The Price Of Air

on September 15, 2000 by Michael Tunison
   Epitomizing the self-indulgent tendencies of the low-budget digital video boom at its worst, actor-filmmaker Josh Evans' two-bit crime tale "The Price of Air" is the kind of painfully amateurish exercise that makes a viewer nostalgic for the days when high film production costs kept moviemaking in the hands of professionals. Were it not for the presence of several screen and music stars in supporting roles (Evans himself is the son of famed producer Robert Evans and actress Ali MacGraw), it's difficult to imagine this dull time-waster ever getting a theatrical release.

   Writer-director Evans ("Glam") stars as the whiny, unsympathetic hero who survives a Tijuana drug deal gone sour, makes off with the merchandise and ends up on the lam with a bisexual porn actress (Charis Michelsen). Meanwhile, the sinister bosses behind the scenes ("Reservoir Dogs'" Michael Madsen and Dick Van Patten of TV's "Eight Is Enough") burn up countless minutes on their cell phones trying to get their product back. Other pieces in the predictable puzzle include rapper Sticky Fingaz as the hero's street-philosophizing best pal, British techno-music star Goldie as a hired thug and Michelle Phillips (TV's "Knots Landing") as the sex-crazed wife of Van Patten's character.

   Most of this proves thoroughly embarrassing for the on-screen talent, with the minor exceptions of the sensuous Michelsen ("Wonder Boys") and the credibly menacing Goldie (who also composed the effective "drum-and-bass" score). Evans' two-dimensional characters range from the merely uninvolving to the flat-out annoying. It's typical of the film's subtlety that Van Patten's baddie not only finances drug trafficking, but is also a racist, S&M-loving, swastika-displaying Scientologist. Dramatically, the piece alternates between stock gangster-movie confrontations and excruciating segments with the actors babbling about random subjects in an improvised-feeling style. The latter bits are so tedious that one wonders whether anything interesting was said during the entire shoot.    Starring Josh Evans, Charis Michelsen, Michael Madsen, Dick Van Patten and Sticky Fingaz. Directed and written by Josh Evans. Produced by Zachary Matz, Thomas Garvin and Michael Madsen. An Artistic License release. Drama. Unrated. Running time: 88 min.

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