The Takeover

Director: Troy Cook            
Nick Mancuso, John Savage, Billy Drago

The following are excerpts from The Unknown Movies Court, Case #0001

The People (Who Rent B-Movies)
             Troy Cook

TROY COOK, hereafter known as THE DEFENDANT, is charged with the following:

(1) Failure to deliver "the goods"
(2) Failure to bring THE TAKEOVER, hereafter known as THE FILM, up to the minimum level set for acceptable pacing.
(3) Multiple counts of assault; more specifically, attacks on the patience level of viewers

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(Transcript of the trial)

DEFENSE TEAM: Your Honor, my client right from the start intended his production to not just be a typical shoot-em-up, but to have fleshed-out characters and realistic situations, even for the action sequences. And right from the start, and to the end, he accomplished this goal. Let's start at the very beginning: the cast. Look, this movie is a B-movie fan's dream cast: There's Nick Mancuso, who has made a name for himself in movies and television. And there's Billy Drago, the muscular, long blond haired chap that fans recognize from other B-movies, even if they don't remember his name. And then there is John Savage, an actor who's had a healthy theatrical and video career for over 20 years. And his performance! - it can't be denied that he gives an excellent performance here, projecting a studious, yet ruthless attitude that wouldn't hesitate to order a killing.

PROSECUTION: But your Honor, Savage's character is more of a supporting role, so he doesn't get as much screen time as the other characters. And the performances of Mancuso and Drago? Please. While Drago has been a good villain in other movies, the material is so weak here, he has nothing to do except mostly sit around, bark orders, and sneer and mock. Mancuso is even worse; he acts very bored throughout the production. The expression "sleepwalking through a performance" is apt for his performance - he actually looks and sounds like he's asleep! If he blandly mutters his lines throughout the movie, how can we get engaged in his character or what he does?

DEFENSE TEAM: We maintain Mancuso does well with his character, because there's a lot the character goes through. Mancuso's character, Jonathan, at the beginning of the movie actually is fleshed out from the start. In prison, his character is being pressured by Drago's character Daniel to help join him in his attempts to take over the mob operation of Tony, Jonathan's former boss, who has taken over his restaurant and girlfriend while he's in prison. Meanwhile, Jonathan is under strain from the inside by his uncontrollable friend Mickey, who has inflicted the wraith of a prison gang.

PROSECUTION: This opening sequence is just as boring as the rest of the movie! Jonathan and Daniel's conflict is just done by some boring telephone calls. The subplot concerning the prison gang has potential, but its resolution is pretty much just a whimper, and its aftereffects for the rest of the movie are not existent. And during many scenes, you can hear background chat from different prisoners. Now that by itself isn't bad, but you hear the same voices uttering, "freakin' lawyer" three times and "SHUT UP!" five times during all the sequences that use this background chat on the soundtrack!

DEFENSE TEAM: So who says that those other prisoners couldn't repeat those words? It could happen. Speaking of things that could happen, look at the gun fights in the movie, which start when Daniel and his cronies arrive in L.A. and start to attack Tony's men and outfits. The guns that they fire are dubbed with the correct sounds - real guns have more of a "pop!" sound than a "bang!" sound, and these guns utter the correct "popping" noises. Also, the gun fights don't go on forever, but are much briefer. And you don't see exaggerated scenes like someone getting blasted in the stomach by a shotgun and flying through a window - it's more true to life.

PROSECUTION: The gunfights may sound realistic, and may also look more realistic, but what about the entertainment value? There isn't any. The direction of these gun fights is showing a man shooting a gun, then cutting to a shot of someone falling down from being shot. That's it.

DEFENSE TEAM: The focus on this movie is not action, anyway. It's more about the characters and how they change throughout the movie. What about that intriguing fantasy sequence where Mickey imagines Jonathan's former girlfriend coming on to him? It shows that he has some hidden motivations. And Daniel's reasons for his attempted takeover are not for the standard reasons of revenge or greed - he simply doesn't think that the L.A. branch is effective anymore, and thinks it's time for new management.

PROSECUTION: And what becomes of these revelations? Nothing. Mickey's desire for Jonathan's girlfriend is never mentioned again. Daniel's reasoning becomes buried with him ordering shoot-outs and sabotage attacks. The seeds for interesting characters are here, but they are never allowed to grow.

JUDGE: The court is recessed. I shall retire to my chambers to view what is in question once again.

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JUDGE: After viewing the movie in question, I have to agree with both the defense and the prosecution; although the movie has serious flaws, it is not completely without interest.

I'm not saying that I would recommend the movie to my colleagues, however. To illustrate my point, I will go through the three charges now, and give my decision for each one.

The first charge - failing to deliver "the goods" - was a fairly easy decision to make. Most of your movie is just people standing around and talking - that takes away most chances of delivering these "goods". The scenes in the movie that could do that - mainly the gun battles - are ineptly directed. These gun battles may be realistic, but realistic does not always mean "better". My finding? Guilty.

The decision as to whether the movie fails to rise to the minimum level of pacing was a somewhat more difficult decision. Many of the scenes in the movie do overall have some purpose to advance the story. But there are a few scenes which could easily have been edited out without harming the flow of the picture. And many scenes simply could have been shortened from their current bloated time limit. My finding? Guilty.

However, the most difficult decision was whether you assaulted the patience level of viewers. After much deliberation, I decided to use the criteria if the movie was actively bad - bad enough to cause voices of derision from viewers or various feelings of discomfort. Although the movie itself wasn't exciting, it did manage to land on the line where a viewer's reaction is a shrug. Since the movie clearly lies directly on the middle mark in this category, it can't be called bad enough to be accused of assault. My finding? Not Guilty.

In short, although you are innocent of the third charge, you have been found guilty on charges one and two. It is important you be punished for your two convicted crimes. However, it is also important for a society to also reform criminals so such people will not return to a life of crime. Your sentence will be divided into two parts - the first for punishment, the second for reform.

Your punishment part of your sentence is as follows: You will watch any three Albert Pyun directed movies of your choice back to back, excluding The Sword and The Sorcerer or Nemesis. Order! Order in the court! It is important for Mr. Cook to know something of the pain and bad filmmaking that he placed viewers of his movie through.

And now for your reform. Mr. Cook, I hereby sentence you to afterwards watch the following three John Woo movies: A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, and Hard Boiled. Hopefully, these three movies will give you a better how to film exciting gun battles, and yet at the same time place interesting characters in interesting situations. The bailiff will escort you to the viewing room now.

The court is now adjourned.


Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)

See also: An Enemy Of The People, Phoenix, Ulterior Motives