Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chop (2011)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

Lance Reed (Will Keenan) is on a road trip one day, but some unexpected car trouble ruins Lance’s plans. Lance is stuck on the side of the road without cell phone reception, when a mysterious stranger (Timothy Muskatell) in a pickup truck offers him a ride to the nearest town for a phone call.

During the trip, The Stranger asks Lance a bizarre hypothetical question, and he pushes Lance to give an answer. The scenario? Lance has to kill one of two people, who are very close to his heart: His half brother, Bobby (Chad Ferrin), and his wife, Emily (Tanishaa Mukherjee).

To play along, Lance chooses Bobby, and a few seconds later, The Stranger shoots Lance with a tranquilizer dart. Lance awakes in a warehouse, and Bobby is sitting in front of him, tied to a chair with a gag in his mouth. With some help from a friend, The Stranger is ready to pull the trigger on Emily’s execution, so Lance murders Bobby with an axe to the top of his head to save Emily.

Three weeks later, a distraught and paranoid Lance is trying to stall the two detectives assigned to the case for Bobby’s murder. Detective Williams (Adam Minarovich) and Detective Roebuck (Tamil T. Rhee) want a DNA test to clear up any suspicions, but Lance has to worry about bigger problems, when The Stranger returns. During Lance’s blackouts, The Stranger cuts off his fingers one by one. The Stranger’s plan? He’s going to dismember Lance piece by piece until there’s nothing left.

The Stranger uses another tranquilizer dart to kidnap a disfigured Lance. The Stranger takes Lance as his prisoner, and he demands an explanation and an apology for an incident in the past. Lances tries to think of a plan for escape, but Lance is running out of time and limbs, and his survival depends on two answers to two crucial questions: Who is The Stranger, and why is he so obsessed with vengeance?

Will Keenan and Timothy Muskatell deliver the two best performances here. Keenan is entertaining as this jittery nervous wreck, who’s trying to come up with a plan to outsmart The Stranger, but you‘ll see Lance‘s nasty side in flashbacks (more on that later). Muskatell delivers a solid performance, as the kooky psychopath with a dark sense o f humor. Unfortunately, Keenan and Muskatell are alone for noteworthy and quality performances here. Mark Irvingsen (Ray Fielding) and Jeff Sisson (Jeff) had a chance to standout, but their screen time is cut short here.

Chop is loaded with screwball characters. Ray Fielding is a sadistic ex-drug dealer with a missing leg, and he’s got a score to settle with Lance. Ray’s cousin Jeff is a creepy pervert, with a few loose screws, and Stephanie (Malaya Manson) is a vicious and vindictive prostitute, who seizes the opportunity to make Lance suffer. Detective Williams and Detective Roebuck are two guys, who don’t take their jobs seriously, and they share a strange relationship as partners. So when it’s all said done, Emily is the only normal person in this eccentric cast of characters.

Is Lance a harmless and innocent man? Well, the answer to this question is kind of tricky. Yes, Lance is just a normal guy, who lives with his beautiful wife in a nice home, but he’s also a recovering drug addict. Lance tries to fight off the urge to use again throughout the movie, and during the flashback sequences, we see Lance’s past as a scummy and despicable human being.

Need some examples? Ray Fielding was a drug dealer, who was trying to unload the rest of his merchandise. Ray wandered into an alley after a deal. Lance was broke, so he couldn’t buy any drugs, and Ray was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Lance saw an easy opportunity, and he used his car to hit Ray dead on. Lance stole Ray’s stash, and he dumped Ray’s unconscious body into his trunk. Lance made a quick stop at a hardware store to buy a shovel, but Ray disappeared, when Lance returned to his car.

But it’s not over yet, because Lance had a thing for prostitutes. Lance suckered a prostitute named Tammy (Elina Madison) into a ten dollar job, so she had plans to blackmail Lance into a bigger payday with the promise of secrecy (Tammy had plans to expose Lance to his wife). Lance tried to silence Tammy during an argument, but Lance accidentally killed Tammy, when he broke her neck.

After a series of accidental confessions, The Stranger presented Ray and Stephanie (Tammy’s ex-girlfriend) with an offer: Ray and Stephanie can take one “piece” from Lance’s body for revenge, but they’re not allowed to kill him, because The Stranger wants to bask in the glory of Lance’s demise. Stephanie was overjoyed at the opportunity to chop off Lance’s leg, but Jeff’s weird antics ruined the deal for Ray, so The Stranger used Ray’s gun to shoot and kill both men.

Why is The Stranger holding a grudge against Lance? During Lance’s stint as an abrasive junkie, Lance unknowingly bumped into The Stranger on the street one day. Lance knocked The Stranger’s keychain out of his pocket, but Lance didn’t pick up the keychain for The Stranger. Instead, Lance picked up the keychain, and he threw it into the street. Lance walked away with two middle fingers for The Stranger, and Lance shouted “fat ass” for a departing insult. Something inside the The Stranger snapped, and in that moment, he embarked on a mission to make Lance’s life a living hell.

For the appetizer, The Stranger infiltrated Lance’s home as a cable man. Earlier in the movie, The Stranger exposed Emily’s affair with Bobby. In Lance’s house, The Stranger murders Emily with a gunshot to the head. The Stranger resented Lance, because he was unworthy. He didn’t deserve his nice home or his beautiful wife. 

When the story shifts to the present timeline again, Lance finally remembers the incident, when he spots The Stranger’s keychain, but it’s too late. The Stranger commits suicide with a gunshot to the head, and before he pulled the trigger, The Stranger injected Lance with a lethal poison. To close out the movie, a stunned Lance recalls the incident, but the poison is too much for him, and he dies a painful death, as the credits roll.

You can look at the twist from so many different angles. On one hand, I can see how others would label it as disappointing. The Stranger forced Lance to suffer, so you were probably expecting a more heinous crime from Lance. Did he burn The Stranger’s house to the ground with his family inside? Nope. Lance just bumped into the stranger with a nasty insult, and that’s it.

My take? I enjoyed the twist. Remember, it’s a horror comedy, so you have to laugh at the situational irony for The Stranger’s motivations to torture and kill Lance. As a drug addict, Lance ruined people’s lives, but The Stranger is upset, because of an accidental bump and insult? Hilarious stuff.

On top of that, before Lance, The Stranger was a seemingly normal guy, who lost his daughter at the age of thirteen after her lengthy battle with cancer. As the audience, you have to assume The Stranger was on the edge, and Lance had to be the unlucky guy to give him the last push.

Also, I’m glad they didn’t finish the movie with a clichéd and predictable happy ending. You know, an army of police officers bursting through the doors to save Lance, and The Stranger suffers a brutal death after a defiant shoot out with the police. It’s something I’ve seen one too many times, but Chop takes a chance with something different, and it’s a nice touch.

Enjoying Chop depends on your reaction to the big reveal/twist at the end. You’ll either laugh at the situational irony of The Stranger’s motivations for tormenting Lance, or you’ll take the “nonsensical” approach to dissecting The Stranger’s motivations, and you’ll hate this film.

But you have to consider something before you make your decision. Chop is a no holds barred horror comedy. It’s supposed to be a ludicrous and over the top film, and you’re supposed to laugh at the absurdity  behind The Stranger’s motivations. In the end, it doesn’t matter what side of the fence you’re standing on for reactions to this twist, because you’re going to ask yourself a series of questions after the finale. Does Lance deserve his punishment? Are The Stranger’s actions justified? Chop’s thought-provoking finale is full of questions, and it’s almost impossible to resist the urge for a dissection and answers.

Chop is a consistently funny horror comedy, with a twisted sense of humor, and the right amount of nasty blood and gore. The gruesome stuff never passes the overkill point, and Chop will show you just enough to pull a reaction. Also, kudos to writer Adam Minarovich for a few good twists, including Lance’s “glass” eye. The Stranger was one step ahead of Lance throughout the movie, because he replaced Lance’s glass eye with a mechanical eye, and the mechanical eye was equipped with a camera.

Although, I’ll admit, my score for Chop is bittersweet, because Chop had the potential to be a MUCH better film. Problem is, overall the cast is mediocre at best, and Keenan and Muskatell have to carry the load in the acting department. Trust me, Chop would’ve been a lot worse without Muskatell and Keenan. On top of that, I know this is a low budget film, but I can’t ignore the sub-par production values.

Rating: 7/10

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