Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Film Review: SAVE ME (1994, Alan Roberts)

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.

But then:



"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.

-Sean Gill


J.D. said...

Wow, this film sounds really bad and yet I feel strangely compelled to check it out for Ironside's mind-blowing scene. Then again, I can't stand Harry Hamlin outside of CLASH OF THE TITANS and that's only 'cos Ray Harryhausen's creatures provide a great distraction from his wooden acting. Actually, that's an insult to wood.

Sean Gill said...

Well CLASH OF THE TITANS is a real head-scratcher of people who do (Olivier, Maggie Smith, Burgess Meredith) and DON'T (Hamlin, Hamlin, Hamlin) belong. And I guess we should be grateful that SAVE ME includes no scenes of Hamlin killing Ironside, Hamlin beating up Ironside, Hamlin defeating Ironside at arm wrestling, etc., because that might have been too much to take.

Anonymous said...

Ironside, Ironside, Ironside. That has to be up there as one of Ironsides best lines. It doesn't seem to fit the rest of the movie though; Which leads one to believe they just told him to improv between Hamiltons lines.

Not sure if I dig on the James Lipton vibe he has though:

I wish ironside would have played in Dog Soldiers as Capt. Ryan instead of Liam Cunningham. I got a similar vibe though./


Sean Gill said...

Heh, I can definitely see the Lipton vibe. Wouldn't say that to Ironside's face, though, for sure. (Although Lipton did play a pretty good hardass as the Warden on Arrested Development.)

As for DOG SOLDIERS, I completely agree. In fact, nearly every single role in the history of film would be improved by an Ironsided switch in casting. Regardless, I kind of think of Liam Cunningham as a bizarre Irish fusion of Ironside and Jean Reno. Or maybe I'm nuts.

jimbo said...

Don't the monster trucks account for 1/10th of a star? :-)

Sean Gill said...


Indeed you're right. Truly monster trucks still count for SOMETHING!

jimbo said...

Success! Save Me was located on YouBoob, although presented in Hungarian or related dialect with really bad overdubs under the title Ments Meg. Interestingly enough, the movie still made about as much sense as when I first watched it in English. :-)

Sean Gill said...

Well, I hope the guy dubbing Ironside did him justice!

jimbo said...

Nope. Not even close. In fact, the same guy provided all male overdubs on top of the English at a reduced volume so neither could be heard well much less understood.

Anonymous said...

One thing you forgot to mention;in every sex scwne, Hamlin enters girl, thrusts exactly three times and climaxes. Seriously. Guess the filmmakers wanted their lead character to be the world's most pathetic lover. I agree with you;this lump of crap's only saving grace is Ironside. Oh... the credits are all the same size except for one of the producers, whose credit appears in teeny tiny letters; "also produced by Alexander Tabrizi" -- weird.

Anonymous said...

Agree with EVERYTHING! And Anonymous ^^^ has a great point (3-Thrust Hamlin). For a 90s film, this sure had some 80s film sensibilities: our protagonists get it on skeezily (and I assume criminally) on the business side of a one-way mirror in the lingerie shop/mall brothel. What a lark! She sure tried on a lot of thongs. And then our hero brutally rapes the schizophrenic woman in the parking garage stairwell because he had a bad day. Aww, she understands and gives him a tender kiss while he cries it out. Some Hollywood hotshots were really working through some anger issues and maybe a divorce with this one. Anxiously awaiting the sequel so we can find out if 3-Thrust Harry gets back with his wife and kid!