May 18, 2010

Bitch Slap

Oh. My.

So I love a good farce. Thoughts like these, at Racialicious, had me hoping that Bitch Slap would be a good farce:

Satire by its very nature is something that disarms you, most often through comedy or ridicule, and makes you take a hard look at yourself and your fears and biases. The ultimate purpose of satire is to bring about improvement by bringing ones flaws to the surface.

Like Racialicious guest poster Marisol LeBron, I loved the Tarantino/Rodriguez double-feature Grindhouse, in part, for exactly this reason (see just how much I loved it here). And, pre-viewing, I had high hopes for Bitch Slap on those grounds. The trailer was ridiculous. The quotes were filthy and hysterical. It was unrated. Plus, my girl Zoe Bell is in it (really really briefly, it turns out) and was the stunt coordinator. It should be fun, right?

So not. It's terrible.

There is good farce, and there is bad farce. This is bad farce. The basic premise, not that it matters, is that three women (one dumb and naive, one smart and cold, one tough and temper driven, of course) set out to the desert to find a hidden diamond stash and steal it from a mob kingpin of some sort. From there it's all double-cross and double-double-cross and gratuitous violence and hijinks. It is very, very much like a porn movie. Only no sex, just a lot of cleavage. No, I'm not kidding.

To be successful, satire needs to be both funny and smart. This film is neither. With the exception of the creative cursing, which I found really funny, nothing about it amused me. It didn't shock me, either. It was oddly boring. The things about it that could have been funny, like the mocking of Charlie's Angels style hot female secret operatives with funny skill sets and costumes, are done better in other films (in that case, it's done better in Charlie's Angels itself.). Plus, I couldn't help but compare it to go Grindhouse, which is just so much better at doing the same thing that I'm not really sure why Bitch Slap director Rick Jacobson even tried. He comes off as a little boy on the big kids' playground.

At FilmBook.com, the Bitch Slap reviewer writes:

If you want to watch a film that does not take itself seriously, want a new drinking game film, miss Baywatch, like stuff blowing up and hot chicks, check out Bitch Slap.

This gets to the heart of the problem. I like hot chicks and stuff blowing up (though I don't miss Baywatch). But to be any good, satire has to take itself seriously enough to be cognizant of of what is being made fun of, and that's missing here. The cool action scenes (and don't get me wrong, the fights are good--Zoe Bell is a pro) and funny cursing aren't enough to carry a movie this dumb.

The major thing watching this film did for me was strengthen my desire to see more good films doing what this one does badly. During the credits, there is a montage of 1950s-1970s B-movies. Watching this really did make me want to see those.

On issues of gender and race, Bitch Slap is hard to evaluate. It is, by design, both sexist and racist. If it were good satire, those things would be excused as part of the intention, as good commentary. Because it's not, they come off as something else. Japanese school girl fighter Kinki (Minae Noji) is pretty much a straight send-up of Kill Bill's Gogo, yet when she's on screen, you don't think "funny satire of disgusting Japanese stereotype." You think "stupid fake Japanese girl with unintelligible lines" When satire of racism fails, it's just racism.

I was also, oddly, bothered by the lack of graphic nudity and sex. In this context, it felt paternalistic. Though the entire movie is based on three women in ridiculous revealing outfits, those outfits never do more than reveal cleavage. There is no real nudity, and the one sex scene is PG. Given that the whole point is to go overboard, why tone down that aspect? It's hard to justify, but I actually felt like the film would be more feminist if there was actual skin in it.

This one is getting 0 stars. It doesn't necessarily set feminism and anti-racism back 20 years, but it definitely sets satire back at least that far.

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