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South of Heaven

Going 'South.’

Rod Lott October 18th, 2011

You couldn't live through the mid-'90s without hitting a Quentin Tarantino wannabe: "2 Days in the Valley," "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead," "Albino Alligator," "Love and a .45," "The Boondock Saints," "Killing Zoe," "Destiny Turns on the Radio." Gawd, weren't they great?



Nobody told the filmmakers behind "South Of Heaven," a crime comedy from Synapse Films release that has its heart in the place, but no story to back up its ambition. Obviously low-budget — note the reliance on fake backgrounds, seemingly borrowed from a high school drama department — the movie tries to get by on quirky criminals (heavies dressed as members of a vaudeville troupe, really?) and long speeches with dialogue so chewy, it may as well come wrapped inside a Bazooka Joe comic. Trouble is, it has only a little more depth.

I laughed once, and I'm ashamed to say it's when the heavy (Shea Wigham, "Machete") justified having a moniker like Mad Dog: Because when you drop the soap in prison, you can pick it up and go back to scrubbing, "no questions asked, no asses questioned." I smiled a few more times, whenever debuting feature director J.L. Vara cut to some inspired animation representing the protagonist's imagination.

Speaking of imagination, dream girl Diora Baird ("Night of the Demons") is the female lead, sporting a thick Southern accent and little makeup, proving (again) she can act, but her killer curves continue to work against her in being taken seriously for quality roles.

If this were 1995, I'd certainly watch it out of sheer curiosity, hoping to mine an undiscovered gem, just as I did today in 2011. But I don't think I'd like it any better. Inexplicably, on one of the three commentaries on the disc, the guys favorably compare the work to everything from "The Night of the Hunter" to Shakespeare.

Nope.  —Rod Lott

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