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Now I’m going to slip on my kid gloves with this one, though you must believe me when I tell you that ‘Death Toll’ is simply terrible, but director Phenomenon is trying to slip a message across here. Of course any man who has chosen to call himself Phenomenon has opened himself to all kinds of ridicule and probably should get exactly what he deserves. I mean that’s like me telling folks to stop using Christopher and start calling me Awesome. My name is Awesome now. Not Awesome Armstead, though that does have a nice ring to it, but just plain Awesome. Or Devastating. I think I like Devastating better. Also, in 99.99 percent of all movies with opening credits, the director’s name usually comes last… but not my man Phenomenon as his name comes first. Before his Stars, before the title, before everything. Just an observation.

We are in New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina as we meet police detective Coulon (Alec Rayme) who is getting ready for work while his INCREDIBLY bitchy wife Cheryl (Brittany M. Parker) rails on him for all kinds of stuff, most particularly that his partner, Detective Bathgate (Leila Arcieri) keeps calling him wondering where the hell he is. I mean this dudes wife really, really sucks. Admittedly, if Leila Arcieri were MY partner and I had to spend all hours of the day trapped in a car with this abnormally voluptuous example of glorious femininity, my wife had best be concerned too, but damn, she is my partner. We also get to meet Mirie (Keisha Knight Pulliam) who’s dressed like a prostitute on a corner talking to some drug dealer named Slinky who’s trying to push up until another pusher named Pee Wee caps his ass. Mirie we will learn is actually nurse even though we never her do any nurse type stuff. Hell, even her man didn’t know she was a nurse. So Pee Wee works for some dude who is a Pusher / Rap producer and he’s all upset that Pee Wee didn’t kill Mirie so now Pee Wee is crawling the streets looking for Mirie to complete his capping duties. Slinky’s boys are all upset that Slinky got capped so now they’re about to raise hell on Pee Wee and them while trying to protect Mirie.

Then we have our police Chief who likes to eat Twizzlers and not do his job which upsets the 2nd generation Mayor of this town, Padial (Lou Diamond Phillips), who gets constantly reminded how bad he sucks compared to his old man.  New Orleans has a murder problem and now the Feds have moved in led by one Agent Sax (Jeff Gelpin), and Assistant D.A. Stone (Margo Swisher) who has a cup size rivaling Leila Arcieri, is all pissed off because she can’t get a conviction, while screwing Mayor Padial on the side.  Meanwhile our pair of cops from the beginning are snatching kids out of crowds, pulling guns on them and threatening to kill them – in front of freaking everybody – if they don’t talk.  Detective Coulon is also constantly getting calls from his wife, while he’s on stake out no less, bitching him out about having a sexy partner.  There are more characters and more situations and more cappings, but this thing got way out of hand a long time ago.

Notice that I didn’t mention DMX, though his picture is on the box cover and he is listed as one of the films stars.  You see he’s not really in the ‘movie’ in the sense that he interacts with no characters or anything, he just pops up a couple of times to give a few short dialogs in a darkened room.  Sometimes they mention the character of ‘Dog’ who I guess is supposed to be DMX but… hell I don’t know.  The problems with ‘Death Toll’ are vast and numerous with the first thing that will stand out to you being the atrocious acting by even the known professional members of the cast, and trickling down from there.  DMX wasn’t even really in the movie so we won’t count him, but this had to be the easiest check the brother has ever cashed.  It was odd seeing known actors in scenes that looked like they were shot in somebody’s bedroom or an office that they used because someone in the production crew knew somebody.  The only good thing is that I’m assuming Phenomenon cast a few locals, which is admirable, though majority of them couldn’t act a lick.  If you can survive the acting then you have to deal with the incredibly fractured script which has no less than four listed authors.  There is no flow from scene to scene, most of what’s happening before us is incoherent, there are way too many characters to try to keep track of, a few completely worthless sex scenes, and incredibly improbable plot twists.  The framing, staging, cinematography, sound and camera work were pretty lousy too.  What can I tell you?

Good things about Death Toll?  Well it had hot women in it, because I’ve learned no matter how bad your movie may be, you should still be able to find hotties to slip up in there.  Leila Acieri is hot to distraction, and it pains me to say it but Little Rudy has blossomed into quite the beautiful woman, at damn near thirty years old – thus highlighting the fact that I’m getting old at an unbelievably rapid pace, Margo Swisher is stacked to the ceiling, and there other wayward hotties just floating around doing nothing. Phenomenon also tried to use his film to shine a light on New Orleans post Katrina and all of the problems they are experiencing down there, which we admire, but doesn’t keep his movie from sucking.  Hard.

Unfortunately all the good intentions in the world can’t make for what is a really, really poor film.  This is Devastating (my new name) signing out for the FCU.

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