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Lou Diamond Phillips (#110 of 2)

Summer of ‘89: Renegades

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Summer of ’89: Renegades
Summer of ’89: Renegades

Dusting off cornpone genre titles from the 80s, there’s always a tacit hope that yesterday’s shit will be today’s shinola—that the canned wisdom and twinkly piano-soaked conventions of a still-maligned decade can somehow look genius in hindsight. Sadly, whatever was wrong with Jack Sholder’s Renegades upon release is still wrong today. Starring Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips, the film is exactly self-aware enough to invite comparisons to other, better culture-clash cop tales, but it lacks both the postmodern zeal to one-up them or the muscularity of production to challenge them as actioners. This is even more perplexing given the two leads; the Sutherland/Phillips pairing makes sense given that Renegades was sandwiched between both installments of Young Guns, but the actors’ stilted anti-chemistry casts the film’s potential to dust. What’s left is a thin daguerreotype of an idea that was losing steam before cameras were even rolling.

Sutherland, hiding his spectacularly disproportionate youth behind a soggy brown moustache and, presumably, a small lake’s worth of cocaine, stars as a plainclothes cop named Buster McHenry, on fire with indignation at the sorry state of police corruption in…some amalgam of Toronto, Philadelphia, and the Southwest. (The film was a U.S.-Canadian coproduction.) Out to avenge the death of his straight-shooter detective father, McHenry poses more of a threat to his own career than to the crooked cops of the establishment, but he can’t help himself—especially after the law turns a blind eye as his undercover work sees him aiding and abetting actual crimes. Participating in a botched diamond heist, Buster crosses paths with a young Native American named Hank Storm (Phillips), entrusted by his Lakota Sioux elders with a sacred lance. Hank, his father (Floyd Red Crow Westerman), and his brother are presenting the spear at a museum exhibition when Buster and his mob cronies blast through. The mafioso heavy, Marino (Rob Knepper), murders Hank’s brother and takes the spear.

Sundance Film Festival 2012: Filly Brown and Robot and Frank

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Sundance Film Festival 2012: <em>Filly Brown</em> and <em>Robot and Frank</em>
Sundance Film Festival 2012: <em>Filly Brown</em> and <em>Robot and Frank</em>

Filly Brown plays out like a caricature of every stereotypical Sundance drama about plucky young heroines who overcome great adversity just by sticking to their guns and never abandoning their dreams. Unfortunately, the filmmakers don’t know how to dramatize the travails of a supposedly talented Latina rapper—“supposedly” because the song that’s meant to prove she’s a talented and soulful performer has laughably obnoxious lyrics that boast how Maria “Filly Brown” Tonorio (newcomer Gina Rodriguez) is true to herself because she doesn’t have “fake tits” or that she’s so fierce that she practically has two clitorises and will even take on “anyone with two tits.” But these lyrics aren’t apparently all that Maria’s about; there’s also her naïve free-style verses about how Latinos working minimum-wage jobs in Los Angeles go unnoticed by rich white folks. Maria’s sophomoric calls for people to notice the guy that washes their cars is understandable; she is, after all, presented as a young, boastful star-in-the-making. But what’s not as defensible is the constant way that neophyte screenwriter and co-director Youssef Delara defines Maria’s world in broad and laughably klutzy terms.