Directed by: Brent Cote
Run time: 90 minutes
The Lowdown: Tainted might be a timely thriller, if it paid more attention to characterization, and it might be a decent action movie, if it populated its narrative with more, you know, action sequences, but as it is, as a whole, does not make for a very enjoyable or rewarding viewing experience.
The plot is simple: Lance (Alan Van Sprang), just finished 15 hard years in prison.
Affiliated with both Russian gangsters and a vicious faction of the Aryan Brotherhood, it’s safe to say he wants to keep a low profile now that freedom is finally at hand.
But old debts never stay dead for long, and before Lance knows it, he’s being approached by a longtime former friend, a Russian lieutenant, with an offer he should refuse – one last job to wipe his slate clean, if he’s willing to eradicate a pack of white nationalists who double-crossed the big bad Russian boss, Vladimir (John Rhys-Davies).
There’s a subplot about a young female folk singer who lives next door to Lance in a shitty tenement building, and a subplot about the Russian lieutenant and his willfully ignorant bakery chef wife, but neither of these side stories do much to invest viewers.
That leaves the “action,” which is surprisingly sleight for an action movie.
Put it this way, Tainted is the 2020 equivalent of a late ‘80’s/early ‘90’s Sylvester Stallone and/or Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle, if that movie had zero action and simply focused almost entirely on Stallone or Van Damme emoting for 90 minutes.
Avoid at all costs.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Not really.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Gun violence.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – White supremacists and Russian mobsters, which sounds more like a summation of 2016 to 2020 than a movie.
Buy/Rent – Neither.
Universal Horror Collection Vol. 5
Paramount Presents: Pretty In Pink
Now on Video-on-Demand:
Driven (Uncork’d Entertainment, 90 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Maybe I’m just feeling the strain of three-plus-months of forced isolation, but I’ve noticed that a lot of movies that normally would seem right up my alley just aren’t hitting that sweet spot the same way of late.
Take Driven, a low-budget indie with a big concept about the right woman in the wrong place who gets sucked into the craziest night of her life battling demons when all she wants to do is be on stage performing for people.
Casey Dillard plays Emerson Graham, the kind of character name only found in the movies. Emerson bides her time driving customers through a rideshare service while working on her stand-up comedy routine, which means Driven, early on, is packed with wry observations about life and a revolving door of outrageous passengers saying ridiculous things.
Then Emerson stops to pick up Roger (veteran genre actor Richard Speight Jr.), who ensnares her in his quest to slay a bunch of demons before sunrise in order to rid the world of evil, or something like that.
If Driven had been made 10 or 15 years ago, it likely would have been a smash hit following a slick rewrite of the script and some extra funding for practical effects.
As it is, viewers have to choose to invest in the initially awkward, not as clever as it wants to be, relationship between Emerson and Roger, which eats up a bulk of the runtime early on, leaving the demons and dire consequences for much later on.
That wouldn’t be a problem if the script was whip smart enough to mine Emerson’s love of stand-up for a rat-a-tat barrage of solid quips that helped propel the narrative.
Driven isn’t bad, it’s just too slow early on to deliver the wow moments that keep you hooked.
Darkness Falls (Vertical Entertainment, 84 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Darkness Falls, which was originally titled Anderson Falls, which sounds like a film about a guy who just can’t stay on his feet, has nothing to do with the far superior Darkness Falls from 2003.
That Darkness Falls was about a murderous, vengeful demon Tooth Fairy, and while it really wasn’t a very good horror movie, it did inspire Todd Mcfarlane to make two kick-ass figures for his Movie Maniacs toy line.
This Darkness Falls is about a cop (Shawn Ashmore) who is convinced that his wife’s alleged suicide was actually a homicide, and he keeps digging until he discovers a father-son team of serial killers who have a slew of victims that no one else ever figured out they had killed.
Before you say, wow, that sounds kind of cool, know this: I didn’t actually watch Darkness Falls. I simply spent two minutes watching the trailer, which gives away the entire plot, making it completely unnecessary for me to watch the entire film, which I would have watched, evil Tooth Fairy or not, if everything up to an including the ending had not been spoiled directly or indirectly because some studio executive thinks 21st century moviegoers have to be told in advance everything in advance before they spend money to rent or buy a movie.