Those longing to see a dopey shot-on-video vanity project starring one of the actresses from Desperate Housewives need look no further. I haven’t seen that hit show, but whenever anything suddenly hits it that big, skeletons are going to emerge from the closet. This is Eva Longoria’s, and of a caliber that might make her wish she had something as prosaic as a nudie magazine shoot in her background.
In Ms. Longoria’s brief career—brief enough that her newfound stardom can legitimately be referred to as ‘overnight’ without overmuch exaggeration—she basically has our subject here today to answer for, and the same year’s intriguingly named Senorita Justice. However, she was a supporting player in that, while here she assays the female lead. Still and all, devotees of Internet sites like Mr. Skin will be saddened to learn that the movie’s ‘R’ rating was awarded for “violence, language and drug use” rather than adult situations or nudity.
Before I begin, let me stipulate that I’m about as uneducated about the hip hop culture as it’s possible to be. Therefore, my aspersions of the film’s ‘rap’ score are anything but informed, a situation that certainly leaves ground for other reviewers to till. Even so, the rap song that plays over the opening credits, with its by-the-numbers profanity and looped in gunshot noises, seemed gratingly generic even to my novice ear. Even the font used in the credits and scene-setting title ‘bugs’ throughout the film itself is an annoying, difficult to read gothic font, like something off the cover of a heavy metal album.
The aforementioned song accompanies brief footage of each principal actor, who presumably gleaned an onscreen individualized credit in lieu of, you knowâ€¦money. However, Snitch’d is entirely the baby of one James Cahill, who wrote, directed, produced and starred in the film. Had not Ms. Longeria been cast in The Young and the Restless during production, and then gone on to Housewives, chances are this film would have remained even more obscure than it is. Only Mr. Cahill can truly say whether that’s a good thing, or bad.*[*To be fair, the making of a movie is such an endlessly complicated task that it deserves some level of respect, even when the result is something like this.]
The film proper opens in what I can only assume is meant to be an inner city high school class. We watch as a clueless photography (?) instructor demands “pictures that have feeling or meaning.” (I can see how a photograph can have meaning, but ‘feeling’?) Pretty student Yajaira responds to his request for “something I’ve never seen before” by preparing to take photos of, apparently, the asses of the scrimmaging school football team. Wow, can high school students win the Pulitzer?
However, Fate, or at least a bad screenplay, takes a hand when Yajaira inadvertently espies and photographs a murder, one occurring in broad daylight under the at best semi-obscured nearby bleacher seats. There then follows a tiresome Fake Scare that turns out to be Trina, a friend of hers. Trina keeps it real by asking, “Girl, what is up with you?” She then inquires as to whether Yajaira would “want to kick it at my house tonight?” Word.
Yajaira replies with impressive calm, not spilling the beans about the killing. (??) Meanwhile, the killer, wearing what appears to be a guard uniform and unaware that his crime has been documented, takes his leave. He does notice the girls as he walks along, though.
Meanwhile, I don’t want to neglect the moment when Yajaira nonchalantly notes, “We have to stop by the one-hour photo shop and get these pictures developed.” Uh, would those be the photos of the murder? Even if Yajaira were for some unfathomable reason planning not to inform the authorities of the crime, wouldn’t the photo developer?! You’d think*.[*Jabootu proofreader Bill Leary argues not, noting “They [photo shop attendants] often look at only a few (or even none) of the pictures from any given roll to make sure the automation is doing the color adjustments correctly. And usually those only from the beginning. People who get caught taking pictures of things they shouldn’t are usually grabbed either because the content catches attention (a lot of skin, say) or they used the entire roll, thus making those few pictures which get looked at attention grabbers.”
That might be true, but I’d still be a bit chary about having the pictures in this particular instance commercially developed. What with, you know, the murder and all.]
We cut to a park, where some gang-bangers—we can tell from their knit caps and flannel shirts, which are solely buttoned up on top—are preparing to engage in an illicit deal of some sort. Or so I deduced given that one of them, McClure (Cahill, in a performance that handily encapsulates every negative aspect of Eminem’s influence on suburban white guys), is carrying an attachÃ© case. Yes, the police would never find that suspicious.
McClure begins to open the case. His would be customer, Big Hispanic Dude, reacts by pulling a gat; or whatever the kids are calling them these days. However, McClure reassures him and his compadres that his intention was only “showing you some product.” Word. By the way, congrats to screenwriter Cahill for keeping any of the film’s Hispanic characters from using the term ‘ese’* for an impressive two and a half minutes. Furthermore, when the rod—or whatever the playas are calling them now—is produced, the wielder astoundingly doesn’t threaten to cap anyone’s ass.[*I will say, they make up for lost time during the rest of the movie. If I had a buck for every subsequent use of ‘ese’ or ‘vato,’ I could film five more films just like this one.]
The case contains a ludicrously huge amount of smack, or whatever the homies are calling it days. “Man,” Big Hispanic Dude asks, producing a (three guesses) switchblade, “you don’t mind if we take a little taste, ese?” So saying, he uses his blade to slit open of the bags. Seriously, dudesâ€¦Ziploc bags! I don’t know, if I were carrying thousands of dollars worth of loose powder around in a plastic baggie, I wouldn’t want somebody cutting a hole in it. Maybe it’s just me. In any case, one whiff later and BHD exclaims (I hope you’re sitting down), “Good sh*t, vato!” Man, this dialogue is ripped from the streets!
BHD then pushes McClure to the ground, while his sidekick pulls a roscoe, or whatever the gangstas are calling them now. BHD, you see, wants to see McClure snort some of the drugs, presumably so as to establish that he’s not a ‘Five O.’ [Slangmaster Ken: That’s what the homeboys call the police.] Oh, and the gunsel is named “Trigger.” That’s just good writing there.
As it transpires, McClure is a cop, which we kind of knew because they cut away for absolutely no reason to show us a bum lying under a pile of newspapers on a nearby bench. When McClure is threatened this fellow, who goes by the name of Burke, leaps up, pistol at the ready, and orders the bad guys to freeze. BHD runs off, McClure awkwardly busts some extremely rudimentary kung fu chops on his associates, and Trigger is blown away by Burke.
The action is well-framed, in a way, anyway. By which I mean that since they apparently couldn’t afford blanks for Burke’s gun—or perhaps they couldn’t afford a prop gun that actually shot blanks, or maybe they were filming without a permit and didn’t want to shoot blanks off and attract attention, or whatever—his gun barrel extends just off camera. This means that we don’t notice the lack of muzzle blast, or that his shots are indicated by looped-in shot noises. I guess I could quibble and wonder why his gun fires two distinctively heard shots when he only pulls the trigger one time; or why shells aren’t being expelled from his semi-automatic as he ‘fires,’ but why nitpick?
Meanwhile, McClure unconvincingly snaps one guy’s ankle, and several crooks are shot down with an entirely too noticeable lack of blood. I mean, OK, so you couldn’t afford squibs. Still, couldn’t the actors have burst some blood bags with their hands or something, or leak a little ketchup out of their mouths? Yeesh. McClure also shoots a guy, again via the amazing “Just Loop in a Gunshot Noise” technique. This time, they don’t even bother framing the muzzle out of the shot, so maybe it was just inadvertent the first time.
With Burke having had the breath knocked out of him—he was shot, but saved by a vest—McClure takes off on foot after BHD. As the latter is rather beefy and out of shape, their footrace doesn’t generate overmuch suspense. Also, he has an oddly fey little heater, or whatever the bangers are calling them now. (Moreover, it magically changes from a semi-automatic to a revolver at one point.)
In his haste, BHD accidentally drops the case. As it hits the ground it pops open and spills a huge cloud of drugs all over the place, despite the fact that it was all in discrete plastic baggies a minute ago. As the stuff blew away (What? An allusion to The Treasure of Sierra Madre? LALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!), all I could think of was how McClure was going to explain the disappearance of millions of dollars worth of evidence.
The chase continues for a while, mostly because BHD is allowed to really over-use the power of Offscreen Teleportation. I mean, when on-camera the guy runs like a pixilated Fatty Arbuckle, yet somehow the notably fleeter McClure keeps losing ground. Eventually, though, we are treated to more Pretending to Shoot Stuff—seriously, they may as well just have had the actors point their fingers at one another and yell “Bang! Bang!”— followed by McClure demonstrating his mastery of Stooge Fu, an obscure martial art that involves hilariously cartoonish sound effects being heard whenever one’s foe is (almost quite nearly) struck. This is all no doubt meant to establish the rather shrimpy McClure as a Rampaging Badass, although the effort isâ€¦not entirely successful.
Once BHD is subdued, McClure hauls him back to the park. On the way, we are treated to what appears to be a (lame) gag, wherein a guy smoking a joint sees McClure the cop coming and quickly ditches his roach. However, this character, who I shall dub Reefer Guy, in fact appears later in the film and in reference to this very scene.
Meanwhile, back at the High School, we are privy to a teacher brilliantly prodding his students to examine Great Literature:
Teacher: “So, what does this mean when he says this?”
‘What does this mean when he says this?’ Man, that’s great dialogue. Screenwriter Cahill’s mastery of English Literature turns out to be even more impressive than that query would indicate. It turns out that the students are studying “this Whitman guy,” allowing for one wag to suggest that mayhap the poet had been “smokin’ his own leaves of grass!” TouchÃ©, my puckish friend!
Meanwhile, student recruiters Rodrigo and Sergio attempt to convince classmate Yajaira to leave her “sorry ass gang” and “join our South Side crew.” Sadly, the conversation doesn’t go on to enumerate South Side’s superior fringe benefits and dental package. When Yajaira disses the South Siders as a bunch of “cholos,” Sergio, quite apparently the crew’s Designated Psycho Guy (every gang movie has one) pungently warns her to watch her mouth. “You tell her, homey,” Rodrigo responds. “That’s the way to represent.” Man, that’s good writing. Mr. Cahill, my knit skullcap is off to you.
Yajaira doesn’t take the hint, however, and sasses them further before requesting permission to go to the washroom. (By the way, Sergio, among others, actually wears a ball cap reading “South Side.” You’d think maybe the school would be up on that sort of thing.) As she leaves, the surly gangstas plot their revenge for her impudence. Meanwhile, out in the hall Yajaira is accosted by Blacky, a fat security guard, who is—are you sitting down?—the same guy who committed the murder she photographed earlier. Despite the fact that this happened less than five minutes ago (in terms of running time), this is the sort of movie where you go, “Oh, yeah, that murder thing. Right.”
Perhaps this is because no character in the film has since mentioned the killing. I guess Blacky could have left the body out there in plain view and then returned later to dispose of it, and furthermore maybe the victim didn’t have anyone to notice their disappearance, but that’sâ€¦retarded. Anyway, Blacky kind of remembers Yajaira but can’t place her. Personally, I myself would tend to exert more effort in terms of memorizing the faces of potential witnesses to my acts of murder. Maybe that’s just me, though. It should be noted that Yajaira’s continued existence seems pretty amazing, what with her mouthing off to gangbangers and photographing murderers and suchlike.
Meanwhile, I’ve been wondering why she hasn’t gone to the authorities. We get the answer to that conundrum now. Having apparently collected her murder evidence from the Photo Hut, she takes said pictures to the school principal. (??!!) In a further example of Cahill’s fine writing chops, this fellow remains unnamed throughout the movie and is identified in the end credits as “Principal.” He is played by middle-aged actor Jason Peters, whose craggy face and pony tail hair all but scream ‘Porn Actor.’ Indeed, his other credits mainly consist of small roles in a series of Donald Glut soft-core sex flicks.
Needless to say, the fact that Yajaira has gone to the Principal rather than the police means that Principal (write these friggin’ characters some names next time, Cahill, you putz) is the leader of the inevitable murderous drug ring that Blacky is the enforcer for. Now, even if for some reason you thought ‘Principal’ appeared on the chain of command before ‘Cops’ when one is reporting a homicide, you’d still think that Yajaira might have pondered the wisdom of going to a school authority figure when another school authority figure is the one who committed said murder in the first place.
Anyway, Yajaira meekly goes off after Principal promises “I’m going to take care of this.” (Bum bum bum.) She does extract his promise that he won’t identify her. Hey, Brainiac, here’s an idea: If you wanted to remain anonymous, why didn’t you just mail the photos to the cops? Yeesh.
Back to English Class. (Not to stereotype, but how many inner city schools have a student-teacher ratio of twelve to one?) Rodrigo and Sergio are backtalking the teacher about the lack of Chicano Culture being taught. Wow, what a hard-hitting, timely script this is. I guess the reason these guys join gangs and sell drugs and commit murders and whatnot is because they are forced to write papers about Dead White Dudes like Walt Whitman rather than the novels of magic realist Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Because, you know, you can only ‘relate’ to works by someone with the same racial background you have*.[Jabootu consultant and nitpicker extraordinaire Carl Fink clarifies: “You probably know this, but Gabriel Garcia Marquez is not Chicano (which means ‘Mexican-American’) and isn’t of the same racial background. He does LIVE in Mexico, but he’s Colombian.” Actually, I didn’t, but then all this racial stuff strikes me as a bunch of malarkey anyway.] [I remember years ago reading a ‘professional’ editorial in an education magazine wherein a teacher queried how “Chinese students” (by which she meant American students of Chinese extraction, as if that were the same thing) could possibly be expected to relate to the writings of Shakespeare. The idea that Shakespeare has endured in pretty much all cultures for hundreds of years because of the essential universality of his themes—jealously, pride, ambition, lust, envy, etc.—apparently didn’t occur to her. I wish I still had a copy of that piece; it remains one of the most appallingly ignorant things I’ve ever read.]
The upshot is that Rodrigo and Sergio are booted out of class to roam the halls just as Yajaira leaves the Principal’s office. [Cue Bad Generic Rap Song #17.] Uh-oh, it’s a recipe for wackiness! Er, tragedy! Despite the fact that the miscreants are about eight feet away from her in a well-lighted hallway, she doesn’t see them. They are preparing to mess with her when they spot a shadowy figure down the now weirdly ill-lit hallway behind her.
Professing not to know who it is—despite the fact that his giant silhouette clearly identifies him to be Blacky—the pair suddenly offscreen teleport to a position outside the building (??). Having somehow accomplished this, Rodrigo then ducks back inside, for no apparent reason other than the script requiring him to do so. Although the editing is vague (why should it be different?), he presumably witnesses something while Blacky offs Yajaira. Oh, wait, I mean, ‘when *Gasp, Choke*, Blacky offs Yajaira.’
By the way, this act occurs in a student bathroom during regular school hours.
As this follows shortly on the heels of his having committed murder under an open bandstand during football practice, well, let’s just say that Blacky doesn’t seem to be performing due diligence regarding his crime scenes.
Back at the station, McClure is interrogating BHD. The latter wants to cut a deal with the D.A. Our Hero, having apparently seen numerous episodes of NYPD Blue (albeit while not learning much from them) promises to “see what I can do” if BHD cooperates with him.
Here we start getting into trouble right away. “Trigger once told me that Tito likes to deal only with teenagers,” BHD begins. The problem being that we have no idea who Trigger or Tito is, nor their relationship to each other, BHD, or really anyone at all. I realize this isn’t a big budget movie—in fact, it’s barely a movie at all—but a cost effective technique might have been for McClure to have a file of mug shots at hand, which could be used to let the audience identify who these characters are.
Having just written that, BHD’s next sentence is “The vato’s name is Scrappy M.” Great, that’s three characters I can’t identify. However, Scrappy M is Tito’s “right-hand man,” for what that’s worth, and apparently a high school student. I’m not sure I’m impressed with a drug kingpin with a high school aged right-hand man, but there you go.
And thenâ€¦ What the hell? I swear it looks like they dubbed in McClure saying “What else?”, while accompanying a severe close-up of him in which he clearly isn’t opening his mouth. I was so confused by this that I went back and watched it a couple of more times, before finally deciding that perhaps there’s another, unseen cop in the room, and it was the latter who was supposedly speaking. After all, it’s hard to believe the film was that incompetent. After all, there’s no real need for the line. You can just have BHD continue speaking. And if they didn’t have a shot of McClure speaking the line, they could have just dubbed it over a shot of BHD. So, I meanâ€¦
“There’s a vato [lots of vatos in this movie] name of Risky D,” BHD continues, and by now I was ready to punch somebody. Risky D. is, moreover, “a member of the Cutthroat Mafia,” an entire organization with which we’ve also been heretofore unacquainted with. Apparently, though, this is a rival organization of the South Side Crew. We also learn that Risky D wants Scrappy dead. Wow, if I had any idea who those guys were, that would be really exciting.
Well, maybe not. It couldn’t hurt, though.
It’s weird to listen to a block of awkward exposition that actually makes the viewer more confused, but this trend continues. “Scrappy tells his homeboy Tito about it,” BHD continues, “and Tito puts a green light out on this kid.” Cool, now they’re using slang no one’s ever heard of. Indeed, even McClure needs clarification, although as you’d expect from the context, a ‘green light’ is a contract.
McClure reports to his superior, a woman who I never believed for a moment was a cop.* Aside from her manner, she’s rather young to be a police captain. McClure and she discuss the need to get Tito, who isâ€¦I can’t remember. Uh, waitâ€¦ He’s the main dealer, I guess. Good thing I’d written this down. In any case, McClure’s info that Scrappy M (good grief) is a high school student ties in with his next assignment: That’s right, Our Babyfaced Hero is to go all David Cassidy, Man Undercover on their asses.[*Early in the scene the Captain’s lines don’t come close to matching her lip movements, making me suspect I may have been overgenerous regarding the dubbed-in line I mused about earlier.]
Of course, ‘babyfaced’ is comparative. Actor Cahill is indeed fairly youthful looking for his then age of 32 (!), although a receding hairline is beginning to evidence itself around his widow’s peak. However, it seems likely that McClure’s charade comes off to the dubious extent that it does because several of his fellow ‘students’ are played by actors of similar maturity. For instance, Ms. Longoria was, at the time of shooting (assuming her ‘official’ birthdate is correct) 28 years of age. Indeed, the same year as this was made, Ms. Longoria herself was playing an experienced police detective in the Ed O’Neill update of Dragnet.
McClure’s assignment, in any case, has been prompted by Yajaira’s death, which was by (presumably forced) drug overdose. Way to call attention to the school’s illegal narcotics problems, you mooks. By the way, during the discussion of Yajaira’s demise, the Captain keeps referring to her as “a girl” who died at “a school.” I don’t know, I like my police captains and detectives to be a little more detail oriented than that. And if you can’t even bother to learn her name, at least call her ‘the victim.’
Because he’ll be undercover, McClure is warned, he won’t have any immediate backup if things go awry. “This will be good for you,” the Captain rather mysteriously opines. Also, he won’t be able to carry a gun, because of the school metal detectors. McClure then asks, “There wasn’t
There follows further discussion of the Cutthroat Mafia. “Antonio Vasquez is their leader,” McClure notes. OK, I now officially hate James Cahill. Stop tossing disembodied names at us, you moron! Damn, couldn’t the Captain have one of those charts with all the suspects’ photos on it? How hard would that have been to fix up? In any case, McClure has to take down both gangs, lest the removal of just one of them leaves the other firmly in control.
By the way, I just want to note that the file on Yajaira (her last name was Lopez, by the way, which is pretty original) contains some photos supposedly found in her purse. These, we see, are clearly from an Instamatic camera (!), meaning that the prop staff couldn’t even be bothered to dig up some normal photographs to correspond to those taken with her camera. Damn, this thing is making Street Wars look like The Last Emperor.
Watching a really bad recreation of a TV news report on Yajaira’s death (I mean, how hard is that to do?), McClure and his partner Burke are found sitting on a couch and eating chips. The ‘report’ provides an amusing burst of bad acting, from, respectively, the woman playing the reporter; the girl playing Yajaira’s former best friend, Trina; and especially the guy playing one of the teachers, who seems to have based his character on Fred Travalina doing Christopher Lloyd.
McClure and Burke provide some amusement, too. Their posture, casual attire and open-crotch stances are just a little too relaxed, in a manner that had me wondering if they were partners in more than one way. In any case, McClure thanks Burke for saving him during the park shootout, just in case we had even the slightest doubt that Burke will get ‘tragically’ kacked by the end of the movie. [Future Ken: Miraculously, he isn’t. One point for the movie.]
Anyway, I obviously misconstrued Burke and McClure’s personal relationship. Burke asks when McClure is getting “one of those,” referring to a magazine McClure is looking at. Although we in the audience can’t see what kind of magazine it is—more good filmmaking there, Mr. Cahill—presumably ‘one of those’ refers to a woman. This is confirmed when McClure replies “You remember what happened to Jen, right?” We then get a literally two-second snippet of what will obviously be a full-length flashback shown later*, which will reveal that McClure’s girlfriend was murdered. It’s McClure mandatory Secret Sorrowâ„¢, you know.[*Nope, we get a two second flash and then are left to put the pieces together ourselves. Which, considering how generic the whole ‘dead girlfriend’ thing is, is not an unreasonable burden.]
Meanwhile, we meet some members of the Cutthroat Mafia. Superimposed text ‘bugs’ are used throughout the movie to set the scene, in an entirely failed effort to keep the viewer less than totally confused. For some reason, in addition to the inexplicable gothic font they appear in, the bugs are written (perhaps in homage to poet e.e. cummings) sans capital letters. In this case, aside from establishing the gang affiliation of the three dudes we now see, the text helpfully confirms that the scene’s setting is—much like the entire rest of the picture—in “santa ana, california,” and not, say, Bangladesh. Er, ‘bangladesh.’
One of the currently featured bangers is Yajaira’s now ex-boyfriend, and he and his homies are under the impression that she was whacked by some South Side dudes. Whichâ€¦ I guess. I meanâ€¦ Well, frankly, I’ve pretty much given up trying to keep track of who is with what gang, and which one is doing what, and so on. In any case, they decide it’s time for a little payback.
Oops, OK, Blacky, who actually killed Yajaira, is the one that told the boyfriend that it was the South Side that did the deed. In other words, Blacky and the Principal represent a third party (!) out to control the school’s drug trade, who is now working to set the two other gangs on each other. (Apparently somebody read Hammett’s Red Harvest. Or saw Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. Or Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars. Or Bruce Willis’ Last Man Standing. Orâ€¦) Yeesh, how many competing factions does this movie need?*[*Actually, we later learn that Blacky and Principal are, in fact, working for the leader of the Cutthroat Mafia. My brain hurts.]
So the three of them drive up to a house where a small group of South Siders are hanging out, allowing for a fascinating seminar on how to very poorly portray gang punks. The CTM crew represent themselves as, er, prospective buyers of certain chemical party favors, but soon the guns—still sans blanks—and knives come out, resulting in another round of bloodless carnage. Who knew that throat slittings could be so neat and tidy? In the end, the South Siders are all dead, as is one of the CTM boys, somehow. Although I twice rewound the scene and couldn’t figure out when and how the latter guy could have possibly gotten himself kacked.
We cut to the following day at the high school, as confirmed by a helpful “next day, high school’ title, lest we be confused as to what exact edifice Blacky the Security Guard and various familiar students are walking about. The metal detector chimes and Blacky confiscates a knife from none other than Scrappy M, who is covertly attired in not only a South Side ball cap, but a matching baseball jersey with “South Side” scripted across it in large letters. Scrappy identifies himself to Blacky just as McClure walks in, which is pretty handy, all things considered.
McClure is next seen seated in class. Two South Side punks are hassling a bookworm, crumpling up his homework and breaking a pair of sunglasses he got for his birthday. Only after this evidence of their misbegotten nature has be explicated does McClure challenge them. This results in a display of air-fu, an ancient martial arts discipline in which harm is wreaked upon an opponent despite the fact that the blows directed his way never actually hit him.
By the way, I know these guys are hoodlums and all, but should a thirty-two year old undercover police detective be picking fights and laying the beat down on seventeen or eighteen year-old kids? I don’t know, that seems sort of dodgy.
In any case, McClure’s Air Fist technique draws the admiration of beauteous classmate Gabby (Longoria). And if I thought a thirty-something cop beating up teenaged gangbangers was morally suspect, having the same guy chatting up a high school girl proves even more so. Nonetheless, the two make a lunch date.
Meanwhile, Sergio and Rodrigo are meeting with the Principal, who clearly is attempting to find out what they know about Yajaira’s murder. As with her, and despite supposedly being hardened gangstas suspicious of The Man, they immediately spill their guts to him. They explain that they Saw A Mysterious Person in the hallway and ran outside the building. “Later,” Sergio continues, “we heard some noises coming from the bathroom.” What, from outside? Man, that’s some poor sound insulation. And again, it seems Blacky is pretty lucky getting away with all these murders he commits in at best semi-privacy.
Back to the classroom. [While watching this with Joe Bannerman, he pointed out something I somehow hadn’t noticed, which is that the walls of the rooms are covered with little kids’ crayon drawings of butterflies and whatnot. Apparently these scenes were shot in what is clearly an elementary classroom, and they weren’t allowed to set dress it in any way. However, as comical as this is, I can’t beat on them too much, since I myself was oblivious to it until I had it pointed out to me.]
Gabby, biting her lip and clutching her notebook to her chest like Sandra Dee in a Gidget movie, makes her farewells. McClure then reveals his investigative chops by pausing to chat with Bookworm and immediately asking all sorts of detailed questions about the gangs and Yajaira’s death. He will do this with pretty much every student he meets, immediately and doggedly inquiring about gang membership and campus drug dealing and so on. Oddly, no one will ever seem to find this in any way noteworthy. By the way, let me here nominate the guy playing Bookworm as one of the film’s five worst actors, which is a more impressive achievement than perhaps it sounds.
My favorite moment in the whole movie, perhaps, is when McClure asks Bookworm “You wouldn’t know any guys from the South Side gang, would you?” Gee, Detective, one clue might be all the dudes in school wearing the ball caps and baseball jerseys with “South Side” written across them.
McClure next subject is a drama class. In the DVD’s director’s commentary (!)—that’s right, the DVD’s director’s commentary—we learn (to, I must admit, my vast surprise and amusement) that hyphenate film maestro Cahill himself teaches drama classes. I have to say that I never would have guessed that.
The class is taught by the ‘Reverend Jim’ teacher we saw on the newscast earlier. Here I was torn, as I now think the actor isn’t doing a jittery, hippie Christopher Lloyd impression, but instead a jittery, hippie Dennis Hopper impression. For instance, he actually says, “Far out!” In any case, it’s a horrible performance, on a level so bad that I can only assume that it’s some sort of inside gag that Cahill was in on. Too bad the audience isn’t.
The teacher asks who amongst his students—all high school seniors, presumably—knows what the five senses are. I myself can answer that question pretty easily, since right now my eyes and ears hurt, I seem to detect a bad smell emanating from somewhere in the vicinity of my TV set, and the film has left a bad taste in my mouth. Meanwhile, my sense of touch is manifested in my hand’s seemingly independent and (albeit justifiably) mutinous impulse to hit the fast forward button on my DVD remote.
After inquiring of three students, the teacher does finally get a complete answer. Then we cut away. Huh?!
Two students are seen jumping the fence around the football stadium. Blacky is lurking nearby, and orders the truants up against the wall. He frisks them and finds some small bags of drugs, which he confiscates. The bangers curse him as they leave and threaten payback. And so ends yet another completely pointless sequence.
Meanwhile, we cut to the swimming pool of Tito, the head honcho of the South Side Gang. Oddly, he’s white as opposed to Hispanic, but I guess he provides the drugs they sell. He refers to the earlier shooting of some of their members by the CTM guys, and Tito and his lieutenants discuss payback.
McClure is next seen strolling the school grounds with another new classmate, who he inevitably begins grilling for detailed information on the two gang factions. “You wouldn’t happen to know a Scrappy M or a Risky D?” is about the first thing out of his mouth. Luckily, as is generally the case is this movie, the girl he’s speaking with possesses useful information while utterly lacking any inhibitions or guile about passing it on to someone she met about ten minutes ago.
We get another great moment here, when McClure mentions Yajaira. The girl asks if he knew her, he replies, “No, I heard [about her death] on the news.” In response, she shakes her head in chagrin. “I keep on forgetting about that,” she notes. Uh, really? Because, you know, Yajaira died just two days ago. Sic transit gloria, eh, Yajaira.
Under McClure’s gentle, unobtrusive questioning (“Did she have any enemies?”), the girls relates how Yajaira went up with a guy in the South Side gang, only to break up with him to date Hector Gonzales—man, they really broke a sweat coming up with these Hispanic names, didn’t they?—a Cutthroat Mafia dude. (And presumably the one who led the raid on the South Side bangers before.) As well, she identifies the ex-boyfriend as one Flaco—officially our 4,325th character, if my count is correct. Lacking further information, she points McClure Trina’s way.
We now get a really obvious set-up for another, ahem, action scene, as members of the South Side gang (according to the scene-setting text, they are ironically positioned on the north side of the campus) hassle first another bookworm and then a retarded guy. (!!) Needless to say, the only other person to come across the scene is McClure, who spends some time taunting the miscreants before proceeding to beat their skinny teenaged asses. Levity is again provided by the typically ridiculous sound effects used to emphasis his almost nearly-landed blows.
Asskickery concluded, McClure questions the threesome’s now-prostrate leader. When this fellow proves reluctant to spill the beans regarding his supplier, Our Noble Hero procures his cooperation by snapping his finger and threatening to carry on from there. (!!!) Yes, it’s that kind of movie, in which we are meant to cheer a thirtysomething police detective torturing a fifteen or sixteen year-old kid for information.
McClure confiscates the kid’s pager, which is used to let him know when Scrappy, his drug source, wants a meet. “What’s the number code?” McClure asks, which the kid uses to confirm receipt of the message. The kid replies, “7-2-7-2-7-9.” McClure then asks what the number stands for (?), threatens another finger, and is told, “It spells out [Scrappy’s] name.” Really? Because the code contains six digits, while, I couldn’t help noticing, the moniker ‘Scrappy’ is composed of seven letters. No wonder these kids sell drugs, with an education like that.
McClure takes the pager and returns the wallets of Retarded Guy and Bookworm #2. In return, the latter helpfully provides him with yet further information. Why a bookworm would know anything—believe me, I didn’t know jack about anything going on in my high school back in the day—is passed over. This kid, however, knows that the Cuttroat Mafia hangs out on the “upper part of the campus,” which he identifies by pointing south. (?) Who designed this facility, M.C. Escher?
By the way, wouldn’t the guy McClure took the pager from likely send word up the chain of command about the fact? And wouldn’t McClure be subject to immediate and violent retaliation after assaulting members of the South Side gang? And wouldn’t anybody find the fact that he wanted information about Scrappy and Tito, etc., sort of suspicious?
Lest we somehow yet remain unconvinced of McClure’s amazing covert undercover skills, he now displays them further by meeting Burke in the latter’s car, a gigantic firehouse red convertible parked directly across the street from the school. As students walk by, the two sit in the car with the top down and pass police files back and forth. The smallest fig leaf I could provide for all this (and it’s not like that’s really my job, either as a viewer or a reviewer) is that Burke wouldn’t be known to the student population, most pertinently the bad guys. And that’s trueâ€¦until about two minutes later, when Burke is seen in the school questioning Sergio and Rodrigo, his badge openly displayed.
Speaking to McClure, Burke reports that he’s talked to Yajaira’s mother. He now also believes Yajaira was murdered, as her mother informed him that “she was a good student. Never got in trouble. Never did drugs.” Well, that convinces me. That’s the last thing I’d expect a mourning mother to say following the death of her teenage daughter two days earlier. For his part, McClure explains about the pager, and that some girls at lunch told him where he could find Risky. It is sure is sly how he’s pumped half the student body for information about the gangs and Yajaira’s demise during his first day of school. Then Burke exits the car and walks over to the school to hunt down Sergio and Rodrigo, while McClure stays lounging in the car—which is still parked right out in the open—and looking over Hector Gonzales’ police record.
Cut to previously unseen character “Creeper”—damn your eyes, James Cahill—who is meeting with Tito to plot South Side vengeance on the Cutthroat Mafia. For my part, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the bath towels Tito has wrapped around himself. Tito is supposedly a big time drug supplier who lives in a palatial estate with a lavish backyard pool. Yet the towels are recognizably the exact same brand I own, which means they were purchased at a Wal-Mart or K-Mart or the like. I have to say, you’d expect a drug / gang kingpin to blow a couple more bucks on such things, especially if he spent most of his time in his swimming pool, as this one seems to.
Anyway, Tito orders Creeper to ambush Cutthroat Mafia member Risky in school the next day. He will be aided in this by Scrappy and Bullet. (Who the hell is ‘Bullet’? Double damn your eyes, Cahill.) We also learn that ‘Risky’ is in fact Hector Gonzalez, Yajaira’s boyfriend. I’m pretty sure we didn’t know before, although I can’t be sure as my brain stopped functioning a ways back. In any case, Tito promises that Risky/Hector will be unarmed, and that Creeper and his confederates will have no problem getting their knives past security.
We now cut to three guys meeting around a backyard table. The eldest and evident leader is the (briefly) aforementioned Vasquez. In case you don’t remember—and I didn’t—he’s head honcho of the CTM and thus Tito’s analog. Vasquez is played by a guy who apparently believes looking like Edward James Olmos is close enough to giving a performance. In this, his assumption proves misguided as he provides a series of uproariously bad line readings.
Although I had to check over my notes to confirm that Vasquez was indeed mentioned earlier, I was relieved to be spared meeting another new character. However, said respite was short lived. “I heard what happened to Puppet and Clown…” he begins, whereupon my vision was obscured by a red cloud. Triple damn your eyes, Cahill! In any case, Vasquez orders a hit, although as it’s on the guy who ‘hassled’ Puppet and Clown, and given that I have no frickin’ idea who those monikers correspond to, the identity of the hit-ee remained somewhat elusive.
Back to the school, were, as mentioned before, Burke takes Sergio and Rodrigo into the hall to interrogate them about Yajaira’s death. When Burke asks if they are South Siders, Sergio replies that they “don’t claim.” According to this movie, anyway, ‘claiming’ means swearing allegiance to. However, if Sergio wants to pretend that he doesn’t claim, perhaps he should forgo his habit of wearing a South Side baseball cap.
Luckily for him, though, he is now wearing the cap backwards, a clever ruse that keeps Burke from seeing what is written on it. Orâ€¦maybe it’s to keep us from seeing what is written on it. “S.S. stands for Sergio Salas,” he tells Burke. Except that he doesn’t have ‘S.S.’ written or displayed anywhere on him. Given the level of filmmaking here, I suspect he’s implying that he has S.S. written on his hat, whereas before it clearly said South Side, and by turning it away from the camera they hoped we’ll forget that.
Even so, Burke knows the score, and isn’t about to tolerate Sergio’s reticence. “How about if I just drop you off at night in Cutthroat Mafia turf?” he asks. That’s nice. McClure tortures teens for information, while Burke threatens them with a horrible death. Our tax dollars at work. In any case, Burke takes Rodrigo aside, and the latter suddenly says for the first time that he can identify Blacky to be the mystery figure seen outside the bathroom where Yajaira was killed. Burke accepts this piece of info and takes off. (!) I’d probably get Rodrigo on the record about that, but then I’m not a big time police detective.
Meanwhile, some bangers, including one Ralphie—I surrender, Cahill, you’ve now officially broken my spirit—get together at some sort of large yet deserted area outside on the school grounds. How big is this friggin’ campus, anyway? Unseen by Ralphie, McClure is following close behind. He asks the five bangers if they know Risky or Ralphie, which I think means that these guys are CTM crew, although I don’t recall Ralphie’s name ever coming up before. I can’t swear to that, however, and believe me, I have little interest in going back to check.
Learning who Ralphie is, McClure states he’d like to talk with him. This leads—are you sitting down?—to another ‘fight’ sequence. Another ten minutes, another bad generic rap song and another poorly executed melee. After his compatriots are quickly routed, Ralphie cravenly agrees to set up a meet between Risky and McClure.
After that, McClure again meets Burke at the latter’s car, which is still parked in the same location. They take off to get a drink, and knowing these guys, it’ll be at whatever tavern is closest to the school. Meanwhile, Burke mentions Blacky and his possible role in Yajaira’s death. The rest of the scene takes place in a bar and pool hall, where McClure reiterates the progress he’d made, including his imminent meeting with Risky.
Later that night, we see Sergio and Rodrigo smoking a joint in the latter’s car. Inevitably, the weed is again identified as being “good sh*t.” Then the two are joined by Flaco, previously identified asâ€¦oh, who the hell cares. Anyway, Sergio decides to walk off his buzz before returning to his parents’ house. However, Hector and some other CTM boys, still believing that Sergio and Rodrigo were behind Yajaira’s murder, soon ambush him. When the wounded Sergio refuses to take them to Rodrigo, Hector bloodlessly slits his throat and they take off.
Cut to McClure showing off his mad martial arts skillz at the dojo where he works out. After quite nearly hitting several people, he gets a phone call. (The woman who brings him the phone calls him ‘Sensei.’ [!!] Whatever.) “He’s always getting phone calls!” one of his sparring partners ruefully notes. The line is so good he repeats it a couple of seconds later. I think it’s supposed to be funny. Don’t ask me why, though.
The call is from Burke, and soon he and McClure are standing over Sergio’s body. This scene is shot with the camera on the ground and looking up at them, sort of a Sergio’s Corpse POV shot. Man, Cahill has some mad directing skillz, too. Take that, Bertilucco. They quickly decide they’d better find Rodrigo, but it’s too late. He as well is ambushed and killed as he leaves a restaurant.
We cut to some guys—it’s the group Tito ordered to assassinate Risky—in a school john, with a helpful bug reading “southside
In the school library, which seems to be composed largely of numerous shelves of Cliff Notes, McClure bumps into Gabby. The latter is doing a report on Bless Me, Ultima, a novel by Rudolfo Anaya. Because, as suggested before, to be relevant to Hispanic students a book has to be written by a Hispanic author. I remember how cheesed I was when I realized that Walter Mosley was black and that thus all the time I had spent reading his books was totally wasted. Man, that sucked. In any case, Gabby comments that the book reminds her of McClure. Perhaps it’s very poorly written.
McClure goes on to flirt a bit with Gabby, which even if he’s just trying to get information is a bit dodgy. He learns, for instance, that she presently doesn’t have a boyfriend, and admits that he doesn’t have a girlfriend. So, aside from the fact that she’s, like, you know, about fifteen years younger than he is (assuming McClure is the same age as the actor playing him) and in high school, there’s no real reason he shouldn’t get all on that.
Having established that he has no social impediments, she invites him to a kickback she’s having. This is where you ditch classes and hang out at someone’s house, apparently. She mentions that Trina will be there. Then, with the plot stuff out of the way, they are confronted by a dangerous-looking thug who’s out to avenge one of the several groups of students McClure has assaulted in his day and a half on campus. Oops, wait, there’re two thugs threatening him. I think. I guess they couldn’t figure out a good way to film this, what with the pre-existing bookshelves limiting where they could put the camera. Anyway, McClure makes short work of the two by employing his Overloud Foley Effect Fu. Gabby then grabs him and suggests they take off.
Meanwhile, outside the building Risky falls to what resembles the most poorly blocked reenactment ever of the murder of Julius Caesar. Needless to say, seconds after his assailants run off, McClure and Gabby happen upon the scene. (I love the set dressing for this, which consists of a “Library Ã ” sign made out of a sheet of yellow construction paper and haphazardly affixed to a wall with bits of masking tape. Because, you know, McClure and Gabby just left the Library. See?) McClure sends Gabby for help, and gets Risky to identify Scrappy—seriously, I hate you, Cahill—as one of his murderers.
Meanwhile, Gabby is seated in the Principal’s office, filling him in. He leaves, and the next thing we see is Gabby fleeing the building. Coincidentally, she exits right near where McClure has his pickup truck parked (in an otherwise empty lot—it’s like this school’s been raided by the Langoliers), from which he’d just called the stabbing in to Burke. The campus is large enough, by the way, that there are at least four buildings on it, so their accidental proximity seems somewhatâ€¦fortuitous.
Seeing her, McClure hides his gun—which had been openly resting on the seat beside him (!)—and calls to her. Gabby explains that she ran because she was creeped out, and McClure offers to drive her home. Good one, in that this entails taking the only two witnesses away from the scene of a murder.
Dropping her off, McClure turns away when she tries to kiss him, noting “I shouldn’t do that.” No kidding! Gabby takes this as a rejection and irately stalks off, and he begins to go after her. However, he is interrupted by a call from Burke (over a walkie talkie!), which seems like good procedure when one is contacting an officer under deep cover. In any case, Burke confirms that the victim was Risky D.
Soon after, Burke is checking in with the Principal. The latter acts in a way that arouses Burke’s suspicions (mostly because the script says he does), leading the Principal to point the finger in Sergio and Rodrigo’s direction. This is convenient, of course, in that they are both dead.
Meanwhile, McClure is meeting with Ralphie, purportedly to see about hooking up with Risky D. Of course, he is really establishing his bonifides regarding his supposed ignorance of the players, and feigns surprise at learning that Risky was the recent stabbing victim. Ralphie boasts that the South Side crew will be hit in return. “When?” McClure inquires, another example of his subtle interrogation technique. However, since everyone answers anything he asks without question, I guess it’s an effective one. In any case, the retaliation is slated for that evening.
McClure asks several other such questions about Vasquez (should he even know who that is?) and such. Again, Ralphie just blandly doles out whatever info he has, which admittedly isn’t much. Then they split up, but not before exchanging a hand clasp. (???) Uh, wasn’t McClure just kicking Ralphie’s ass the day before? When did they suddenly become so buddy-buddy?
McClure heads over to Gabby’s house. (As Joe Bannerman pointed out, if you look closely, you can tell that actress Longoria was standing still in the hall and awaiting her cue to step forward and answer the door. That’s just bad editing. If they have shaved another second off the beginning of the scene, this wouldn’t have been noticeable.)
Greeting McClure, Gabby takes a second to acknowledge the murder victim they found an hour ago, before breaking out with a big smile and inviting him in. The script calls for Gabby’s ‘kickback’ to be well attended. “It’s either hanging out at school or hanging out with your friends,” she sniffs. Therefore, I derived much hilarity from the fact that they obviously didn’t have enough extras for the scene. So instead the camera stays fixed on McClure as he remarks upon the large number of people in attendance, following which he calls out to the phantom crowd, “Hello, everybody!” A small chorus of offscreen voices is heard in response, and I’ll bet ten bucks they were from the film crew.
Gabby then introduces McClure to Trina. Gabby runs off to get McClure a drink (don’t worry, it’s a soda—they might be truants, but they wouldn’t drink alcohol!), while he chats up Trina to put her at ease. “Enjoying the kickback?” he inquires. “Yeah, it’s fine,” she replies. This sparkling repartee proves that Mr. Cahill is fully as fine a scriptwriter as an actor or director. She also mentions that she hasn’t been at school for “a few days.” Hmm. That’s weird. Yajaira was killed two days ago, and Trina was at the school the next day to be interviewed for that newscast. Perhaps it was just a figure of speech.
Trina begins talking about Gabby, but McClure turns the discussion to Yajaira in his usual hamfisted manner. At this point Gabby reappears. Trina leaves and Gabby asks McClure if he wants to go for a walk. (?) He agrees, and they step about five feet further into the kitchen. (??) Then they stop, and Gabby mentions a previous boyfriend of hers, who was a banger who got killed. McClure mentions that he lost someone like that too, the second and last elliptical reference to his apparent old girlfriend. Anyway, they hug because of their common grief, and because, hey, hot high school chick. (In this case, very hot high school chick.) Am I right, guys? Hey, don’t look at me like that! I didn’t make this fershlugginer movie.
They are forced to break their clinch when Gabby is called to the backyard. At the back gate is Juan, a would-be beau. However, he’s a banger, and Gabby don’t play that anymore. He grabs her, and McClure naturally intercedes. The result, needless to say, is more poorly choreographed mayhem and ludicrously outsized sound effects. McClure fares less well in this fight than the ones before (we’ll see why in a minute), but ends up winning when he gets on top of Juan and slams the back of his head into the lawn several times. Well, actually, he more rubs the back of Juan’s head into the lawn. Perhaps he’s inflicting upon his foe a wicked hardcore black belt noogie.
Juan is left unconscious, while Gabby runs to succor the bleeding McClure. (That is why he actually took some punches this time.) She takes her woozy champion into her bedroom, and removes his shirt so that she may tend him. Yeah, that’s a good idea. They sit there on the bed chatting, and inevitably begin making out. Hey, if I was writing and starring in a movie with Eva Longeria, I’d write a scene like that too. Still, I’d love to see how McClure covers this part of his investigation in his report.
(By the way, Juan had a gun during this scene, one that was left outside with him. So it’s a good thing he doesn’t just grab it when he wakes up, enter Gabby’s house and start killing people.)
In any case, to further motivate the couple’s tender moment, McClure here relates the tale of how his beloved father was killed by a drunk driver. Good grief, how many tragic backstories does this character require?
Hilariously, between McClure grilling Trina on Yajaira, McClure and Gabby trading dead Significant Other stories, and now this, McClure has managed to chat about four different heartrending deaths in about the last five minutes. It’s like this old Saturday Night Live sketch where every innocuous remark at a party triggers the story of someone’s death: Guy One, desperately seeking a danger-free statement: “Nice moon tonight.” [Woman blanches.] Guy Two: “You’ll have to forgive her. Her father was an astronaut who died during a moon landing.”
“Why don’t you teach me one of those karate moves?” Gabby flirts. He shows her how to deal with someone who grabs her from behind and puts a gun to her head. (The fact that this requires his still shirtless body to press into her back is entirely beside the point, I’m sure.) I suspect that even viewers who haven’t seen Under Siege II: Dark Territory will quickly surmise that Gabby will end up in a position where this exact move will prove fortuitously handy.
By the way, the idea of a trained martial artist casually ‘teaching’ a teenaged girl a ‘simple’ four-part move designed to be used on someone holding a gun to her head is just grossly inappropriate. I’m sure that if shown such a move one time I’d personally feel quite confident in employing it should somebody suddenly grab me and ram a pistol barrel into my forehead.
Back to the movie. The upshot is that they end up wrestling on the bed, and he’s only saved from going all Roman Polanski (although I will admit that shrugging off the aggressions of a terminally horny Eva Longoria would be an unenviable task) by the pager he took from Ralphie, which now goes off. This proves to be the message from Scrappy that McClure has been waiting to intercept. Gabby, for her part, suspects the page is from another girl. If McClure had half a brain in his head, he’d cop to that, if only to keep himself from having possible statutory rape charges filed against him. He doesn’t, though, but instead reassures her that this it isn’t what she thinks, kisses her goodbye (!) and splits.
McClure radios Burke and reports that he’s going to the school to hook up with Scrappy. Burke will join him, but reports that he is currently a goodly distance from the campus. Because, you know, the script says so. So the cavalry is not immediately at hand when McClure meets with Scrappy.
Of course, the latter doesn’t know McClure from Adam, and is less than pleased to find him at what was supposed to be a meeting with Ralphie. McClure acts all innocent, and says it must be a mistake, and that “Gabriel” gave him the pager. Uh, wasn’t it from Ralphie? I freely cop to the notion that I may have screwed this up, given the plethora of characters, but I don’t think so. I know, however, that I don’t care enough to go back and figure it out one way or the other. So as of this point, McClure got the pager off Gabriel—whoever that is.
Scrappy and his two associates ask what happened to Gabriel. McClure replies that he was “messed up pretty bad” by the Cutthroat Mafia. A few more rather glib responses serve to alleviate Scrappy’s suspicions, and he and his fellows drive off. Not before, however, mentioning right in front of this dude they never met before that it’s time to meet Tito. They guys really need to work on their security protocols.
So Scrappy et al take their leave, and McClure follows them in his inconspicuous huge red pickup truck. The bangers arrive at and enter a local pool hall, and when we cut outside, Burke is joining his partner. (So why the bit about how far away he was?) They wait until Scrappy and the other guys leave—which is about a minute and a half later—and McClure goes in to arrest Tito.
Of course, he does this with Burke staying outside, and sans backup, despite the fact that Tito has some muscle with him. Luckily, Tito is a lot more stupid than a real drug kingpin would be. Rather than just clamming up and calling his lawyer, they all decide to jump McClure. Even more not-entirely convincing kung fu action results, following which one henchman flees.
Burke attempts to intercept him, and fires point blank into the guy’s car window, although again they can’t afford blanks, much less to shatter an actual windshield. Even so, the car is diverted. It pulls over and the hood jumps out near the pool hall’s rear door—I assume he means to provide Tito with an escape option—but Burke blows him away. This is like every other shooting in the film, sans blood. However, when we see the guy on the ground, they’ve poured red paint on a hand he’s holding away from his body. This confirms my speculations that the general lack of blood was because they couldn’t afford to ruin any of the actors’ clothes.
Proving a complete moron, Burke turns his back on the wounded man, thus affording McClure a chance to pop up and shoot the guy as he’s getting Burke in his sights. So completely dead is the guy now that his shirt tail falls into the stage blood. And since I can only assume the film didn’t have a costume budget, chances are it was the actor’s own shirt. Well, sometimes that bitch-goddess Art demands a sacrifice.
Meanwhile, Blacky is meeting with Vasquez and demanding a bigger cut. Gee, I wonder how this will turn out? In case I had any doubts, they were quickly alleviated when Vasquez offers to provide Blacky with “a big cut,” and the guard replies, “I just want what’s coming to me.” Nobody in movie history has ever told a bad guy he ‘wanted what is coming to me’ and not been murdered. You’d think people would have figured that out by now. In any case, they set up a meeting for the next day.
That night, Scrappy and his posse are listening to Bad Rap Song #457 while drinking beer in the street. Then a van drives by and they all awkwardly fall down, so I guess they were supposedly shot. This is followed by yet another similarly bloodless, muzzle-flash free shooting.
Meanwhile, Burke and McClure are meeting in a bar with a huge fish tank with several small sharks swimming around in it. This is the sort of thing where you know it’s a real place that they decided to shoot in for no reason other than that the location looks neat. Lest one had any doubts on this score, however, they are answered when the camera cuts away from the actors to otherwise unmotivated close-ups of the sharks.
In school the next day, McClure walks down the hall and is spotted by Reefer Guy, the fellow who saw him arrest Big Hispanic Dude back at the beginning of the movie. He’s smoking a joint again, presumably to jog our memories as to who he is. However, in case such subtlety fails to suffice, Reefer Guy also has a flashback to when he saw McClure in action. Oddly, the flashback matches the footage we saw earlier, although characters don’t usually see themselves in flashbacks. Anyway.
Sadly for McClure, Reefer Guy is in with Blacky, and quickly imparts this information to the corrupt guard. Very quickly, in fact, as Blacky just happens to come walking up like ten seconds later. That’s convenient, especially given how huge this campus is supposed to be. We also learn that the South Side gang is pretty much history at this point, presumably because Tito was arrested—although we didn’t actually see that—and all his teenage soldiers have been liquidated.
McClure, for his part, is once more chatting with Gabby. Soon she gathers her nerve and asks him to the prom. (!!) Being a classically trained actress, Ms. Longoria cannily communicates her character’s anxiety by clutching her notebook to her chest with her crossed arms and bouncing on the heels of her feet. I think Stanislavski taught that technique.
Before we can hear McClure’s reply, we cut to Burke talking with Trina in what I assume is meant to be her house. In a rather pronounced case of Scriptus Convenientous, it just so happens that Trina has had in her possession Yajaira’s backpack all this time, while failing to look inside it. Inside are copies (I guess) of the photos that got her killed.
Meanwhile, Blacky is meeting with Vasquez, per the scene where he was demanding more money. Apparently Blacky never saw an episode of Barnaby Jones, since Vasquez says about half a dozen things that bad guys always say before killing somebody trying to blackmail them. Blackie follows instructions and gets into a car, where a member of the Cutthroat Mafia lives up to the group’s name. Vasquez dumps his body, sneering, “You wanted a big cut.” Get it? A ‘big cut’?
Amazingly, Cahill apparently actually coughed up enough money to buy one of those stage knives that leaves a trail of fake blood in its wake. It’s a gag familiar to any sixth grader, but on this film it represents the, er, very acme of special effects. (I almost wrote ‘cutting edge’ special effects, but that was a little too on the nose.) Exit Blacky.
Meanwhile, Gabby is grabbed up by some bangers. Reefer Man then intercepts McClure and orders him to come along if he wants to see her alive again. (Luckily, the only students in the entire school right now seem to be those directly involved in the story.) Then we see Burke in his convertible and are treated to a ‘comedy’ scene where a black guy tries to sell him drugs, only to run away when Burke flashes his badge. Then Burke looks at something off-camera and drives off. I’m assuming he is supposedly seeing McClure being led out of the school, although that is at best conjecture.
McClure is taken to the Principal’s house, who greets him with a gun. (Yes, if I were going to murder an undercover police detective, I’d arrange to do it in my home, too.) “I want to know what information you have on us,” he demands. Well, he didn’t really have any before, at least on your involvement, but he sure does now.
Having McClure in his power, the Principal naturally grants his request to see Gabby while also answering all of his (sort of) plot-clarifying questions. He is then just about to shoot when Burke pops up. McClure leaps over to Gabby and knocks her to the ground, out of the path of any errant bullets. As he does this, we can see the pad they laid on the ground to protect the actors, which is clearly, albeit inadvertently, in shot.
Burke takes out two henchmen during some poorly blocked out gunplay (still sans blanks), while McClure frees Gabby of her bonds. By now the Principal has disappeared from sight, and we learn that Burke has been shot in the shoulder, so that McClure can run off solo and do what a man’s gotta do. He creeps around the house looking for his opponent, in a scene that suggests less a master gunfighter than a middle-aged suburban guy trying his hand at paint ball for the first time.
The raw visceral suspense ends when he takes out the Principal, in a scene that doesn’t exactly scream ‘breathtaking thrills.’ Again, it’s more like watching two young kids play gunfight and ending with one of them grabbing his chest, going “Auugggh!”, sticking his tongue out and falling over in a careful manner. Although to be fair, the guy playing the Principal doesn’t stick his tongue out.
Meanwhile, Vasquez and his crew are in the garage playing ping-pong (!!) and sitting in those atrocious, two-buck white extruded plastic chairs. It’s a glamorous life in the drug trade. Apparently instead of investing in better furniture—like ten-dollar fold up chairs—the Principal must have spent a good deal of his ill-gotten loot on having his garage sound-proofed, since none of them have heard any of the numerous shots occurring elsewhere on the grounds.
They are, moreover, barbequing some food on a propane grill, despite the fact that both the garage door and the connecting door to the house are closed (!!). Why would they do this? So that the smoke will force one of them to open the connecting door. (Yeah, opening the main door to the outside makes no sense when your goal is ventilation). Much to my lack of surprise, the open door ‘dramatically’ reveals a waiting McClure. He Stooge Fu’s the first guy, then draws his gun on the other five and orders them up against the wall.
Like Burke, however, he’s too quick to turn his back, and the first dude recovers and jumps him. Vasquez runs off, but luckily for our hero, none of his henchmen, who hang around, are carrying guns. The result is the film’s ‘big’ fight scene, although it’s not any less ridiculous or more impressive, just longer. Aside from the typically cartoonish sound effects, highlights include McClure pushing one guy’s face into the barbeque (ick), and another guy falling on his knife. My favorite bit was McClure beating off one large guy with typically featherweight ping pong paddles. Maybe Jackie Chan could pull off making that look possible, but Cahill can’t.
By the time McClure collects his gun and goes after Vasquez, the latter has (three guesses) grabbed Gabby and is holding his gun at her head. Gabby (three more guesses) then busts that move that McClure coincidentally taught her, the one to be used when someone is holding their gun to your head. In effect, this involves grabbing the gun hand and pointing it elsewhere. Luckily, the move appears pretty easy to do, even when the gun wielder out-masses you by about 80%. This affords McClure a clean shot, and he takes it. He and Gabby then embrace andâ€¦ the movie just ends. Welcome to Abrupt Go to Credits Theater.
I can’t help but notice that McClure really doesn’t do much. He gathers information, and that’s almost all he does. He promises his Captain to take out both gangs, but by the time he makes the scene, their war has already begun. McClure does end up capturing or finishing off the leaders of each faction, but that’s a mopping up operation following events that he really had little to do with.
Meanwhile, the roles of Blacky and the Principal are never made clear. I guess they murdered Yajaira on their own, and kept the secret from Vasquez to avoid drawing his and the Cutthroat Mafia’s ire. Maybe. However, didn’t they realize this would likely set off the gangs to killing one another? I assumed in the beginning that this was actually the point—the Principal and Blacky getting the rivals to bump each other off, whereupon they could take over the drug trade—but in the end it turns out they were working for Vasquez. In a good script, their apparent and inadvertent incompetence would be interesting. Here it just seems like the script was composed of a bunch of stuff that they never bothered to fit together.
Director/Screenwriter/Producer/Star James Cahill’s name appears in the opening and closing credits a total of eight times, including two “A James Cahill Film” cards. His name appears third in the closing acting credits (but first in the opening credits), although his is the only name to appear in red, making it stand out. Which is good, because his acting certainly didn’t do that. His parents, Mike and Ida, also get a shout out.