Inside the dreadful action comedy Cat Run, there are about three terrible action comedies struggling to get out. The movie, directed by John Stockwell (Blue Crush), is a depressing combination of black guy/white guy laffer and international spy thriller. The used parts from which freshman screenwriters Nick Ball and John Niven craft their muddled tale don't even fit together, leaving us with a clunky and derivative mess. Larded with explosions, crotch kicks and splashes of nudity, this is about as juvenile as a thriller can get. The one bright spot (or maybe less dim) is Janet McTeer, embracing her role as a punctilious assassin trying to locate Paz Vega's ritzy escort girl and her stolen hard drive filled with government secrets. The energetic trailer may entice a few suckers into theaters during the film's thankfully limited run. Beyond that, look for home theater fans to give it a whirl and be spiritually and monetarily poorer for the effort.
Cat Run is so aggressively miscalculated that when our hero Julian (Alphonso McAuley), an African-American layabout turned amateur detective, whips out his comically oversized manhood during the climatic struggle, the movie's creative defeat becomes total. The character is such a transparent attempt to recall career-making turns by Eddie Murphy (48 HRS) and Chris Tucker (Rush Hour) that he winds up disconnected from everyone else. When we first meet Julian, he's making a surprise visit to the foundering Montenegro eatery of childhood best friend Anthony (Scott Mechlowicz). While the pair relax in Anthony's restaurant and ponder their unfulfilling lives, Caterina (Vega) enters. A top-shelf escort with a slinky body and long, dark tresses, Cat has just escaped after witnessing a murder at a high-roller orgy attended by a U.S. politician named Krebb (Christopher McDonald). Cat is now running for her life from Euro-baddies lead by Carver (Karel Roden), anxious to find the girl and the stolen hard drive she intends to trade for the safety of herself and her baby. To aid her escape, Cat swipes Julian's cell phone and Anthony's car and heads for the border. The two respond by doing what anyone would in a similar situation: start a detective agency.
In an era when filmmakers know exactly how far they can push the violence and still secure a PG-13, Stockwell gleefully and immediately stakes a claim to R-territory. From there, the movie develops a vicious mean streak. To find Cat, Carver enlists secret weapon Helen (McTeer), a statuesque, grey-suited British Terminator who only kills her victims after torturing them with dental equipment (à la Marathon Man) or cutting off their testicles. Wandering attentions will refocus whenever Helen appears, yet her sadism is off-putting. She does, however, fit neatly with the parade of other fetishes and useless visual flourishes that constitute the movie's over-amped approximation of attitude and style. Mixing awkwardly with the bullets and the breasts are Julian and Anthony's search for Cat and the who-cares launch of the duo's narratively unnecessary detective agency. The outfit's only other employee is a triple-amputee (D.L. Hughley), for no other reason than a triple-amputee looks funny, a good indicator of what the filmmakers consider humorous. Throughout, what passes for jokes are just desperate grabs for mouth-breathers who think a sex addict showing off the ejaculation divot in his wall is funny. If such sleazy humor is an attempt at Tarantino-like hip nihilism, there's a reason Tarantino left that particular gag on the table. Cat Run has many such obvious influences, but its ability to synthesize those influences into something fresh is nonexistent. Instead, Stockwell has created a loud, ugly and terrible movie that doesn't skillfully juggle its various elements; it throws them violently at your face and calls it edge.
Cast: Paz Vega, Christopher McDonald, Scott Mechlowicz and Janet McTeer
Director: John Stockwell
Screenwriters: Nick Ball and John Niven
Producer: Bill Perkins
Genre: Action Comedy
Rating: R for strong bloody violence, sexual content, nudity and language.
Running time: 102 minutes
Release Date: April 1 ltd.