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by Rex Breathes rexbreathes@hotmail.com

After seeing A Gun For Jennifer, I’m certain that I never want to date again. The indie, East Coast Jennifer chronicles the politically correct pursuit of shooting and castrating rapists–not necessarily in that order.

Unveiled at the Sex by Sex Workers Film Festival recently in Portland, and enjoying limited Art House runs here and there, Jennifer would make a good first date film. See how she reacts: If she’s all goo-goo eyed, drooling and sexually charged after watching Jennifer, you might want to reconsider dating her again. If, on the other hand, you (the man) are all worked up after seeing guys get their nuts whacked off, then consider seeing a shrink or a dominatrix–they both cost about the same.

Naturally, the castrating bitch brigade all work at a strip club where the men act like testosterone zombies. Early on, a couple of offensive customers are invited to stay after hours and party down. In their drunken stupor, they agree to switch roles and strip for the strippers. This turns out to be a bad career move for the pretty boy soap stars who get raped with a nightstick and humiliated by the angry stripper mob. After awhile, the cops get warm to the vigilante castrating stripper gang as the body count beginsto mounts. As the plot congeals like lumpy polenta we go to a club where a topless butch rocker lifts a dildo out of her trousers then lops it off with a knife. And the crowd goes wild.

Writer, producer and star, Deborah Twiss, scares me the most because this film came out of her head... and she looks like this stripper that works at a club in town–smart, beautiful, deadly...I’m in love.

Back to Jennifer... The cops stake out an evil liberal judge who let some rapists walk, thinking the vigilante strippers might show up there. They do and cap the cop just as he’s walking out of the judge’s house carrying a plate of donuts. The strippers lose one of theirs in the gun battle that follows. As the gang is coming undone, bad and beautiful Jesse–who looks just like this other stripper I like–waxes philosophical about the olden days when women had power, were the elders, the shamans, the life givers. Becky, the black vigilante, fires back, “So what’s your point!” Which is exactly what some yuppie bitch said to me today when I told her to get out of my TRUCK LOADING ZONE so I could park my truck and conduct business. And it’s exactly my thoughts on Jennifer.... Is this film strictly camp, serious feature or brooding alternative? Only the director knows for sure and his balls are probably preserved in a jar of formaldehyde so he’s not talking... under threat of Lower East Side poseurs finding out he’s a eunuch. Whoops. That’s the film playing in my head right now as I write this twaddle so I can keep myself amused.

A Gun for Jennifer has taken a round of bows at all the indie fests, and one wonders if all the salivating, de-balled critics are jumping on some tough chick, we’re-not-gonna-take-it-anymore bandwagon. “A GUN FOR JENNIFER is the most radical and hard-hitting film of the decade,” drooled one. Yeah, hard hitting in the family jewels. Fortunately, I’m wearing my Kevlar cup as I beg to differ. Haven’t these critics ever seen or heard of Ms. 45? Fifteen years ago, when maybe the idea was clever, Ms. 45 made a better women-taking-revenge-on-male-pig-rapists film by far.

Back to Jennifer... Jesse decides to take on the mob by herself. Bad career move; she becomes an experiment in hyper blood sports. But the gang reconvenes to come to her rescue. All bimbos who choose to hang out with male misogynist pigs must die too. I’m so offended. So shocked. My sensibilities shattered.

Like the deranged detective who narrates his story under hypnosis in The Element of Crime, all I can say is: “I want to wake-up now.”

Out here on the West Coast, another indie film about sweet revenge, Zig Zag, hasn’t scored as big a hit. Back when west coast rocker, Dan Reed, had hair, he starred in this stylish little psychological thriller that never quite gets off the ground. But it sure is pretty to look at. Zig Zag features some of the best photography I’ve seen in a low budget indie. In fact, Zig Zag was shot for the unbelievably paltry sum of fifty thousand dollars. Producer, Allan Lemley, who shoots commercials for a living, made every nickel count.

Jake and Sierra abduct the Governor’s daughter, Maria, in what seems to be a simple kidnap plot. They take her out to a cabin in the woods where we get to watch Jake (Dan Reed) chop wood, eat hot dogs and smoke cigarettes. Dan Reed looks good on film, but the first half hour does drag a little. I’ve practically memorized Dan’s chest hair pattern by the time the plot starts to unravel. Jake’s white trash girlfriend, dressed in gator bait cutoffs and cowboy boots, suggests a game of strip poker for all three when her idiot coke supplier/sometimes boyfriend Gator! shows up. The reason for Gator’s presence in the film is never clear. Later on, Gator gets into a fight with Jake, but the fight serves no purpose in so far as advancing the plot or illustrating character... except that Jake is tougher than Gator. A lot of Zig Zag tends to wander this way–like an old car with a bad steering box.

Jake’s focus starts to wander as they wait for the Governor, severly injured in the kidnapping, to come out of his coma and make a movie out of this gorgeous photography after all. Sierra tries to fellate Jake in the bathroom with the Governor’s daughter just outside. But Jake can’t stay focused on fellatio. Later, after the Gov finally wakes up, out come the party drugs and the video camera. Sierra urges Jake to do Maria while she’s tied up in the bed and the camera’s rolling. But Jake loses his focus again as he is overcome by flash backs that look great but do nothing to enhance the movie. We discover that Jake was sent up for killing his own mother. So that’s why he’s so weird. It’s not the drugs or the stress after all. But it still doesn’t explain the lapses in script. Some scenes rely heavily on photography and music–both excellent for an indie. But dialogue and action, like the ransom, are still waiting for delivery.

Meanwhile, Sierra keeps pushing Jake to fuck the Gov’s little girl. Sierra’s desperate to watch Jake give it to somebody else, since he’s unable to give it to her...better than nothing. Jake finally gets sick of Sierra mouthing off because he can’t keep it up so he takes care of the problem. Finally, Jake and the Gov’s little girl are able to finish what they started without Sierra breathing down their necks. After Maria has fallen for Jake, he spills the beans about the awful secret they share and why he wants revenge on her dad.

It’s important to note that hot dogs, the food preferred by kidnappers by two to one, are consumed throughout Zig Zag. Phallic symbolism, no doubt.

While Jake and Maria talk about taking daddy’s money and running away together, Jake takes two bullets in the back. Their Adam and Eve paradise turns into just another crime scene with lots of extras wandering around in the woods. The ending is well done, but no surprise. Dan Reed wrote a great last line which Maria delivers in voice-over.

There’s a lot to like about Zig Zag. The film knows what it wants to be: a serious, full length feature in the taut, psychological thriller vein. It pulls no punches in exploring taboo themes. Dan Reed and Kim Kopf (Sierra) give credible performances under direction of long time Portland stage director, Allan Nause. There is a story. Plus, it’s a good one, a clever one. Unfortunately, it’s just not very well told. And all the acting, photography and music in the world cannot overcome a weak script. Sorry, Dan.

You’re Frank’s buddy and you’ve got a great body and it’s a really cool story, but, you need some help with the writing. Of course, the same thing can be said for over half the Hollywood movies. Besides, anything half way decent that didn’t plop out of the bowels of Hollywood is worth catching. I’d rather watch a solid indie effort like Zig Zag than Hollywood pabulum like Ransom any day. And for that reason, I hope that Zig Zag is not Generator Productions’ first and last film.

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