CAT RUN (2011)
Starring Paz Vega, Scott Mechlowicz, Alphonso McAuley, Janet McTeer, Christopher McDonald, Tony Curran, D.L. Hughley, Karel Roden, Michelle Lombardo, Branko Djuric, Jelena Gavrilovic, Radik Golovkov, Heather Chasen and Bill Perkins.
Screenplay by Nick Ball & John Niven.
Directed by John Stockwell.
Distributed by LLeju Productions. 102 minutes. Rated R.
Despite her quite obvious gorgeousness and well-above-average acting skill, Spanish actress Paz Vega would seem to be an odd choice to helm a splashy (if obviously low budget) American action film. Once considered to be a talent to watch, at this point most American filmgoers would know her only for her role as the housekeeper who captivated Adam Sandler in the 2004 comedy/drama Spanglish. Some fans may also remember her wonderful art house hit Sex & Lucia in 2000. However, her American career turned out to be short-lived as she returned to Spanish films and television – once in a while popping up in US productions like Frank Miller’s 2008 disappointment The Spirit.
However, Vega is just one of the pleasant surprises in this uneven but rather amusing action/comedy. Cat Run is almost like a flashback to the 90s – a Quentin Tarentino wannabe which juggles sophomoric humor, extreme violence, exotic locales and occasional soft-core porn.
Cat Run won’t make anyone forget Pulp Fiction, but it’s a little better than many of the films that followed in its wake like Things to Do In Denver When You’re Dead, Smokin’ Aces, Killing Zoe, Sand and possibly even Kill Bill.
Unfortunately, Cat Run can’t quite decide what type of film it wants to be and this is to the film’s detriment: the comedy is often too broad, the violence a bit too nasty, the characters too one-dimensional and the nudity too matter-of-fact.
Still, Cat Run has some good action sequences, some stunning women, a memorable villain, some decent comic relief and some stunning scenery (cut-rate Montenegro turns out to be a quite lovely replacement for the more common European countries). It’s sort of like The Bourne Identity, if that movie had been directed by an exploitation director along the lines of a Bob Clark. (If you don’t remember who Bob Clark was, IMDB him.)
It was actually directed by John Stockwell, the former actor (probably best known for a supporting role in Top Gun) turned director (he helmed the similarly gorgeous fluff pieces Blue Crush, Into the Blue and Turistas.) Stockwell has no great talent as a director, but the story moves briskly and looks bright and shiny and anytime a lull is hit upon there is an absurdly violent set piece to shock the audience back in line.
Essentially Cat Run is an exceedingly brutal collision of very different characters. Vega plays Catalina, a gorgeous escort who turns out to be the only survivor amongst her friends when a party by an arms dealer goes horribly awry. She escapes the bloodbath with incriminating evidence on a cartoonishly corrupt American politician (Christopher McDonald) and soon is on the run for her life and that of her baby.
They run across a pair of American ex-patriots Anthony and Julian (Scott Mechlowicz and Alphonso McAuley) – supposed to be the comic relief here but only sometimes successful. By coincidence, they have recently started a business as private eyes – just because they have nothing better to do – when Catalina steals Anthony’s car. It gives you an idea of the subtlety of this film that their assistant is a triple-amputee veteran of the Gulf War (played by comic DL Hughley). It also gives you an idea of the likability of the characters when he is by far one of the most interesting ones.
The most interesting one is Helen Bingham (Janet McTeer), an extremely proper and properly ruthless hired killer who is sent on Catalina’s trail. Her character is a wonderful contradiction of bemused manners and savage cruelty and McTeer’s performance alone makes the film worth seeing – and the vague hint of a sequel for her character is heartening.
The other acting is up and down. Vega does her best in an essentially underwritten role. Mechlowicz makes a nice male lead, though his sidekick McAuley too often seems to be doing a Chris Tucker impression. Hughley plays his character’s eccentricities for laughs and mostly succeeds, but McDonald is chewing the scenery here.
Cat Run leads up to a needlessly violent and somewhat incoherent climax, but the film leading up to it moves quickly and rarely wanes.
I’m not sure who the intended audience is for Cat Run – but there probably is one out there who will appreciate its gonzo style.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 1, 2011.