Stars: 2.3 of 5.
Running Time: 93 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Michael Ironside, Harry Hamlin (L.A. LAW), Lysette Anthony (KRULL), Bill Nunn (DO THE RIGHT THING), Steve Railsback (Manson in HELTER SKELTER, THE STUNT MAN, LIFEFORCE), Olivia Hussey (PSYCHO IV, BLACK CHRISTMAS, IT), Kato Kaelin (CYBORG 3, DORM DAZE 2).
Tag-line: "His erotic obsession...her deadly deception... Now available on Videocassette and Laserdisc.
Best one-liner: "YOU MISSED A MAJOR MARKETING OPPORTUNITY- YOU COST THIS FIRM MONEY....FUCK YOU!!!" Simply powerful dialogue. And evidence that Steve Railsback was the Christopher George of his day?
Today’s installment of Ironside week is a pretty shitty film that happens to feature Ironside in a decent supporting role. Where most actors appearing in SAVE ME would have been tired, beaten down, and uninspired, Ironside does a lot better than okay, and has one genuinely awesome moment, which I’ll get to eventually. I must also note that my review of this lackluster 90's skin flick will feature a veritable bounty of spoilers, unlike my usual reviews, because, frankly, are you ever going to watch SAVE ME?
SAVE ME is an extremely mediocre movie that begins with the feel of a BODY DOUBLE remake (it even has the scene of ‘man following mysterious woman into lingerie store’), if said remake happened to be co-financed by the Hallmark Hall of Fame and Cinemax. It tries to build up an evidently ‘moral’ hero (in a third-rate film noir skin-flick universe) and is frequently accompanied by gentle, tear-jerky piano music. At times it is a chore to watch. At times Michael Ironside is not on the screen. Note that there may be a correlation between those two statements.
Anyway, the movie begins with Harry Hamlin as our sad sack, TV star looking hero. I can’t decide if post-L.A. LAW Hamlin is the poor man’s Lorenzo Lamas, or if post-FALCON CREST Lorenzo Lamas is the poor man’s Harry Hamlin.
Truly, only our hindsight is 20/20.
I imagine, ultimately, history will resolve this quandary, but in the meantime, let me tell you- only one of these men was in SNAKE EATER.
Anyway, Hamlin is enjoying buddy time with his son.
Creepiness gives way to cutesyness. Finally, Ironside’s name appears in the credits, which lets you know that eventually, something badass and/or fantastic has to happen in this movie. But also note the hideous juxtaposition. Has Ironside’s name ever accompanied a more inappropriate, cutesy-tootsy image?
And is that the font from PULP FICTION?
At least show his name when the goddamn kid is off the screen. This does not bode well. Anyway, Hamlin is undergoing a divorce, has trouble at work with Steve Railsback, his boss, and then there’s that lingerie store scene like from BODY DOUBLE:
and man, this movie doesn’t seem to be going anywh– BOOM! IRONSIDE.
Ironside + beard, no less.
Ironside is evidently the mystery woman’s abusive significant other. The woman awkwardly leaves aPost-it note behind. Hamlin picks it up. It’s the title of this movie.
It says “Save me” and gives her telephone number. Suddenly there's a plot, and with Ironside as the ostensible antagonist. Things can really start cooking now. Anytime. Yup, they're allowed to start cooking anytime now.
Hamlin’s character is not a cliché, he just happens to be the sort of guy who stays up at night, sitting in the dark, mournfully watching home videos of his family. He contacts the mystery woman, and they have great conversations which are punctuated by lines like “Do you always write notes to total strangers?” Until about the one hour mark, there are only three sorts of scenes in this movie. #1. Sex scenes between Hamlin and Anthony. #2. Scenes of Steve Railsback threatening to fire Hamlin from his job. #3. Ironside letting Hamlin and Anthony know he's onto their shit, and he's not effing around.
The love scenes are extremely trashy. Some filmmakers will frame scenes in homage to classical works of art. Like how that shot at the end of Buñuel's VIRIDIANA mirrors Da Vinci’s LAST SUPPER. Well, SAVE ME frames its love scenes in homage to great sleazy romance novel covers. That’s what it looks like, anyway.
I'm having flashbacks to the grocery checkout line.
There’s pulsating, terrible use of drum machines, lots of jeans, and a sex scene in a red convertible. Welcome to 1994.
Hey, I remember that pillow! I think we may have had that pillow when I was a kid.
And the convertible sex scene is set to calliope music for no discernable reason:
The circus music is certainly a bold choice.
The scenes with Steve Railsback reveal him to be a brilliant actor. Or maybe they reveal him to be a terrible actor.
Like the late, great Christopher George, sometimes you just can't tell. And in a movie like this, I guess it doesn't matter. Hamlin also refers to him as "little Saddam," again firmly grounding us in the early 90's.
IRONSIDE IS WEARING A SILK ROBE.
IRONSIDE KNOWS YOU ARE HIDING SOMETHING.
IRONSIDE IS ON TO YOUR SHIT.
"Oh yeah, well, you're using her mother to control her- THAT'S PATHETIC!"
Thank God I'm only on set for six days.
Then there are Monster Trucks in this movie. Monster Trucks, of all things:
Anyway, it kind of starts turning into a thriller. There are tense scenes in parking garages. Two of them. Someone is trying to kill Hamlin. Hamlin assumes it is Ironside. A cop, played by Bill Nunn (Radio Raheem in DO THE RIGHT THING) begins to investigate.
Either Bill Nunn aged 20 years in the 5 years in between DO THE RIGHT THING and this, or the hair stylist sprinkled some flour in his hair.
Nunn with Spike Lee in DO THE RIGHT THING.
Then Hamlin decides to take the law into his own hands and confronts a besweatered Ironside at gunpoint.
Turns out Ironside is totally reasonable and has nothing to do with the attempted murder of Hamlin. He is just a really intense, earnest guy who Hamlin found threatening for some reason. But then we have the best moment in the movie. It's all been a lead-up to this. Ironside reaches into a drawer for a cigarette, and Hamlin thinks he's reaching for his gun, so Hamlin shoots Ironside in the arm! Ironside winces for a moment- only one fleeting moment- then calmly delivers his line:
"Does smoking really bother you that much, Stevens?"
Hamlin's mind has also been blown.
Goddamn! The man has just been shot! Yet Ironside is so powerfully present that you have no alternative than to believe that this man, who suffered a gunshot wound mere seconds before, can calmly collect himself and deliver a jokey retort. Ironside continues:
"Lucky for us both, you're not a very good shot. ... But I do seem to be producing quite a bit of blood here. In the downstairs bathroom, left cabinet, there's a first aid kit. Could you...please?"
Holy shit, Ironside is a hardass. This almost makes it worth sitting through this entire movie, just so we could get to this point. Hamlin then runs downstairs to the first aid kit, leaving Ironside alone. He sits down, mumbling to himself: "Now what does one drink for an occasion like this- Bourbon or scotch? Eh, definitely bourbon- a man's drink." I'm trying to imagine all of this on the page, but Ironside is laying it out beautifully. Then the REAL killer sneaks in and pops Ironside, thus giving me no reason to continue watching this film.
R.I.P., Dr. Oliver.
Anyway, it all ends up with some femme fatale shit involving schizophrenia, incest, and all that jazz. Ironside's character really was a good guy.
Also, Kato Kaelin appears in not one, but two roles. He plays "Police Officer" and a "Bond Trader #1." He’s even credited as such.
Kaelin (far left) has his big moment as "Police Officer."
To avoid the community theater/double-casting vibe, they could have just lied and credited him as “undercover bond broker cop,” but I guess they didn’t feel the need. I can respect that.
Still, this is a 1 star movie. But it's a one star movie with Michael Ironside, so it's at least a two star movie. And it's a two star Ironside movie with one exceptionally memorable Ironside scene, so I'm giving it exactly 2.3 stars. As always- Bravo, Ironside.