He almost deserves a screen credit, what with a diner robbery, a nonlinear timeline, hyper-real dialogue peppered with pop-culture references, a genre-hopping jukebox of a soundtrack, liberal use of the word "fuck," a supporting role by Bruce Willis, and even the MacGuffin of a mysterious case containing contents unknown.

It's one of the better completely shameless Tarantino rip-offs, but sputters on fumes of its own exhaustion for the final third.

Remember "Reservoir Dogs"' now-famous opening table talk about Madonna? "Catch .44" does the same thing, but with banter about leaving the toilet seat up, between the all-female team of crooks comprised of Tes (Malin Akerman, "happythankyoumoreplease"), Dawn (Deborah Ann Woll, TV's "True Blood") and half-sis Kara (Nikki Reed, "Chain Letter").

Then the three rob the diner, or attempt as much, and sophomore writer/director Aaron Harvey jumps backward to the previous day, thus effectively beginning "Catch .44" at the end. After delving into the backstories of various characters at the scene of the crime, he revisits the diner every now and again for more gunplay.

As the film goes on, we meet a Latino-accented madman (Forest Whitaker, "The Experiment"), the criminal mastermind (Willis), the cornpone sheriff (Brad Dourif, "Turbulent Skies") and others who serve no purpose in the story, disappearing soon after being introduced. When it becomes apparent that such scenes were conceived merely to serve as padding and to let the actors chew on lines in love with their own muddle-mouthed vulgarity, "Catch .44" reveals that its emperor has no clothes.

After a more than passable opening third full of energy and promise, this is a shame. Grinding the flick to a halt at what should be its climax is a seven-minute conversation between Whitaker and Willis, the latter sporting a pubic wisp of a beard. None of the actors have anything to be embarrassed about here, but it's hardly a résumé highlight.

Two questions arise at the end:
1. Given that this is Willis' second collaboration this year with Curtis Jackson, aka 50 Cent, who serves as producer, what favors does Willis owe the rapper?
2. Given that Tarantino knock-offs went out of vogue between "Pulp Fiction" and "Jackie Brown," what else you got, Mr. Harvey? —Rod Lott


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