2 In 1: Stark Raving Mad and Dead Heat On A Merry-Go-Round.

For this 2 In 1, I'm focusing on heist movies (which I've done before). But for this one, it's heist movies in which the heist relies upon an occurrence not entirely up to or controlled by the robbers. For the first movie, Stark Raving Mad, the robbers rely on the loudness of a rave. For the second movie, Dead Heat On A Merry-Go-Round, the robbers rely on the arrival of a Russian Premier at the airport. So here we are.


Stark Raving Mad.

This is one mind-freak of a movie. After his brother dies, Ben (Seann William Scott) is forced to pay off his debts to Gregory (Lou Diamond Phillips). He gets together a crew, including his best friend Rikki (Timm Sharp); a safe cracker, Jeffrey (Patrick Breen); an explosives expert, Jake (John Crye); and computer hacker/systems expert, Betty Shin (Suzy Nakamura). What they need to do is rob a bank that is right next door to a rave club. Unfortunately, the bank has three levels of security. Betty can get through the first two, but the third is a sound detector. Luckily for them, that third system can be nullified if there’s a certain degree of sound. So now they have to keep the rave as loud as possible while they attempt to break into the vault next door. But anything and everything continues going wrong, including a prying FBI agent, Roy (Dave Foley).

This movie is a mixed bag for me, and has been ever since I first saw it a few years back. I think it’s the tone of the movie that is the biggest issue. It seems as if the movie can’t decide whether it wants to be a dark comedy or some kind of quite-literal techno thriller. But one thing is for sure: this movie was made for people to watch while they’re stoned. From the constant techno music, the flashing lights, and any other kind of trippy addition to the movie (such as characters often breaking scene to turn to the camera and give a brief narrative metaphor… or maybe the transvestites… or even a scene in which a boa constrictor is beaten with a humongous rubber dildo). Though I did like the breaking of the fourth wall for the metaphoric narratives. Usually it was Seann William Scott, but there is a scene (in which the movie’s namesake derives) in which another character does it. But they often go off about something seen on the Discovery Channel or PBS, and it somehow connects with their current situation in a symbolic sense.

The acting was average at best, with two exceptions. This movie isn’t your typical Seann William Scott movie. In fact, his character is quite serious most of the time, and he pulls it off very well. He should do more serious roles. But the real standout performance of the movie, I think, was Timm Sharp as Rikki. It was a great character, the most relatable in the situation. Otherwise, as I said, the acting was anywhere between relatively decent (Dave Foley) to just pretty bad (Lou Diamond Phillips).

The visual style is chaotic, much like a rave. The editing style is very quick-cut and purposefully choppy, adding a sense of disorder and mayhem to every scene. However, there are some other shots that are actually quite brilliant to look at: the diamond-in-the-rough scenes, if you will. It’s just that, every now and then, a brilliant camera shot would show itself, making you wonder why the rest of the movie wasn’t equally as stylish.

I’m not sure how else to really explain this movie. It’s one of those that you really must see to understand. And the heist really is the epitome of Murphy’s Law. You’re constantly wondering just how it can get any worse for them, and it usually finds a way. But the movie as a whole still has an awkward feel to me, and I’ve never been able to put my finger on exactly what it is about it that bugs me. It’s still a pretty good heist flick, and unique at that, but it’s not the greatest I’ve seen. If anything, I’d just recommend it for Seann William Scott in a different kind of role. Though if you’re a big fan of heist films, you can check it out for that, too.

I Am McLovin!

Dead Heat On A Merry-Go-Round.

A heist film with a fun title, but that’s about all it’s worth. Eli Kotch (James Coburn) is a con man on probation setting up the robbery of a Los Angeles airport bank on the same day that the Russian premier is arriving, causing boosted security, picketing, and chaos. But before he can even attempt it, he must first raise enough money in order to get the blueprints of the bank, so he cons his way into a bunch of ladies’ hearts, only to make copies of their keys and steal their things. Though he becomes a bit more connected to one of the women, Inger (Camilla Sparv), and ends up marrying her. But once he has the blueprints, he and his small group of co-robbers begin their master plan on pulling off the highly improbable.

I usually don’t watch too many older movies (this was made back in 1966), but the title caught my eye first, and when I read the description, I thought I’d check it out, as I’m a fan of heist films. Unfortunately, it only seemed to prove my thoughts on why I don’t watch too many older films. It was only 104 minutes, but it felt like 3 hours. It felt unnecessarily long, disjointed, sometimes confusing, and boring. In fact, the entire conning women in order to steal their things stuff would, today, be just written off as a montage, as it isn’t the point of the film. Instead, each woman gets at least 5-10 minutes of the film (and some of them are more annoying than others, especially the first one). All together, the conning stuff took up at least 30+ minutes of the movie at the least, and most of it was very dry.

The one fun thing about it was seeing the different personas that James Coburn pulled off. He was almost a master of accents in this movie, and it was always fun watching him pulling a fast one over on people. He was the best thing about the movie. Camilla Sparv was alright in her acting, but nothing especially noteworthy. Everybody else was relatively forgettable.

There were some great cinematic shots, though, especially toward the beginning. The movie starts off focusing on a group of shadows on the wall while a prisoner gives a monologue during a group therapy session. Later, when Inger is introduced, it begins with a beautiful shot of snow on tree branches, then pans down to show snow-covered everything.

When the big heist finally came, there was some suspense. I watched nervously, wondering if they were all going to get away with it and get to safety. It wasn’t the most amazing heist of all time (nothing like Inside Man or the Ocean’s films), but it was alright. But the real kicker is the twist ending in the last few seconds of the movie. It confused me at first, mostly because of the way the scene was acted, but then I realized what had happened. It was a fun and ironic twist.

Otherwise, it was just alright. It’s not up there on my favorite heist films of all time, and I probably wouldn’t watch it again (actually, I might if just to catch a glimpse of a young Harrison Ford, as this was his first movie, and he has a brief appearance as a messenger of some sort, though I missed it when I watched it… mostly because I didn’t know to look for it). But if you’re a fan of heist films, conman films, or James Coburn films, you should give it a shot. Otherwise, I wouldn’t really bother.

Stop Saying Okay! Okay.

(P.S. And no, the title doesn’t really make much sense, except that it seems to be the title of an essay or poem Eli wrote, but the movie never goes into it. You just see it on the front of a page as it’s being read silently.)

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