Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Not to be confused with ‘The A-Team’ we have ‘The Hero Team’ in the movie ‘Play Dead’, which was apparently an 80’s style action show starring the character of Blue Hero as played by washed up actor Ronnie Reno (Chris Klein). It can’t be a real 80’s TV show since Chris Klein would’ve been like two or three years old during the A-Team’s heyday. But it looks as if ‘The Hero Team’ has been off the air a bit with Devon the Red Hero (Michael Beach) going on to become a soap opera star and Eddy the Yellow Hero (Dean Delray)… if I got those colors right… I don’t think I did… becoming the ultimate method actor. Ronnie on the other hand hasn’t been right since his girlfriend did him wrong years ago and has been unemployed since that show went off the air.

Then Ronnie, depressed over his last blown audition, drives and drives until his car breaks down in some remote Nevada town, but fortunately he is found by the somewhat mentally disabled Ledge (Fred Durst) who gives him a lift into town. Now ledge told Ronnie not to use his bathroom but you know how those spoiled television actors are and he does it any. This is a really bad move because of Ronnie’s inability to follow simple directions, now Ledge can’t allow the failed actor to leave town. In fact it’s looking like Ledge is going to have to kill Ronnie, despite the fact that Ledge was HUGE fan of ‘The Hero Team’.

But as Ledge’s sister Carolanne (Sasha Alexander) points out, Ledge by nature isn’t really a murderer but it’s her mean and evil drug running husband Ray (Paul Francis) and his ruthless brothers who run this town who make Ledge do these bad things that the retard really doesn’t want to do. Now I’m not calling Ledge a retard, but that would be Ray’s brother Dickford (Timothy Ray Hensel) being all socially irresponsible like that, calling Ledge a retard. This should illuminate what a bad person he is.

Now Ronnie might be able to save his life if he can effectively convince Ray and his other brother Merle (Jake Busey) that he is Duke Richard and can effectively perform the opening monologue from Richard III. We’ve seen Ronnie act and we don’t think he can pull that off. He doesn’t and it becomes clear that Ray has real problem with his poorly performed Shakespeare. Now Ledge has to kill Ronnie for real, that is unless somehow Ronnie can convince the former members of his old team to reunite and save the town.

This movie ‘Play Dead’ is interesting in the sense that it is half pretty good and half horrible. As the movie begins it looks like a comedy with the problem being the comedy isn’t really all that funny, or at least the obvious attempts at comedy weren’t all that funny. Some of the more underlying comedic elements worked a little bit. But when Fred Durst shows up on the scene not only does the movie get a little funnier but it gets exponentially better, only to abruptly stop being funny because it’s looking like this ain’t no comedy anymore. Thus we have our small conundrum with this movie ‘Play Dead’ in that as a comedy, well, it's not so funny. But when it stops trying to be funny and turned itself into a violent crime flick, it became a pretty good movie.

The movies strength lies with the afore mentioned Fred Durst who is obviously some kind or modern renaissance man and with actor Paul Francis whose character of Ray Jones is almost a primer on how to be a bad guy. Ray, quite simply, is terrible. He’s a drug trafficker, he kills people indiscriminately, he punches his wife in the face, he punches his brother in law in the face, he punches bad actors in the face for butchering Shakespeare, but he always wears a smile when he’s abusing these people and he loves his baby girl Blue (Annabelle Bitterman) something fierce. It is the energy in which Paul Francis brings to the unredeemable character of Ray that makes ‘Play Dead’ always interesting when he’s on the screen.

Now as far as our actors who are off to save this town, well, Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short did this very same thing twenty or so years ago in ‘The Three Amigos’ and truth be told they didn’t really do it all that well. Klein, Beach and Delray aren’t Martin, Chase and Short so… you know… whaddayagonna do? Not that ‘Play Dead’ is completely devoid of laughter because it does have its moments and we do admire the effort, but for whatever reason the humor just didn’t work most of the time. At least it didn’t work for me.

‘Play Dead’ was half of a pretty good movie that worked best when it was being mean and violent and when it allowed it’s characters to behave naturally… or should I use my new word ‘organically’ to infuse humor into its narrative. Unfortunately it falls short when it actually goes out its way to be funny. But half of a good movie is better than no good movie at all I suppose.

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