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Harry has his share of problems. He's an aging, cynical cop who was recently shot in the foot; his shady ex-wife Nicole has just shown up on his doorstep again, one step ahead of some Las Vegas mobsters out for her blood and concealing a dark secret; he's struggling to sort out a baffling case involving a brutal serial kidnapper-killer; and, worst of all, his niece Grace has just become one of the missing.
Certains elements of his life, on the other hand, are almost too good to be true. He lives in a storybook suburban neighborhood that suits him just fine, he has a loving son, and his sleazy partner Bob's gorgeous wife Zoey can't keep her hands off of him. In DARK WORLD (2008), these two sides of Harry's life will begin to clash in ways that neither he nor the viewer could possibly suspect.
Writer-director Zia Mojabi has concocted a corker of a tale and visualized it as one of those sun-bleached southern California film noirs complete with Harry's world-weary voiceover. ("There was a time when they killed people for something," he muses after we witness a gruesome double murder. "Greed, power, love...or at least lust. Now they just kill.") It's not as sharp as a big-budget studio production, but Mojabi renders this deliberately-paced story with a good deal of style, mixing the hazy aura of normality with dark, jagged slices of the slasher genre. He also injects it with lots of amusingly offbeat touches without being overly cute about it.
And talk about a cast--wow. Michael Pare' plays Harry with just the right mix of medium-boiled toughness and wry humor, while Theresa Russell proves that she's not only still a babe but an interesting actress as well. Julie St. Claire is a knockout as Zoey, the quintessential woman in red. Steven Bauer (SCARFACE's "Manny") is on hand as Nicole's boyfriend Rick, while James Russo (DONNIE BRASCO) is his usual awesome self as her brother Charlie. As Harry's vile partner Bob, Charles Arthur Berg doesn't have the most refined acting talent but he's just right in this role, as demonstrated by the following exchange:
BOB: (referring to his ex-stripper wife, Zoey) "Every time I sit there, and I think about how that cow stripped down naked and rubbed herself up against every pervert in every titty bar in this town...once a whore, always a whore."
HARRY: "You're talking about the mother of your son."
BOB: "That retard? I don't know much, but I know one thing...that wackjob ain't no son of mine."
The darker side of the story features a mysterious hooded figure who binds his captives and locks them in coffin-like boxes inside an abandoned desert warehouse, occasionally doing away with one of them in gory fashion. How all this ties in with Harry, Nicole, her permanently-drunk brother Charlie, and Harry's sleazeball partner Bob doesn't start to become clear for quite awhile--I was wondering when Harry would stop poring over police files and keeping tabs on Nicole, in addition to fighting off Zoey's aggressively amorous advances, and actually start trying to track down the killer. But it all comes together near the end in one of those 180-degree twists that turns everything that's come before on its ear. You may be one of those "saw it coming a mile away" types, but I was, to say the least, duly agog.
As of this moment, the only user comment regarding this film on IMDb describes it as "absolute trash", so you might want to take my opinion with more than the usual grain of salt. However, despite a few rough spots and some scenes that could have used a little more polish, I found DARK WORLD to be a fun flick imbued with more than enough imagination and finesse to make it a satisfying and worthwhile view. And by the time you find out exactly what the title really means, you may think so, too.
Added: Tuesday, March 17, 2009
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