Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Thought I was getting soft in my old age as I had seen as stretch of about seven or eight movies that I didn’t hate, leading me to believe that perhaps the entertainment that I subject myself to daily had so pickled my brain that even the simplest moving image could manage to keep me entertained for ninety minutes or so. Thank goodness for ‘American Crude’ which is so substandard and shitty, despite its fairly interesting premise and borderline A-list cast, that I am reassured that I simply ran into a good stretch of decent flicks and that though my brain may still be soft and pickled, it ain’t THAT gatdamn soft and pickled.

‘American Crude’ is one of those ensemble crime dramedies that used to pop up in the mid to late nineties after ‘Pulp Fiction’, that for the most part, uniformly sucked. I really thought this particular genre of film had gone ahead and died the good death since Madonna stole Guy Ritchie’s mojo and Quentin Tarantino doesn’t even bother to try to make these kinds of films anymore, but here we are, with long time actor Craig Sheffer in his directing debut, serving up theoretical criminal goodness.

Ron Livingston, as his character of Johnny the slick lawyer, tells a tale from prison of that fateful night in Los Angeles that landed him in the hoosegow. As he tells the tale, his best friend Bill (Rob Schneider) is days away from marrying a woman he happens to be in love with in Olivia (Amanda Detmer) who is also his wife Jane’s (Cynthia Wattros) best friend. Johnny takes the uptight Bill out for some bachelor party goodness and arranges it so Bill can have some good fun with exotic dancer / prostitute Gigi (Missy Pyle) who has that little something extra and lives downstairs from

handyman Jim (John C. McGinley) who she pays for his various tasks with sexual favors. Johnny also has a father (Raymond Berry) who is into white slavery trafficking along with the scurrilous Manny (John Iskander). The bad thing for Manny is that a Cuban girl he and his crew kidnapped, gang raped, and tossed in a dumpster back in the day named Carlos has grown into a rather hateful vengeful woman who looks exactly like Jennifer Esposito and shouts racial epithets towards her boyfriend Spinks (Michael Clarke Duncan) and has robbery and murder on her mind. Somehow all these various characters will intersect with each other through a series unlikely events with things turning out not too well for just about everybody we’ve met up to this point.

‘American Crude’ had no rhythm, it had no pace, and there was no flow to its jumbled and fractured narrative. That dialog sweet spot that movies of this ilk have been trying to reach ever since ‘Pulp Fiction’ was released back in whenever that was, is incredibly banal and lame, almost to point of being physically painful to listen to and oft times makes one wish ‘Pulp Fiction’ had never even been made as to avoid situations just like we have in this movie.

Since it’s a Drama / Comedy we have plenty of comedic elements but unfortunately they either fail, miss their mark or just plain misfire eighty percent of the time, but that does mean that twenty percent of the time they were funny which has gotta be worth something. The Dramatic elements of the story lacked any real drama, with one of the problems there being that the bulk of the characters in this thing were so damn unlikable and untenable that nobody could care less if anything bad happened to them. Despite the presence of known talents, just to name a few were in this flick, such as Michael Clarke Duncan, John C. McGinley, Ron Livingston and Jennifer Esposito who we would pay good money just to watch her clip her toenails, it is an amazing testament to the ineptitude of the script, one that manages to be almost as offensive as it is weak, that these actors were able to do practically next to nothing with the material that they were given here. Tragic.

I really don’t want to crap on Craig Scheffer because I’ve seen the dude in some interviews and he seems like a decent guy, in addition to starring in ‘The Program’ back in the day which is a movie that will always occupy a special place in our collective hearts, but perhaps not everybody is meant to direct. This isn’t to lay all the blame for ‘American Crude’ being so incredibly lame on Mr. Scheffer because it takes a team effort to pull off any kind of movie, be it bad or good, but he is the credited director so unfortunately he has to take the biggest hit. There are plenty worst movies out there than American Crude, no doubt, but there aren’t a lot of worse movies out there than this one, boasting a cast of actors as accomplished as this one has, and that’s just too bad.

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