J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

6 Ways to Die: Vinnie Jones Explains Them All

Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder knew there were eight million ways to die, but Vinnie Jones only gets six. At least he will make full use of each of them. He will not merely kill his nemesis, Sonny “Sundown” Garcia, he will target the drug lord’s reputation, money, loved ones, sentimental attachments, and his very liberty. However, narrative logic will be the first casualty of Nadeem Soumah’s 6 Ways to Die (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

“John Doe” has it in for Garcia. He has his reasons, but he is very Picard about it all, never setting foot from his old school Oldsmobuick. Somehow, he gets some of the Los Angeles underworld’s most talented to come to him. He needs their skills to torment Garcia and his valuable inside knowledge will make it worth their while. It would seem that they will succeed spectacularly, since it is all told in a bizarre flashback structure. Oh sure, there is a big reveal that changes everything, but it makes absolutely no sense.

Still, 6 Ways offers an opportunity to watch a veritable B–movie all-star team at work. For the starting line-up we have Jones, Bai Ling, Dominique Swain, Vivica A. Fox, and Tom Sizemore. Most of them have real roles to play, but Sizemore appears in a completely tangential prologue. It looks like Soumah had only one day of shooting with him, so he just improvised something on the fly. In reserve, 6 Ways also features Chris Jai Alex and Kinga Philipps, who maybe aren’t so familiar, but have volumes of imdb credits already.

There are times you have to ask just what does this movie think its doing, but not in a resentful way. You sort of have to give it credit for being a grubby striver. It is determined to impress us by riding its bike with no hands, no matter how many times it wipes out on the pavement.

With no action scenes whatsoever, Jones is completely wasted as the mystery man and his role in the big twist defies the evidence of our senses. However, Alex shows real B-movie star power as Frank Casper, the hitman. Bai Ling also adds some serious cool as high class con artist June Lee. Unfortunately, Michael Rene Walton is way too reserved and colorless for a ruthless heavy like Garcia. Fortunately, chewing the scenery is not a problem for Fox, who vamps it up something fierce as the corrupt cop, Veronica Smith.

Soumah has seen way too much Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez for his own good. The resulting product is overly clever and then some. That said, if you enjoy watching B-movie veterans doing B-movie things, 6 Ways will be a satisfying guilty pleasure when it streams on Netflix (which should be imminently). In the short term, it opens this Friday (7/31) in New York, at the Cinema Village.

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