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DIRECTED BY: Rick Jacobson
FEATURING: Julia Voth, Erin Cummings, America Olivo
PLOT: Three chesty babes fight punk interlopers, each other, and the screenwriters’ over-infatuation with flashbacks while searching for a treasure in the desert.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s postmodern pretensions and post-Memento plotting show an ambition for the offbeat, but the producers ultimately understand that it’s cleavage shots and catfights that pay the bills. An absurdly overdeveloped plot, exaggerated B-movie archetypes, and crazy flashback set pieces staged before unconvincing but imaginative green screen vistas turn Bitch Slap a slightly weirder, but not weird enough, version of a late night cable jiggle-fest.
COMMENTS: A Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! homage made with a sub-Tarantino snarkiness, Bitch Slap plays fine if you go in with the right (i.e., low) expectations. The three actresses do well and tackle their roles with relish—Olivo is particularly memorable as Camaro, the pill-popping psycho—but the metaphysically threatening sexuality of a Tura Satana is missing from this batch of castrating Amazons. Great satire it is not, and at times too much winking self-awareness threatens to sink it, but in the end the correct spirit of silliness almost always prevails. It’s one thing when a sleaze rock anthem starts playing and the camera goes slo-mo and split-screen while zooming leeringly on the ladies’ sweaty bosoms and provocatively cocked hips as they shovel in the desert dressed in tank-tops or tattered evening gowns. It’s another level of goofiness altogether when the gals temporarily forget about the crime kingpin who’s hunting them down so that they can cool off by throwing jugs of ice water onto one another.
Back stories are revealed in frequent flashbacks, but these serve little function other than allowing the filmmakers to set up crazed green screen set-pieces. There’s a magical realist scene where a sparkling angel-winged dancer takes stage as the strip club DJ improbably spins “Ave Maria,” a nunsploitation interlude, and a ridiculous shootout on the Las Vegas Strip (which plays even funnier when you realize that the characters, posed in front of scattered neon landmarks, must be firing their automatic weapons at each other from miles away with no possible lines of sight). Add into the mix a chick-fighting Japanese schoolgirl named Kinki wielding a flesh-rending yo-yo, and there’s enough craziness to keep weirdsploitation fans entertained.
In keeping with the post-feminist theme (a character conspicuously carries around a tome bearing the title “Slutty Bitches in Post-feminist America”), there’s no actual nudity from the leads. The bitch-goddess archetypes here keep their goodies conspicuously displayed on the shelf, but don’t give away free previews; their mammary charms are just bait. Men are of little use to them; the three prefer to make love (and war) with each other. The male cast are annoyances to be disposed with as quickly as possible, after they’ve been actually or symbolically castrated. This is empowering female iconography, though only to gorgeous lesbians with gigantic breasts. A major downside to the film is the fact that it goes on about twenty minutes too long; the spell the flick casts seeps away the longer it plays. This is the rare sexploitation case where drastically trimming down the lesbian love scenes and catfights would actually have helped the movie.
Another downer is the recycling of a well-known plot twist from a popular 1990s thriller; it’s not only embarrassingly obvious, but pointless, since twist endings aren’t really a feature of the genre they’re spoofing anyway. Still, if you can overlook those flaws, and the fact that the movie projects the sense that it believes it’s smarter than its Russ Meyer source material (it isn’t), you may find that Bitch Slap isn’t a total bust.
The director and producer previously worked on the syndicated television series “Hercules: The Legendary Adventures” and “Xena: Warrior Princess,” and Kevin Sorbo, Lucy Lawless and Rene O’Connor all show up in bit roles. Stunt coordinator Zoe Bell worked on “Xena” and also as a stunt double in Tarantino’s Kill Bill and Grindhouse.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“..despite these (and other) glitches, there’s a grungy vigor to Bitch Slap at its very best moments…there’s also just enough carnage, cans, and plain old weirdness to keep the wheels spinning throughout. (Every time I started to get bored with the flick, it threw something new and weirder into the mix. In B-grade jiggle-action homages, that kind of stuff can go a long way.)”–Scott Weinberg, FEAR.net