...
Well, unlike the semi-downer ending of Retroactive, Slipstream ends with everyone skipping down the yellow brick road to happiness.

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