Friday, December 19, 2008

Film Review: FLESHBURN (1984, George Gage)

Stars: 1 of 5.
Running Time: 90 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Sonny Landham, Karen Carlson.
Tag-line: " A new kind of revenge!"
Best one-liner: [while holding rabbits] "Let's go back to camp and skin these babies, and pretty soon we'll have some shoes!"
Based on the Novel: "Fear in a Handful of Dust."

There are two types of bad 80's movies: those that had no choice but to be bad from the start, like STAR CRYSTAL; and those that should have been awesome, like FLESHBURN. And there is no more heinous an affront than a bad movie that should have been awesome. The pitch: crazy Native American 80's Action supporting player Sonny Landham (48 HRS., ACTION JACKSON, SOUTHERN COMFORT, etc.) gets to star as a Vietnam Vet accused of witchcraft and confined to a mental institution, he breaks out and seeks revenge. I wasn't deluded enough to expect a ROLLING THUNDER, but damn, I expected at least an EYE OF THE TIGER or a BILLY JACK. The cover depicts a shirtless Landham holding a gun in the desert as his Rambo bandana flutters in the wind. And Sonny is insane.

He's a former porn star, he's tried to run for governor of Kentucky, and he had a bodyguard on the set of PREDATOR- not for his own protection, but to protect others from him. Maybe some rednecks will say some racial slurs, Sonny will simmer, and then rightful asses will be kicked. Maybe some flesh will even be burned. This should be effin' amazing. Instead, it's an abominable failure with completely unlikable characters. It's not even an action movie. Sonny kidnaps some doctors who testified against him (and loses our sympathy in the process), and makes them fend for themselves in the desert.

This is the most intense action sequence in the film and also the reason why it sometimes is categorized under the subgenre 'male bondage' (seriously). Note that no flesh has been burned, merely some fake blood has been drizzled haphazardly (all traces of which wash off in the subsequent river sequence).

That's the movie. It's about those loser doctors fending in the desert. Occasionally we cut back to Sonny on the hillside, playing with falcons, Native American memorabilia, or maracas. This movie is highly self-important, also, and thus offensive. Science vs. faith has never been handled so hamfistedly. Native Americans are portrayed as psychotic dirt-worshippers who should be locked up. There's an exceptionally weak resolution, and the visuals are despicably ugly. Shrubs obscure the actors' faces most of the time, and it's exceedingly difficult to tell what the hell is going on. What an energy drainer.

-Sean Gill

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