Quiet Cool

Director: Clay Borris
James Remar, Adam Coleman Howard, Daphne Ashbrook

You may have noticed that for the most part, I review movies that have been made in the last fifty years or so. As I have explained before, when it comes to reviewing movies, I am drawn more to movies from my generation because I can related to them more. But in my private time, I do watch older movies all the time. Older movies can be entertaining, but they can also be interesting to watch in the way they can be compared to how things are done in real life and movies in this day and age. Let me give you an example with a movie I watched on my own time a few days before writing this, A Kiss Before Dying. Not the reportedly terrible 1991 version, but the original 1956 movie starring Robert Wagner. I enjoyed the movie, but at the same time while watching it, I noticed a lot of things in the movie that a twenty-first century audience would find hard to accept if these things were in a movie made in this day and age. When the Wagner character decides to murder his pregnant girlfriend, he commits some actions that he couldn't get away with today. He decides to poison his girlfriend, and gets the poison from his university's pharmacy training wing, entering the room where the drugs are stored by waiting until a legitimate student comes with a key to get inside. Uh-uh. Today, the drug room would have a lot more security protocol, from requiring pharmacy students to go in one at a time to having security cameras inside filming everybody who comes in. Later in the movie, Wagner fakes a suicide note from his girlfriend, and while he's careful enough to handle it with gloves, he licks the envelope before sealing it. Uh-uh. His action would have left his DNA on the envelope, which would have been detected by modern day police investigators after the murder.

Further into the movie, when Wagner's poisoning plan fails, he decides to push his girlfriend off the top of a tall building, picking a municipal building in his city. However, in this day and age, I think all municipal buildings have security cameras, so investigators today would take a look at the footage and have seen Wagner walk into the building with his soon to be murdered girlfriend. And in the climax of the movie, when the murdered girl's sister struggles to get away from Wagner after finding out Wagner murdered her sister, it never gets into her head to simply knee Wagner in the groin - something a modern day woman would know to do. (We would have to wait until 1967's Point Blank before people learned to bash other people's groins.) As you can see from this example, it can be interesting to watch old movies to see what has become improbable today. But it's also interesting to watch modern day movies to try and determine what today will become improbable to see in future movies. It's easy to do for some movies - for example, the awful comedies of Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg, with their relentless references to other modern movies, will more likely than not bewilder audiences in the future. Another kind of movie that will probably date badly are movies that deal with modern technology. Not just with the depiction of special effects, but with technology that the public uses day to day. For example, I think that in fifty years, the Internet, cell phones, and cars will be a lot different than they are today. I can imagine young moviegoing people all those decades from now giggling as they watch us with technology that comes across as limiting to them then.

There's another kind of movie that I think has a good chance to come across as hokey and dated to moviegoers several decades from now, and that kind of movie is the marijuana movie. I'm not talking about pro-marijuana movies like Up In Smoke or How High, but movies that Quiet Cooldepict marijuana with a criminal light. Just think how in real life marijuana has become more accepted by the public over the last few years - several American states have legalized it, and the drug has been embraced by the medical community as a legitimate way to deal with various ailments. And there have been a number of pro-marijuana movies like the ones I earlier mentioned. I'm willing to bet that in the next few years, marijuana will become more acceptable in the public. After all, alcohol was once banned in the United States but the public fought so hard against the ban that eventually it became legal again. So even at this stage, anti-marijuana movies are slowly becoming obsolete. Despite this, it's still possible to enjoy these movies as a reflection of their time. Quiet Cool - made during the height of the "Just say no" era - promised to depict the marijuana trade in a bad light, but also promised to be action-packed, which I thought was more important than the movie's stance (whatever it would be) on the drug. The main character of the movie is one Joe Dylanne (Remar, Django Unchained) an unconventional New York City cop who we see in the movie's opening action sequence does things his way. Not long after that opening, Joe gets word from his ex-girlfriend Katy (Ashbrook, Automatic), who lives in the Pacific Northwest. It seems her brother, sister-in-law, and nephew Joshua (Howard, Slaves Of New York) have mysteriously disappeared. When Joe arrives, he quickly finds out that the area Katy and his family live in an area that is controlled by a ruthless marijuana growing syndicate, lead by a tyrant by the name of Valence (Nick Cassavetes, Face/Off). Joe eventually finds Joshua, whose parents turn out to have been killed by Valence's thugs, and is determined to wipe out the syndicate. Joe soon finds out he will not only need adequate firepower and battle tactics, but also to possess the title state of mind.

Quiet Cool was a theatrical movie made by the then up and coming Hollywood film studio New Line. But the critical and audience reaction to it was tepid, and the movie subsequently didn't make Remar an action star. Though my research of the movie came up with evidence that suggested New Line didn't give the movie much of a push to theaters or with marketing. That alone probably contributed to dooming Remar from becoming a big action star, but after watching the movie, I have to say that Remar himself has to share some of the blame. Now, I will say that director Clay Borris (Prom Night IV) certainly didn't do Remar any favors. For example, the opening of the movie, where Remar's character wakes up after a hard night, presents Remar in bed neatly dressed up in good-looking (and ironed) clothing without any trace of five o'clock shadow on his face. As the movie progresses, with Remar's character rolling around in the Pacific Northwest forests, Boris does allow Remar to grow some stubble and look appropriately dishevelled, but there's still a big problem with this character. To put it bluntly, Remar gives an underwhelming performance. There's absolutely no sense that his character is a real tough person who knows what he's doing. Instead, he comes across more often than not as kind of soft. His speech (when he does speak) is slow and stilted, and he often walks around in a kind of daze. Though there are other reasons why this character is weak (which I'll get to shortly), Remar's performance alone makes this particular '80s action character one of the most boring I have ever come across in all of my hours of watching B movies.

As I said just a sentence ago, it's not just Remar's acting that makes the character of Joe Dylanne so soft. It's also the screenplay by Susan Vercellino and director Boris. We learn next to nothing about Joe Dylanne, or for that matter, about any of the other characters in the story. Why did Joe and Katy break up in the first place? Why has no one in the community called for outside help, like the FBI, when the bad guys are freely killing townspeople who get in their way? Why does bad guy Valence not say a word until more than a third of the movie has passed by, and subsequently says very little until his inevitable exit? Obviously, we never get answers to pressing questions like those, and the character remain weak. Some of the other players in the cast do show signs of talent, and they try hard to work with what they're given, but weighed down with such underwritten characters, they can't even generate the slightest feeling of chemistry when they interact with each other. But I want to for a moment to return to discussing the script, which is weak in departments other than with its characters. One of the biggest disappointments in Quiet Cool is that it doesn't go into acceptable detail about this particular crime ring. We don't see how it really works - except for a few still shots of marijuana plants in the opening credits, we don't really get to see the actual grow plantation and how it operates. Equally disappointing is that the movie doesn't give us any real insight into the bad guys' thinking. It could have been real interesting had, say, the movie made it so that the marijuana growing operation was giving the majority of the citizens in the community (directly as well as indirectly) jobs and money, making them all desperate to protect their livelihood from this big city intruder. But instead, the movie gives us one-dimensional bad guys we've seen too many times in other B-movies.

Quiet Cool was not just badly thought of during the scripting stage, but also with its direction. Now, I will admit that Borris didn't completely drop the ball while sitting behind the camera. He does manage to make the movie look pretty good. Obviously, it's hard to screw up the look of a movie if you are filming in the northern California wilds as Borris did, but Borris goes an extra step by giving the audience the feeling they are deep in the forest, far from civilization or paved roads. Borris also generates some atmosphere in the town scenes; you really get a redneck feeling that puts you a little uneasy. However, when it comes to the big selling point of the movie - the action sequences - Borris pretty much screws it all up. I did like how various characters ran out of ammunition several times during shoot-outs - that's realistic, and it added a little tension. But Borris doesn't seem to know the basics of what an action audience expects. Action fans expect speed, but more often than not Borris doesn't have the participants in the action going all out. There is a routine, almost relaxed feeling to it all. Even worse is that some of the action plays out in a way that it's hard to figure out what just happened until a second or two after it plays out. Some of this incomprehensibility can be blamed on the bad editing, which also frustrates the audience several times by cutting away from some action in the middle of building to a spectacular sight right before it's completely finished blooming. Actually, the editing may have contributed something positive to my viewing experience of Quiet Cool. If you count the opening and closing credits, the movie only has a running time of only eighty minutes long. That's somewhat short for a feature film, but as it turned out, the movie ended at just the right time for me, right when I had just lost all my remaining patience.

(Posted July 13, 2020)

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See also: Baker County U.S.A., Homegrown, Hunter's Blood