Love. A Complicated EVIL. “Me You Madness” reviewed! (STX Entertainment / Digital Screener)

Catherine Black, a materialistic and narcissistic hedge fund businesswoman, prides herself on expensive fashion, a healthy appetite for wealth, and a keen appreciation for 80’s music.  There’s also one little other aspect of Catherine’s life that excites her immensely, she’s a total sociopathic serial killer and cannibal who gets off on inviting the detrimental to society to her Malibu home for the slaughter.  When petty thief Tyler thinks he’s pulling a fast one over the megalomaniac by casing her lavish home full of luxurious jewelry, cars, and décor, he’s actually walked into a trap set by murderess.  Toying with her prey before springing her trap, a typically emotionally detached and cold Catherine begins to feel something for not only Tyler’s ruggedly handsome looks but also for his down to Earth knowledge of the world around him, but upon his discovery of her freezer full of preserved dismembered body parts, a love and hate cat-and-mouse game ensues as Catherine and Tyler battle it out between either their individual survival or to pursue the sensation of madly falling for each other. 

A hyperbolic whirlwind in how opposites attract to the new wave tune of an 80’s soundtrack with a glitzy siding of the modern macabre, “You Me Madness” visually defines the coined idiom to be crazy in love.   The debut dark comedy of 2016’s remake of “Cabin Fever” and “The Midnight Man’s” actress, Louise Linton, introduces the Scotland native not only as a director, but also as a screenwriter, penning “You Me Madness’s” unflinching admiration to homage music, films, and their clichés and incorporate them into a fiercely funny comedy that sows unusual seeds of love.  Shot primarily on location in Malibu, set atop of a promontory in and around the sleek modern Ed Niles’ glass-and-steel architecture of the marvelous Henman House, that lists with a hefty price tag of nearly ten million dollars in today’s housing market, and has been the backdrop as Johnny Rico’s family home in Paul Veerhoven’s 1997 authoritarian war on the bugs, “Starship Troopers.”  Linton’s Stormchaser Films serves as the production company with financial backing from Christopher Rush Harrington (“Dead of Winter”), Jijo Reed (“Deadly Famous”), and Christelle Zeinoun.

If I didn’t know any better, I would say “Me You Madness” is the riley, subconscious projection of Louise Linton who not only directs and writes the film but also leaps into to the star role as the self-absorbed Catherine Black.  It is my opinion that Linton’s desire to be a filmmaker stems from her love of moves, especially from the 1970s and 1980s, from the slew of references deliberately spoken throughout to either bring attention about and to avoid the overused tropes all together or a story structure style to galvanize the, sometimes historically ridiculous, long lineage of serial franchises like with “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” when Catherine wields a chainsaw and stops to quickly turn toward the camera to harp about the series longevity.  But, in any case, Linton is wonderful as the powerful corporate sociopath saturated in elegance and is near impervious in breaking her principles about stylish perceptions whether be her designer made outfits during kill mode or keeping red wine, and blood, of her Italian-purchased sofa…or is it a couch?  Linton is opposite the sweet, yet skillfully crafty, innocence radiated from Ed Westwick as conman Tyler Jones.  The British born actor steps into an entirely lighthearted, yet dark, role that’s undoubtedly different from his previous cache of disconsolate films of “Children of Men” or “S. Darko,” the sequel to “Donnie Darko,” with stories of gut-wrenching dread and a general sense of uneasiness throughout.  Despite having a black-comedy tone, “You Me Madness” evokes Westwick to gleam with hopeless love for a smart and beautiful woman undeterred by her then wanting to then needing to kill him because he knows too much about he in spite of her feelings for him.  As you see, the coupling dynamic in this Catherine Black and Tyler Jones show is tremendously complex and both actors are able to reach that level of radical commitment of killer zany passion but only to a limited extent.  Linton terribly overshadows Westwick’s dry, almost deadpan, manner that leaves Tyler feeling unworthy of pursuit because here you have this beautifully intelligent and aggressively possessive woman with Linton’s grand presence coming to life on screen over everyone, and everything, in the film and in strolls a rather silent and express soft Westwick that doesn’t quite fit the bill. 

What I found to be thoughtful and carefully worked was Catherine Black’s image from the male perspective.  Like I said, Catherine is a power-hungry, manipulative, and material-driven narcissist but also beautiful, elegant, and well-versed at stratagem, but this larger-than-life character isn’t demeaning to women as a whole nor is she degraded by the, essentially, the one man in this story with her.  Most rape-revenge or women with a cause narratives inflict a barrage of choice nasty descriptors, such as cunt or bitch, toward the heroine or anti-heroine because she’s battling back against the man or men who’ve wronged her or a loved one. Linton further moves away from the odious layers of destruction lamina by stylishly beefing up the neon effervesce exterior and glam lifestyles of the rich and famous hyperextended upon with a love of an 80’s music soundtrack complete with 80’s arbitrary dancing with Ed Westwick jumping, kicking, swaying, and hypersexualizing dance moves around the Black’s house to the omnipresent soundtrack that includes bands Yello, New Order, The Pointer Sisters, A-Ha, The OJ’s, and Thompson Twins just to name a few. Linton also adds a meta touch where the main characters can turn and narrate directly at the audience to narrate their thoughts.  The unlikely of couples Tyler and Catherine have a relationship that’s being sewn together during their deadly love skirmish right before our eyes as the Catherine led audiences with a narrative disclosure of her confined world seeps into Tyler’s unguarded bubble to the point where he can now turn to the camera and speak to the audience that forms a stronger bond between them.  Yet, “Me You Madness” doesn’t quite have that perfectly coursed transition from enemies to lovers with a story that starts to become lost in itself from being built up strongly by Linton establishing, overtly, Catherine Black’s dark lifestyle choices and the kill scenario plot on this street smart thief to then watering down Catherine’s intense resolute that peters into a shoulder shrug of giving up and in to Tyler after a ferociously hellbent to cut his throat and Hannibal Lector him for dinner.

“Me You Madness” starts off hungry like a wolf film that gets physical with a smooth criminal but turns into a total eclipse of the heart that’s addicted to love and is never gonna give you up!  “Me You Madness” hits video on demand services Valentine’s weekend, releasing February 12th, distributed by STX Entertainment (“Hardcore Henry,” “The Boy”). The 97 minute duration is a celebration of enriched love more powerful than money, fancy things, and diabolical desires while also contributing playful banter and dazzling with the overkill of a voluptuary femme fatale. Ray Peschke’s cinematography grasps the “Miami Vice” vibe. Peschke’s can be on both sides of the coin with a sterilizing bright white of elegance to then flip around into a drug-fueled, kind of smoky robust color variant scene chosen carefully from a broad palette to accentuate the mood. Obviously, going full neon is important too and with Catherine’s dark room spin class, you get that rich fluorescent coloring when all riders are adorned in wearable glowsticks and a neon light illuminates their light colored clothing. Since “Me You Madness” is a brand new film opening right into the video on demand market, there were no bonus materials with the feature nor were there any extra scenes mid-or-after credits. Often wordy to be an adjunct of pop culture name-dropping, “Me You Madness” still renders as a beautifully shot, sybaritic-inclined film that slightly misses the intended mark of connection and love, but does take us out of our dreams and down the lane of playful nostalgia and frivolous fun.


Watch “Me You Madness” on Prime Video! Click the poster to watch!

One Tough Cop Takes Out the Failing System’s Trash! “Vengeance: A Love Story” review!


Fourth of July. A holiday that celebrates the birth of the United States of America becomes the physical and psychological dismantling of a widowed mother named Teena who is viciously attacked while taking a woodsy shortcut home with her young daughter, Bethie. Beaten nearly to the end of her life and dragged to a vacant boathouse, Teena is gang raped by each of her four assailants and while Bethie managed to free herself from her attackers, the child is helpless as she witnesses her mother’s near-death assault. Bethie’s testimony and positive ID of the rapist is a seemingly slam dunk win for prosecutors that will hopeful open a slither of recovering hope for Teena, but when the accused parents hire an expensively sharp attorney that spins and attacks Teena’s character that night, the case quivers on the edge that leans more toward a non-guilty verdict. Detective John Dromoor, who found Teena unresponsive after the assault, had previously met with Teen and was familiar as a humble, energetic, and friendly acquaintance, but now seeing the single mother struggling to cope not only from her rape, but through a justice system that’s feasibly flawed, the Desert Storm, Purple Heart veteran embarks onto a covert, vigilante path to rid the world of justice elusive scum.

“Vengeance: A Love Story,” inspired by the novel with an edgier, yet more shocking title, “Rape: A Love Story,” written by Joyce Carol Oates, provides the foundational narrative for the Nicholas Cage produced and Johnny Martin directed 2017 dramatic thriller that’s quintessentially an alternate model of rape-revenge of inherent brutality and toxic judicial bureaucracy challenged by moral renegades defending the decency with lethal force. Penned by John Mankiewicz as his only non-TV related project, “Vengeance: A Love Story” is not like “Live Free or Die Hard” or an “Independence Day” in the sense that’s not a 4th of July type film, granted those two aforementioned films are plump with large scale action and though Johnny Martin is a stunt man turned director, his third feature film, set in upstate New York near the Niagara Falls, doesn’t regale tales from his previous trade that includes stunt work in “Zombieland” to “Se7en” and many, many more.

The introduction of detective John Dromoor staked out in his undercover squad car with a partner whose planning to pop the question to his girlfriend with a diamond ring. As his partner proudly displays the marital finger token, Dromoor is all business; in fact, Dromoor is all business, all the time. Reserved like Catholic deacon and deadly with firearms, Dromoor doesn’t have time to crack a smile and shows little emotion even when being a proxy of vigilante justice for an friendly acquaintance. “Mandy” star Nicholas Cage doesn’t rightly fit this role. The charismatic and eccentric actor runs through John Dromoor sedated with horse tranquilizer symptoms of stultified sluggishness, but when the moment strikes, like a rattlesnake latching on in a blank of an eye, the killer charisma of rugged resilience comes to the forefront, a quality Cage portrays well, and with vengeance in the title, should have reared up and lasted more often to let the very fervid fiber of the word sink in. When Dromoor meets Teena for the first time in the bar, prior to attack, romance seemed to beguile them between Dromoors lack of personality and Teena’s giddy, if not superfluous flirty radiance as she provides him her call me digits, but there was no romance, or at least no more romance provided, afterwards. Straying not so far from her cheerleader pepped character in “The Cabin in the Woods,” Anna Hutchison douses herself in a familiar upbeat tempo that quickly burns out when her character becomes the victim of gang rape scene. The wake of that scene challenges Hutchison to be more than just a pretty face, but an emotionally and physically battered woman suffering from traumatic stress and slut shaming. Hutchison’s goes through the various stages of trauma and the powerful relevancy has more staying power than the whole Dromoor vengeance byproduct, sending Nicholas Cage’s retribution into more of a subplot gray area. The remaining cast includes Talitha Eliana Batemen (“Annabelle: Creation”), Deborah Kara Unger (“Silent Hill”), Joshua Mikel (“Last Shift”), Rocco Nugent (“Dracula: The Impaler”), Joe Ochterbeck, Carter Burch, and “Miami Vice’s” very own Don Johnson as the hot shot prick lawyer, Jay Kirkpatrick.

Having coursed through the film’s various themes of rape, shaming, and the malfunctioning legal system, one more important theme inherently stands out with real pertinent clout issues. While two suspects, who are brothers, are arrested by Dromoor and his public servant colleagues, their venomous mother pursues hellfire guidance from a priest of the Catholic faith and as the father offers his spiritual insights, which is harmlessly conventional within the priest’s parameters, he also provides contact information for an expensive lawyer who represents the ill repute. Layers upon layers of thick symbolize can be extracted from the brief allegory, like an onion being unraveled toward a rotten core, unveiling the lengths and means of religious impurities. The fact that this priest knows of and has contact information for a powerful defensive attorney really speaks to Joyce Carol Oates’ deep-seated opinions rolled up in a single brilliant scene, but that’s where the momentum unfortunately ceases. There’s a schlepped through court hearing that’s entertaining enough and Dromoor’s barbaric rogue undertaking of the law that dishes out cold-hearted kills, but aspiration to convey more substance loses steam, the editing is systematically chunky, and Dromoor has this weird dynamic with Teena and her daughter that feels unintentionally stalker-ish and predatory. Yes, Dromoor protects and serves with unauthorized capital punishment, but without providing a deeper context of his purpose to what really motivates him to do what he’s doing, the act of retribution impressions another pressed upon imposition toward a mother and daughter’s prolonged anguish and feels more gross than justified.

FilmRise and MVDVisual distributes “Vengeance: A Love Story” on a full HD, 1080p Blu-ray presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and the digitally shot video remains untarnished by nature or, lack of, age. No compression issues with the image quality and colors are super vibrant with a wide range of hues to take absorb. Skin tones, night scenes, and even the minimal visual effects address pinpoint consistency throughout. The English DTS-HD 5.1 surround audio track favors a strong, upfront dialogue track leveled with score and ambiance. The surround sound quality, when suitable, explodes through the channels with evidently solid range and depth. Runtime is 100 minutes and there are no other bonus features other than the film’s trailer, which has been consistent with FilmRise distributed releases. Nicholas Cage’s usual droll is riding the pine in “Vengeance: A Love Story” as if the Academy Award Winner wasn’t being paid enough to speak or act madly so he mentally sat this vendetta thriller out; however, the story has meaningful aspirations and the violence, though fleeting, is spiteful and merciless, framed around with tactless pacing, gratuitous macho shots, and circumstantial, at best, motivational retribution.

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