Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Film Review: KUFFS (1992, Bruce A. Evans)

Stars: 4.5 of 5.
Running Time: 102 minutes.
Tag-line: "When you have attitude - who needs experience?"
Notable Cast or Crew: Written and directed by Bruce A. Evans (writer of STARMAN, STAND BY ME, and JUNGLE 2 JUNGLE). Christian Slater, Milla Jovovich, Bruce Boxleitner, Ashley Judd, Don S. Davis (Major Briggs on TWIN PEAKS). Music by Harold Faltermeyer (TOP GUN, FATAL BEAUTY, TANGO & CASH).
Best one-liner: "Now I hate to repeat myself, so, you're all under arrest, come out in front of the cars, and lay down on the ground or something."

'Why are we doing so much running? Aren't we all going to be in cars?!' Personally I never thought that the Slater Factor could eclipse the zenith it reached in HEATHERS. Well, guess what? I was wrong. What we have here is somehow the love child of DIRTY HARRY and FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF.
With a healthy sprinkling of TURNER & HOOCH?

And Slater is somehow the exact median point between Eastwood and Broderick. Man, this day is full of firsts- I just compared Slater to other performers and never once mentioned Jack Nicholson! Plus, the movie is called KUFFS. And Slater's character is named George Kuffs. If you can't appreciate the simple bone-headed beauty in that, then you probably shouldn't be watching Slater movies anyway.

Now you might've already heard that KUFFS breaks the fourth wall. You hear that a lot- then, as it turns out, there's a throwaway line directed at the camera, or a wink and a nod here or there... maybe something at the very beginning, or something at the tail end, or something similarly half-assed. Now I must inform you that KUFFS does not break the fourth wall– it SMASHES it into a thousand shards and bits of plaster, arches its eyebrows, then says with a smarmy grin, "Am I gonna be tested on this later?"
I've never seen a fourth wall pummeled quite so aggressively- Slater was constantly talking to ME.
He was telling ME about his life, he was narrating to ME, he was revealing to ME his innermost thoughts.
And sometimes said innermost thoughts are uttered in the presence of Don S. Davis.

He was cracking jokes with ME, he was yelling for ME get the hell out of his bathroom.
It was a singular experience.

But just when you think this movie is all about dismantling the fourth wall, it reveals that it's additionally all about Slater dancing around the apartment, wearing only stonewashed, tapered 90's jeans.
Dancin with Jovovich.

Dancin' with the champagne.

Dancin' on the bed.

A dance session cut short.

And just when you think that between the fourth-wall shenanigans and the jeans dancin', they can't possibly introduce any more rich visual tropes- BOOM- they blow up some turkeys.
Two of 'em. Why? Gives Slater somethin' to arch his eyebrows about.
Kinda Heyyy what's this, they blew up my dinner!

I get the feeling that Bruce A. Evans had been watching a lot of Peckinpah and Argento before making KUFFS, as he demonstrates a heartfelt devotion to breathtaking, super-slomo action photography. One scene in particular follows the trajectory of an actual bullet, shot at a frame rate much higher than your average Hollywood slo-mo. I wouldn't be surprised if they'd used a special high-speed camera designed for scientific use, because the film stock doesn't even quite match the rest of the film.
The result is an incredibly elegant sequence which admittedly feels a touch out of place in a film that also contains the following frame:

In any event, after 100 minutes of crass Slater irreverence, misogyny, and all-out misanthropy; the movie abruptly ends on a possibly sincere pro-women message picture note with Slater saying: 'Women. If it weren't for them, there'd be no civilization.'
Whaaaaaaat?! Congratulations and bravo, Mr. Kuffs. Here's four and a half stars. Wait, don't squint your eyes, lower your sunglasses, and arch your eyebrows all shocked-like . You can't possibly be surprised. Wait, are you laughing?! Eh, you got me again, ya likable smart aleck!

-Sean Gill

Junta Juleil's Summer '10 Movie Series
1. HELL IN THE PACIFIC (1968, John Boorman)

2. KUFFS (1992, Bruce A. Evans)
3. ...


J.D. said...

This is one very much-maligned film. I remember seeing this when it came out in theaters and the critics just HATED it. Man! I think that was the last time I saw this film but your review really has me curious enough to check it out again. I do like me some Christian Slater... in the right film. I still think his finest moments are the double whammy of HEATHERS and PUMP UP THE VOLUME. Alto, UNTAMED HEART is a guilty pleasure if only to see him cast radically against type and pull it off. Plus, Marisa Tomei is undeniably adorable in that film.

Sean Gill said...

Well, I was definitely in the mood for it when I saw it; if the idea of Slater trying to fuse Eastwood's disdainful badass and Broderick's happy-go-lucky slacker appeals to you- then I'd say this movie is a home run. If you're easily annoyed by eyebrow indicating, condescending Slater mugging, and solo jeans dancing, then you'll find this pretty excruciating indeed. Personally, a lot of behaviors that I find make for intolerable viewing are suddenly and strangely forgiven when it's Slater doing them on screen. This also extends to Slater-inspired performances like Jason Marsden as Dash X on EERIE INDIANA. Still, HEATHERS and PUMP UP THE VOLUME are definitely my favorite Slater flicks- runners-up include LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN, GLEAMING THE CUBE, and, sure, KUFFS. There's still many I haven't seen, UNTAMED HEART included.

Tempest said...

I don't understand why critics hated this film so much. I recently bought it, and I can see how an action/comedy-intense melodrama-romance may not be for everyone, but I don't think it deserved to be so widely panned. There were plenty of other films out at the time that were far worse. But I will say that if you are not a hardcore Slater fan or if you do not like him somewhat, it may not be the film for you as he is in nearly every scene and smashes the fourth wall often. Maybe people saw it as a rip-off of Beverly Hills Cop and Ferris Bueller.

Other Slater gems in my opinion are True Romance, Untamed Heart, and He Was A Quiet Man.

Tempest said...

P.S. I wanted to add there are some plot holes as the other characters are not fully developed and don't evolve the way George does:

a) How would a college student and high-school drop out meet, especially when they live nearly two hours apart from each other?

b)How likely is it that a woman in college would want to date a high-school drop out who can't hold a job and has no real plan for his life?

c) Did Maya know for more than two months she was pregnant and wait to tell George? Was she testing him to see if he really cared for her by waiting? Or did she just find out before telling him? I gathered that she had known for some time.

d) I did not really like how they cut away before Maya could even change her facial expression Kuffs pretended to play dumb when she asked what he thought about the pregnancy. It could have been done for comedic effect.

e) How did Kuff's parents die? How old were he and Brad when this happened?

f) Were Maya and Robert dating again or were they just friends? It seems like Kuffs did not really work at getting her back until he saw her with him, but he was already having second thoughts prior to that.

I like the movie, but the other characters are not really fleshed out and that could have contributed to some of the negative reviews, but I still say that critics were way too hard on this film. It makes me wonder if they just had it in for Christian Slater as audiences took critics more seriously in the early '90s.

Sean Gill said...


I really appreciate that there is someone else out there who takes KUFFS as seriously as I do. A lot of critics dismissed Slater as mere 'Nicholson pastiche,' and while that is certainly an element of his persona, I think there's generally a lot more going on in his performances.

As for the plot holes- you make some good points. Perhaps 'Kuffs' is privy to alternate, Philip K. Dickian universes which leads to 4th wall breakage and character inconsistencies? I call it 'FLOW MY TEARS, THE SPECIAL PATROLMAN SAID.'

Tempest said...

Thanks! All the Jack Nicholson stuff has become very unoriginal, but I guess it made sense in the early '90s. But people still ask Slater about it! Give it a rest already. Maybe if they do a film together that will be the end of that.

Tempest said...

And honestly, I was shocked they showed Kuffs with his baby and Maya at the end of the film. Many movies that contain a pregnancy subplot don't wrap it up by the end of the film. It is good they closed that story arc and went full circle, that is because the film started with her announcing her pregnancy. It was cool that they somehow got the babies (she was played by twins, which is not unusual) to actually look in the camera.

Tempest said...

OK, my over analytical brain has got it: These plot holes could have been explained in deleted and extended scenes, which sadly, Universal did not include on the DVD. I guess they tend not to do that with older films as it would cost them money? Maya may have been from Sacramento, but attended school in San Francisco. This could have been how she met Kuffs and why she just happened to be in SF the night he went to confront the jumper--I did not see why she would spend so much time there. Her ex could have been someone she had a class with-so she went to SF for social reasons.

The filmmakers seemed to convey Maya's parents were wealthy, but her house did not reflect that. Perhaps she was just rooming with some other college students or her parents bought that house for her.

I heard that Slater himself does not care for this film. I have to wonder why, but the characters are pretty one-dimensional. The writers do not provide much of a back story and the audience is left to draw their own conclusions. Maybe Brad spoiled George and did not push him too hard as they lost their parents at a young age--and we don't know how that happened. I mention that as we don't know why Kuffs is so irresponsible, but he never had to be, while Brad had to raise him once they became orphans. We don't even know where George lived before he started staying in Brad's place after his murder.

Tempest said...

Dino de Laurentiis Communications was one of the film's producers and Dino de Laurentiis the man passed away today.