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American Crude (2007)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 6/3/2008

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/5/2008

In theory, any movie has the innate possibility of going horribly wrong. (Although, when you considered the amount of money which goes into a making a movie, this should never happen.) One category which has a higher than normal chance of yielding a stinker are the movie which have a large number of characters who have intersecting stories. If the characters aren't likable or if the way in which their paths cross don't feel real, then the movie may not work. American Crude sports these two issues along with several others.

American Crude introduces us to several different characters. Johnny (Ron Livingston) is a lawyer who is married to Jane (Cynthia Watros). They have a fairly stable marriage, but she wants kids and he doesn't. They are friends with Bill (Rob Schneider) and Olivia (Amanda Detmer), who are engaged, but often fight. The film takes place on the night of Bill and Olivia's bachelor and bachelorette parties, respectively. Meanwhile, Carlos (Jennifer Esposito), along with her boyfriend, Spinks (Michael Clarke Duncan), plans to get revenge on a man who once assaulted her. When Mr. Grand (Raymond J. Barry) isn't caring for his wheelchair bound wife, Mrs. Grand (Nancy Marlow), he likes to lure women to his apartment to make amateur porn. Gigi (Missi Pyle), a prostitute, is preparing for a night on the job. Tammy (Sarah Foret) is a country girl who has run away from home. Before the night is over, the lives of these characters will mingle in ways that they never imagined.

American Crude is one of those films which has so many issues that I'm not sure where to begin. I guess that I'll start with the story and characters. American Crude wants to be a movie in the vein of Go or Traffic where several seemingly individual storylines intertwine. But, the movie fails miserably in this regard. For starters, none of the characters are likable. In a film like this, you must have good guys and bad guys, and even characters who start out as good and are revealed as bad. But in American Crude, everyone is flawed from the outset and there's no one for the audience to get behind. Thus, when characters get their comeuppance, or even die, we really don't care. The mixed storylines don't ring true either. In a film like this, there's going to some coincidences and the audience is going to be asked to suspend their disbelief, but the crossed-paths aren't genuine here, especially when it's revealed that one character knows everybody in the movie.

If this doesn't make American Crude unappealing, then the overall look and feel of the film will. This clearly wasn't a big-budget affair, but the movie has a noticeably cheap look to it. Mr. Grand's apartment looks as if it had just been used for a high-school play. Gigi's apartment shares this same "there's no way that this is anything but a set" look. The film was directed by Craig Sheffer, who makes his feature film directing debut here. Sheffer has been a working actor since the mid-80s, so one would expect him to know a thing or two about making movies. But, American Crude never gains any momentum. The editing is also very strange, as the film will cut back and forth between the storylines with no rhyme or reason. There are also many odd, quick cutaways, as if there wasn't enough footage with which to work.

When I think about it, I'm usually a fan of this kind of film, especially when the stories mesh in ways that we didn't see coming. I'm a huge fan of the aforementioned Go and I enjoyed Traffic. I also like more esoteric examples of the sub-genre, such as Pulp Fiction and Sin City. But, American Crude is a crash-course in the wrong way to make this kind of film. Even with the cast of recognizable faces, the movie never finds its footing and deteriorates as it goes along. (I keep waiting for Ron Livingston to have that break-out role, but this isn't it.) According to IMDB.com, the film was shot in 2004. The question isn't why wasn't it released until now, but why was it released at all.

American Crude shatters many lives on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image isn't as sharp and clear as most modern movie transfers. The picture shows a fine amount of grain which stays on the image throughout, and the picture is somewhat hazy. The colors are fine, most notably reds and blues. There is some mild artifacting at times, as well as some overt noise. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. If you aren't awake during the nightclub scenes, you soon will be, as the surround sound suddenly kicks in and the music and crowd noise fills the rear speakers. The track provides some nice stereo effects during these scenes as well. Other then the "thumping" from the music, I didn't note much subwoofer action.

The only bonus feature on the American Crude DVD are three DELETED SCENES. Two of them feature Jane and Olivia, further exploring their relationship, and the last features a very uncomfortable fight between Johnny and Jane. Sadly, these scenes are just as lackluster as the entire movie.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long