Its Va-Va-Voom lead trio aside, this one fails the grindhouse grade

Bitch Slap

on January 05, 2010 by Steve Ramos

_.pngFemme fatale stereotypes and sexploitation clichés explode throughout director Rick Jacobson's grindhouse homage Bitch Slap, and this is in addition to the non-stop catfights, noisy gun battles and impressive display of underwire bras. Cleavage-obsessed fan boys (and girls), the ones desperate to own the 11-card Bitch Slap collectible set, will embrace the film's curvy female leads, low-brow humor, silly storyline and triple entendre-laced dialogue. More serious fans of trash cinema, those who know the Japanese TV series Sukeban Deka in addition to Russ Meyer's sexploitation classic Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, will rate Bitch Slap as a missed opportunity at creating a new drive-in classic. More Maxim cover shoot than taut action movie, Bitch Slap will generate modest business when Freestyle Releasing opens the comedy in limited arthouses (urban grindhouses are no longer available) as well as VOD. A larger fan base will discover the film on home video.

Three women—Hel (Erin Cummings), the owner of sex toy company; Trixie (Julia Voth) a stripper with a heart of gold and a tight dress to match; and Camero (America Olivo), a man-hating psycho criminal—arrive in the desert to recover $200 million in stolen diamonds. There's also a mysterious cylinder that can destroy life on earth. Before this trio of wild angels can complete their caper, the crime lord who owns the diamonds, his Japanese assassin with a razor yo-yo and a flood of double-crosses get in their way.

100 episodes of genre television including cult favorites Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys make up the majority of Rick Jacobson's body of work, although he also has a number of B-features to his credit: Strategic Command ('97), A Bold Affair ('98) Black Thunder ('98) and Bad Guys ('08).
Jacobson co-wrote and co-produced Bitch Slap with his Xena and Hercules creative partner Eric Gruendemann and the resulting film is strong on Xena-like comedy but surprisingly sloppy with its action scenes.

Blame for the dull catfights goes to action director Zoe Bell, Uma Thurman's stunt double in Kill Bill and the star of Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, who fails to create the type of gravity-defying fight scenes current action fans demand. Cameraman Stuart Asbjornsen also comes up short, failing to give the film a Mario Bava-inspired, ’60s color palette that a worthy sexploitation homage requires.

Of the three sexy anti-heroines, it's America Olivo who delivers the best laughs as the crazy Camero. Olivo is also the film's version of Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! femme fatale, Tura Satana. Camero is the most blatant man hater in the bunch. Still, no one will confuse any of the Bitch Slap trio's performances with the work of Sigourney Weaver in Alien. Comedy clearly takes precedent over action in the very silly Bitch Slap.

To Jacobson's credit, I think the late Russ Myer, creator of Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and other sexploitation features, would approve of his busty leading ladies. One thing Meyer would never have done is install a complicated back-story told via reverse flashbacks (think Memento) that only adds clutter to the movie.

Although missing B-movie kingpin Bruce Campbell, Bitch Slap can claim cameos from Hercules' Kevin Sorbo and Xena's Lucy Lawless. Still, poor word of mouth and a competitive specialty marketplace will eliminate any chance at crossover business similar to the 2004 genre hit Bubba Ho-Tep or any of Tarantino's recent genre releases. Freestyle Releasing, which picked up Bitch Slap after its screenings at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival, can expect grosses slightly below the recent blaxploitation homage Black Dynamite.

Still, Jacobson is reportedly at work on a second Bitch Slap film as part of a planned trilogy, which means he has another shot at making a movie worthy of the Faster Pussycat! comparisons.

Distributor: Freestyle Releasing
Cast: Julia Voth, Erin Cummings, America Olivo, Michael Hurst, William Gregory Lee, Ron Melendez and Minae Noji
Director: Rick Jacobson
Screenwriters/Producers: Rick Jacobson and Eric Gruendemann
Rating: R for brutal violence, strong sexual content and language throughout, and brief drug use.
Running Time: 90 min.
Release Date: January 8 NY/LA/SF


Tags: Freestyle Releasing, Julia Voth, Erin Cummings, America Olivo, Michael Hurst, William Gregory Lee, Ron Melendez, Minae Noji, Rick Jacobson, Eric Gruendemann

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