Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

A word of warning… this is my kind of movie. Therefore, considering that this style of movie is my kind of movie, all said movie has to do in order for me to get at least a little bit of enjoyment out of it is not be completely incompetent. Heaven forbid said film is actually decent because then it would stand to reason that I would really like this film. Just giving you good people out there some full disclosure that I enjoy watching violent, stark, unforgiving crime films that lack socially redeeming qualities and as such Cuba Gooding Jr.’s latest Straight to DVD effort ‘Wrong Turn at Tahoe’ was slanted in my favor at its conception stage.

Our film begins at its conclusion as we witness a gravely injured man named Joshua (Gooding Jr.) being ferried to get some much needed assistance by his employer, who is also injured, a man named Vincent (Miguel Ferrer). So the question would be how did these two gentlemen arrive at this particular point in time?

Joshua is a enforcer for Vincent who is some kind of mid-level mobster, and Joshua, along with his running mate Mickey (Johnny Messner) do the typical mob enforcer stuff such as bleeding clients for money and torturing them when they can’t produce those ends. The thing is it’s looking like Joshua has had about as much of ‘the life’ that he can stand and wants out. If these mobster types watched these types of movies like we watch these types of movies they would know that NO ONE walks gingerly out of ‘the life’. On one particular run Joshua and Mickey have to pay a visit to an old, cracked out, off his rocker neighborhood friend of Vincent’s named Jeff (Micheal Sean Tighe) who has informed Joshua that some drug dealer named Frankie Tahoe (Noel G) wants Vincent dead. Note that Jeff also claims to have been abducted by aliens so I’m thinking this info should be taken with a grain of salt. Nonetheless Joshua takes this information back to Vincent who really, really trusts this Jeff guy for some reason and they pay Frankie Tahoe a visit. Frankie Tahoe ain’t gonna make it through the night. Admittedly he did seem confused as to why these guys were beating him to death.

Problem is that Frankie Tahoe works for big time mob boss Mr. Nino (Harvey Keitel) and he’s none too happy that one of his top franchisees won’t be earning anymore and as such Mr. Nino desires restitution. We should also mention that Vincent is short tempered and insanely violent. If Vincent weren’t this way he wouldn’t have said some really unsavory things to Mr. Nino and Mr. Nino, in turn, wouldn’t have had to show his extreme displeasure towards Vincent for speaking to him in this way. What Mr. Nino did to Vincent only made my man even crazier and now it is revenge time. So just sit back and observe as Vincent, with his lone loyal employee Joshua… something kinda happened to Mickey along the way… lead an assault against Mr. Nino and his heavily armed fortress of inequity. Outstanding.

Directed by Franck Khalfoun who also directed the efficient, if not very original ‘damsel in distress’ flick ‘P2’, Wrong Turn at Tahoe is also very efficient… and also not all that original. At its very simple core this is a crime revenge flick, very pure and very basic. We have a bunch of mean guys who talk tough, do bad things and then say bad things to you while they are doing bad things to you. It doesn’t get a heckuva lot simpler than that and we appreciate the fact that Mr. Khalfoun kept his movie relatively free of extemporaneous melodrama, out of left field plot twists and unnecessary red herrings while strictly keeping the focus on the business at hand. What gives the filmmakers the freedom to stay focused on this task at hand is a fine cast of veteran actors who obviously understood the material in addition to having the skill to deliver a line of dialog and make it believable. Miguel Ferrer was unnerving as Vincent, Noel G was funny as Frankie Tahoe and Harvey Keitel is Harvey Keitel. I’m thinking they might’ve made Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character of Joshua just tad more ruthless and maybe a bit more harsh, recognizing that this a movie completely devoid of ‘good guys’ and that making Joshua completely heartless would’ve provided no balance to Vincent, but he still seemed a little bit too nice, especially considering that his character was almost bred at birth for a life of enforcing criminal acts.

So considering that I have a bias towards these kinds of movies, just like I have a bias against the romantic comedy, take it with a grain of salt when I tell you that ‘Wrong Turn at Tahoe’ was pretty darn good movie. It has enough of a story to keep you interested but also managed to stay out its own way as the director didn’t feel the need to show us all the fancy tricks he learned in film school, in addition to having the wisdom to put the weight of this movie on the shoulders of his fine cast actors who did not disappoint.

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