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MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Blood and Concrete’: Creeps on the Loose

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Interestingly crazy things often happen to old movie genres when they’re shoved into new contexts, and a lot of them happen in “Blood and Concrete” (Goldwyn Pavilion). A hybrid, like “Repo Man.” it’s modern L. A. film noir , set in a hopped-up world of tawdry rock clubs and bare apartments: the palm tree and uppers world high school kids like to call “Hollyweird.”

The movie, a dark joke about amorality and aimlessness, is set in a recognizable milieu. Yet, Jeffery Reiner and William Le Brie--the director-producer-writer team, use that world primarily as a backdrop for a typical ‘40s-'50s thriller plot. It’s one of those stories where a grungy hero is on the lam from everybody, like “Night and the City,” or where colorful villains kill each other for a priceless prize, like “The Maltese Falcon.”

Both those themes or plots are in “Blood and Concrete,” which centers around hapless car thief Joey Turks (Billy Zane) hooked up with a suicidal singer (Jennifer Beals), and trying to stay alive, while a drug ring pursues him for a mysterious and dubious “love drug.”

This movie is about sex, drugs and murder, but it kids all of them. It doesn’t play anything straight. In “Dead Calm,” Billy Zane played a memorable psychopath, a killer-rapist loose on a sunlit sea. Here, though Zane’s character is more harmless--he works with an unloaded gun--the world around him is crazier: a cast of creeps, cops and killers in an insane rosie-ring.

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Two guys chasing each other in an endless circle: That’s “Blood and Concrete’s” recurring image. The jokes are borrowed from the rock subculture and old film noir . At one point, informant Ack (Tracy Coley) picks up money with his chopsticks, just like Victor Perry’s Lightning Louie in “Pickup on South Street,” and a body floats “Sunset Boulevard"-style in a swimming pool, slowly filling it with blood.

Yet the cops and crooks of “Blood and Concrete” aren’t just odd or sinister. They’re truly demented--in the way Marx Brothers movie characters are demented. Darren McGavin and Harry Shearer show up as bellicose Det. Hank Dick and Sammy, a drug czar turned New Age family man. The movie’s craziest character, as exhaustingly played by Mark Pellegrino, is Bart the gunsel, a rampaging body-builder-hustler, who jumps in and out of cars, manically jiving while he covers victims with his rod.

This movie’s zaniness, energy and wild, weird characters are its vein of gold. But, in a way, “Blood” isn’t all that unique, just denser and more compact. Many mainstream thrillers share the same cynicism about L.A., the same fondness for old movie motifs.

What’s enjoyable about “Blood and Concrete” (MPAA rated R for sensuality, language and violence) is its attitude toward its people, its genuine amusement at their excess. Critics tend to overpraise movies like this one. Yet there is a tonic in the movie’s irreverence, the way it makes sport of terror and emptiness. Like blood on concrete, what keeps it going is the life that spills onto the cold, killing road it travels.

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‘Blood and Concrete’

Billy Zane: Joey Turks

Jennifer Beals: Mona

Darren McGavin: Hank Dick

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James LeGros: Lance

An I.R.S. Media Inc. presentation of a Copeland/Colichman production. Director Jeffrey Reiner. Producer Richard LaBrie. Executive producer Miles A. Copeland III, Paul Colichman, Harold Welb. Screenplay by LaBrie, Reiner. Cinematographer Declan Quinn. Editors LaBrie, Reiner. Costumes Jan Rowton. Music Vinny Golia. Production design Pamela Woodbridge. With Mark Pellegrino, Nicholas Worth, Harry Shearer. Running time: 1 hour, 54 minutes.

MPAA-rated R (For language, violence, sensuality and drug content).


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