Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2022 8:53 pm 
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JACKY LANG AND ERIK BLOOMQUIST IN HIGH HEAT

You have to kill to keep a restaurant open these days

In High Heat we join a new high end restaurant on its opening night when Ray, the co-owner, spouse of the cook, played by Don Johnson, is threatened by the minions of a gang boss to whom it emerges he owes $1.3 million. He was thinking to pay after the restaurant started making money, but Dom (Dallas Page) wants it now. To make the urgency of his request clear he sends some other minions with large cans of gasoline to set fire to the kitchen. They are buffoons, even though one has some martial arts moves: they haven't even brought a lighter to fire up the gasoline. Ray is a buffoon too, though one with fading good looks in a nice blue suit. His strategy with Dom is just to say "Please."

This is where the real star of this show, Bond girl and super model Olga Kurylenko, as Anya, chef and co-owner and Ray's main squeeze, starts to do her thing, working out in the kitchen where she was preparing a giant soup for tomorrow. She almost literally makes mincemeat of the minions, shoving what's left into the walk-in freezer. Olga is fabulous. At 40-something, she still has a model-lean perfect body and great looks. A woman like this with action-hero skills is fun to watch.

That's not the end of Dom, though. He's called in other heavies to back his assault, even including Gary (Jackie Long), his masseur (which everyone mispronounces "massoos"), and some paid temps - this is a new wrinkle - who demand double-time and a catered lunch. But Ana has reinforcement, coming from her important frenemy, Mimi (Kaitlin Doubleday), who arrives with her automatic-weapon-armed husband Miles (Erik Bloomquist) and their two menacing twin daughters (Bianca and Chiara D'Ambrosio). (The dialogue in the car is amusing. This film has declared itself to be sub-Bond with colorful opening credits and 007-ish theme music. It now takes a stab at sub-Tarantino.) Mimi starts out by going for the masseur. After a warm reunion between Ray and Ana, Ray tells Dom on his cell that they're not giving in.

The final showdown fills the last quarter of this short film. Mimi turns out to have it in for Anya for abandoning her when they were working in Paris, and she plans not to help Anya but kill her. They have a fight in the kitchen, in which Mimi sustains a stab wound she chooses to ignore, but the ladies decide after all to let bygones be bygones. Ray wields a rifle and he and Mimi's husband kill both Dom and his no-count son. That's about it. Ray's hungry, and he and Anya sit in the unscathed dining room of the restaurant for a late-night meal and tall glasses of white wine.

As I've written before, Saban Films, who produced this, specialize in something like what a Vulture (New York Magazine) article in March called "geezer features," films hastily and cheaply produced for straight-to-video marketing that are anchored by aging stars. Among these have been, from Saban, Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Mel Gibson, and now Don Johnson. Someone else provides the physical action. In the more involving Saban film Gasoline Alley from early this year, Luke Wilson augments the phoned-in performance of Bruce Willis, and an actor called Devon Sawa does the heavy lifting. This time it's Don as the oldster and Olga provides the physical action. High Heat's young writer James Pedersen makes an effort to inject some humorous Tarantino-style dialogue, but the villain, Dom, is as feeble as are Ray's efforts to hold him off. We never really care about the situation and we know that Olga is going to trounce the villains. The fights are just performances and are made to feel static because they're confined so much to one location. The kitchen provides a lot of knives for Anya to throw or stab with, but we don't get much to prove this is a fancy French restaurant. The film may have taken on a set of circumstances it didn't have the budget for.

High Heat, 83 mins., releases from Saban films in theaters, on digital, and on demand Dec. 16, 2022. No Metacritic rating yet, but Joe Leyden of Variety is quoted as calling this film "a hoot" and "a satisfying mashup of crime thriller and dark comedy," and Roger Moore in Movie Nation says "It’s a straight-up B-movie," and "tries too hard to be jokey," but all involved "have a little fun with it" and that "pays dividends in the damndest places." The pans are likely to start coming in, though.

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OLGA KORYLENKO POSES DURING THE SHOOT

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