Dance with the Devil

Reviewed by Chris Galloway


A-Pix, widescreen 1.85:1, languages: English DD 5.1, subtitles: Spanish, single side-dual layer, 20 chapters, theatrical trailer, cast filmographies, rated NR, 121 min., $24.98, street date 1/4/2000.

Studio Line

Directed by Alex De La Iglesia. Starring Rosie Perez, Javier Bardem, Harley Cross, Aimee Graham, James Gandolfini, Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

She's sexy, shameless and loves taking people to their limit. She's a dangerous young woman who dreams about a jaguar that licks her naked body and sleeps by her side. Her past is bathed in blood and weird passions..Now she's met the man of her wildest dreams. He's dark, tough and mysterious. He likes robbing banks, trafficking in corpses and spicing it all with voodoo rituals.

Together, the duo sets off toward Mexico destined to become the most feared outlaws in the continent. With a pair of teenage hostages, this non-stop murderous road-trip will take you on a bullet-riddled ride of sex, violence and high octane evil.

Picture/Sound/Extras (D+/D+/D+)

Why is it that a film like Natural Born Killers gets picked on because someone not all there to begin with goes out and kills someone and something like this is just ignored. I don't get it. There is something wrong out there. NBK is far from a perfect movie but it had a point. Dance With the Devil some Tarantino/Rodriguez/NBK wannabe is utter trash with no point but to just shock people. Its violence is more disgusting and unnecessary than anything appearing in the infamous Oliver Stone film.

The plot (or it's stretching of one) is very inconsistent and lost. Rosie Perez plays Pedita Durango (which was the original title of the film), a lonesome woman with a couple of problems. From the flashbacks it's suggested she witnessed her sister and her daughters killed by her husband. She tries to get across the American border from Mexico and finds a way across with Romeo (Javier Bardem), a grave/bank robber (what a profession, huh?). He is also a voodoo priest and uses the bodies he steals for very graphic, unnecessary voodoo rituals. The two are falling in love and then go into Mickey and Mallory Knox mode when they decide to abduct two White people, rape, torture and kill them. I was ready for some NBK knock off but didn't get that. I ended up becoming as confused and bewildered as this movie obviously was.

They kidnap two kids and this was where I became interested. Not because of the story but because I recognized the young man. It drove me nuts through almost the rest of the movie because I recognized him. This held my interest. When I figured it out (I think I saw him play a kid on "Law & Order" who enjoyed shooting other kids) I lost interest. This kidnapping leads to the two to be ritualistically killed but when a gun battle right out of left field happens, that plan is totally destroyed. The two lovers are then stuck with these two kids as they deliver a truckload of dead babies across the border (HEY! I didn't write this so don't ask me how we got there, either).

If there was one thing that the movie suffers from it's a poor narrative. It has no idea what it's about, where it's going and how to end. I mean, when we go from ritual killings to kidnapping to delivering a truck of dead babies there is something not working and an obvious attempt at stretching out a plot that had nowhere to go to begin with (and I can't believe it's based on a book!).

These two characters are supposed to be likeable, I think! If NBK did it right somewhere it was that Mickey and Mallory were anything but likeable. They try to get us to like these two. I mean if you're trying to show evil the last thing you want to do is make us like these anti-heroes. I don't get how these two teens after being raped, tortured and almost gutted alive could actually take a liking to these two as well. One minute they're scared and the other they're having a ball. I despised these characters yet I felt I was supposed to feel for them because of their poor upbringing. Whatever!

The acting is top notch BAD. I can't think of one good performance other than James Gandolfini's ("The Sopranos") cop but it's only because he's played this type of character a zillion times. He does better than deserved considering his character is an idiot. I mean, the guy gets the piss beaten out of him over and over and even though he has the common sense to put his arm in a cast (which disappears a little later) it just never occurs to him to change his suit. I mean, the guy has the friggin' cast go over the sleeve of his suit!!

Rosie Perez in my opinion is not a good actor. I never really liked her. Yeah, she has a nice chest but that's about it (yeah, I'm a man and I suck, I know). Other than that, not much else is present. I don't even consider her good looking (and she looks even more rough here). So I could never understand how she ended up in movies. But her taking on this sadistic character is just not right. She can't do it. And of course her character has some sort of realization out of left field (a lot of stuff happens out of "left field" in this movie) and must save the day. Huh!? Where the hell did that come from?

Javier Bardem occasionally gets a feel for his character but sometimes I get the feeling he's confused as to what he's supposed to do. And I don't blame him! Man, I'd be confused if one minute I was a bastard voodoo priest that cut the limbs off of corpses, drank blood, spit it on people, raped a 17 year old and was then talking about TV shows and was befriending the boy I kidnapped and had some bright look on life. Wha'?

This could be a guys movie if it wasn't for the fact it is incredibly boring. Its plot has no interest at all and even though it's declared an "action" movie, no real action occurs. But, in hopes of bringing the film to life, you get blood, guns occasionally and sex thrown in also way out of left field. And it wasn't enough. Basically all that could have saved it is if Perez had decided to show her chest. It would have offered something more interesting as I started drowning away into slumber land.

Hey, and what do I have here? As it turns out I have the "Director's Cut" of the film. Oh boy! Apparently the film was only 90 minutes upon its initial release (if it actually played in theaters) and although I have trouble believing it could be that long, somehow the movie was expanded to 121 minutes. The laws of physics don't work here. Anyways, we have some incredibly graphic stuff here. We have some stomach turning sex scenes and a lot of violence. I don't have a problem with graphic violence if I think it serves a point. Yeah, Natural Born Killers bothered me but not as much as it probably should have. This movie just grossed me out. None of the violence is necessary. I'm sure the graphic depiction of a corpse being chopped up could be left out. As well as the site of dead babies scattered across the road. And to top it all off someone actually picks one up (Alex Cox of all people). Not only was that not needed, I can't think of anyone, especially a cop, who would actually pick up a dead aborted baby.and then throw it at someone! What the hell is that!?

The director Alex De La Iglesia seems intent on becoming a big action director in Hollywood. Well, this movie isn't it. I will give him this, though, he know how to use a camera. Some of the scenes are very well shot, using the Scope Aspect ratio to its fullest. Like some of the greats, he uses empty space to work for him, not against him. Unfortunately he doesn't know how to make a movie. This is a bad movie. And it's of the worst kind. It's a bad movie that is unwatchable! I am never sitting through this again. It's pointless, gross, lacks anything close to a story (it tries to fake it but has no narrative), makes little to no sense, suffers from every dumb cliché imaginable, bad acting, bad DUBBING and it's a lost mess. Never have I seen a movie work so hard at being nothing. An utter waste of time!

(Oh, I almost forgot my favourite part. While the film's production value isn't that bad - we get a rather well done close up shot of a guy getting run over by an 18-wheeler - there is a character who has one arm, cut off at the elbow. The SAD thing is that what the actor did was, while wearing a T-shirt, stuck his upper arm up the sleeve, and since now his upper arm is twice the width of his other upper arm, this becomes incredibly obvious. Why they didn't just find a one-armed guy is beyond me. Actually, why did the character have to be one-armed anyways!?)

And I wasn't surprised that the DVD edition of this film was also way below par. It's been released by A-Pix and I've actually never seen a movie distributed through them, let alone one of their DVD's. And I'm not planning to again (although I'm sure fate will intervene).

The film is presented on a single-sided, dual-layered disc in a widescreen format of 2.35:1. It has not been enhanced for widescreen TVs. And I will say I was impressed when the first shot opened. The first shot is a dream sequence of Perez being confronted by a Leopard. This scene is very bright and really has nothing wrong with it. It's sharp and bright and presented no real flaws. Too bad this is the only moment that presents this.

The picture has that straight-to-video look. The picture is awfully soft with very poor color saturation. Jagged edges appear in just about every really bright scene except for the opening. Darker scenes where grays are present display grain and if there are any lights (even fires) a chroma effect is present. The print is actually in very good shape as I hardly noticed a print flaw, which I found extremely surprising.

The title had been changed for its release. The film was originally called Perdita Durango but was changed for video (I'm guessing it wasn't very welcomed). So when the new title is displayed for us at the beginning of the movie, the title flashes before us in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, filling up the whole screen. Some ying-yang forgot to format it to 2.35:1. Yeah, maybe I'm being picky but I find that pretty lazy. So that little bit actually caused me to drop the grade a little more.

It's not the worst picture I've seen, I'll be honest, but it's still very unimpressive.

Even worse is the "in name only" 5.1 Dolby Surround track given here. Incredibly flat and plain is the best way to describe it. There are very few action scenes so the soundstage is never used to it's fullest, even when the action does occur. I noticed it halfway through the one action scene that there are no split surrounds! This thing might as well be a regular 2 Channel track as the rears work together to give off a mono effect. And they also for some reason included a 2.0 track and I was not surprised to see it really sounded the same as the 5.1 track except it's incredibly distorted. Both tracks are weak and flat. Gunshots and explosions lack any punch and the only thing the 5.1 track has over the 2.0 one is that the dialogue is more intelligible and the music is less distorted. Both have a good forward soundstage, though. But that's it. Pretty sad.

In the field of extras we only get a couple things. We get an American theatrical trailer and a Mexican one. I found the trailer interesting as it tried to advertise it as more a Bonnie & Clyde film, as did the Mexican one. There is also a video trailer and they seem very confused on how to push the film as it jumps from a movie about the occult and then jumps to Natural Born Killers. As well you get some very stupid Biographies with about one and half pages of info for each.

I don't think you have to be a NASA consultant to figure out if I'm recommending this disc or not. No way. This movie is absolutely horrible with a lackluster DVD that is still (sad enough) better than the movie deserves. Poor video and sound as well as no extras and a movie that really has no excuse in taking up film that could be used for a new Adam Sandler movie, which I would rather sit through than this.

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