Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review: Ticked-off Trannies with Knives

I’ve been debating for a couple of days as to whether or not I should review Ticked-off Trannies with Knives. I have no problem writing about what goes on onscreen in any flick. That’s what the site is all about. The problem is that this flick is pretty controversial in certain circles and communities. You know me, I’m slightly opinionated. Lets be honest, I’m a bit of a loudmouth. Hell, everyone’s entitled to my opinion. I don’t shy away from controversy either. I’ve already gotten a couple of angry complaint emails about things I’ve said on the blog. The issue of censorship is a hot button with the ol’ Son of Celluloid, so I know that there is absolutely no way I can bring myself to review this flick without weighing in on the protests. I know that I might even piss some people off or alienate readers, but what the hell? That's how I roll. Here goes nothin’.

First, let’s talk about the movie itself. It’s a throwback to the 70’s grindhouse “rape/revenge” exploitation films. Bubbles is raped and beaten up by Boner. It seems Boner didn’t know Bubbles was a tranny until past “the point of no return” and he’s none too happy. He and his two buddies track Bubbles and her transgender cohorts and attempt to finish the job. They succeed in killing two out of the five in the group. When Bubbles wakes up from a coma, the three remaining chicks decide that it’s time for a little good old fashioned payback. It’s a simple, familiar story.

Lets start with the good. Rachel Slurr, played by notable drag performer William Belli, is pretty funny. She’s the “dumb, offensive, but loyal” friend. All of the best lines in the flick belong to her. If you took Jason Mewes as Jay, put him in drag, gave him no lines about drugs but even more lines about dick, and dialed down the “funny” a bit, you’d have Rachel Slurr. Krystal Summers as Bubbles and Tom Zembrob as Boner were great. Krystal was surprisingly adept for a first time actress. She had the perfect balance of vulnerable and tough required to be a believable heroine a revenge flick. Tom Zembrob was menacing and creepy. Imagine a redneck version of David Hess from any of the Last House movies (on the Left, at the Edge of the Park, etc.) and you’ve got the picture. Not only are they good on their own, but their chemistry is great. When these two are on screen together, magic happens. They are in the same scene for roughly 50 minutes out of the film’s hour and a half running time. It’s a good thing too, because the other half of the film is damn near unwatchable.

I get that this was a throwback grindhouse flick, but this movie overdid it. It had more obnoxious fake grain, burned film, screen lines, and “reel missing” gags than Machete, Planet Terror, and Deathproof combined. Take a lesson from Hobo with a Shotgun folks, you can make a movie look like it’s from that period without the garish fake patina. Another thing it stole from Deathproof is that for the first twenty minutes, nothing happens except for the main characters talking. In that movie, it was annoying. In this movie, it’s unbearable. The dialog, which sounds half scripted and half improvised, consists of catty queens sniping at each other for what seems like forever. Not exactly my idea of entertaining. If you are one of those “flaming automatically equals funny” people, you might dig it. To me, it was just monotonous.

After that we get the scene in the warehouse where the attack happens. Like I said earlier, Boner is great, but his two stereotypical Mexican henchmen are very one note. I know they didn’t need to be much more than they were, and they served their purpose, but giving them some semblance of a character would have been nice. This scene is entertaining though, and the blood-matted hair stuck to the bat was a beautiful touch. It’s one of the Bubbles/Boner scenes I was talking about earlier. The fight choreography could have used a lot of work, especially the scenes involving Pinky La’Trimm, which is an issue later too, but even that can’t kill these good scenes.

Then Bubbles wakes up in the hospital, and the next 20 minutes are mind blowingly bad. We get a way too long charades bit (why is there canned food beside her hospital bed anyway?), a way too long “speech impediment on the phone” gag, and a 10 minute scene devoted to stretching the already thin joke that the doctor’s name is Phil Latio and the nurse is Connie Lingus. Get it? They drug a joke out until it was way beyond funny any more so many times that I was wondering if the Family Guy writers had a hand in it. I expected a 5 minute Conway Twitty song at any moment. The only thing remotely interesting in this middle section of the movie, the girls kung fu training, was cut out with a “missing reel” gag. Basically, they were trying to go for the feel of an early John Waters film, but the script doesn’t have the wit and the actors aren’t outrageous enough to pull off Desperate Living or Female Trouble. Sorry ladies.

The final part takes place as the three remaining gals get their revenge. The only real issue I have with this section is that with all of the stabbings and throat slittings, there’s very little blood. Wounds that should be gushing merely trickle. Half of the stabs and cuts don’t even bleed at all. You don’t have to go over the top with it if you don’t want to, but at least make it realistic. It’s a shame too, because aside from the lack of blood, the effects were done very well. This is another Bubbles and Boner scene though, with Rachel thrown in for good measure, so I dug it.

Now that we’ve gone over the flick itself, on to the controversy. GLAAD and various other transgender activist groups have been protesting the movie, even demanding that it be withdrawn from last year’s Tribeca film festival. In addition to taking offense to the word “Tranny,” they claim that it makes light of real violent hate crimes against transgender people. They also claim that it is an unrealistic representation of the lives of transgender females. They actually tried to shut down screenings of the film throughout last year. Before I share my thoughts, let me say that I think discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is ridiculous. As I like to say, what you like to lick doesn’t matter to me. Neither does what gender you want to dress and identify as. I couldn’t give less of a damn about that stuff, and I don’t judge based on it. That isn’t the issue here at all.

My thoughts on the subject are as follows: CHILL OUT AND GET OVER YOURSELVES! It’s a movie. I’m not going to go into how much I think the whole “political correctness” thing has gotten insanely out of hand, as this isn’t the time or the place, so whether or not they should have used the actual word “Tranny” I’m not going to address. What I will talk about is how ludicrous it is to get so butt-hurt over a movie like this. Then again, considering some of the dialog and action in the flick, butt-hurt might not be the best choice of words. Anyway, it’s an exploitation flick people. The whole point of a movie in this genre is that nothing is sacred, everyone is fair game, and bad taste is the norm. It’s not supposed to be a realistic portrayal of the transgender community, and it’s not supposed to have a heavy handed anti hate crime message. Did you really expect it to? Were these folks really dumb enough to expect a movie with a title like “Ticked-off Trannies with Knives” to be a message flick like Boys Don’t Cry or Milk? Come on folks. No, the violence isn’t realistic. You know why? Because the victims get their revenge! That’s not the norm in real life, and I would think that errs on the side of trans-powerment. Yes, it is a word. I think. This movie is an idiotic thing to get offended over. What offends me is that a group like GLADD that is all about tolerance and rights turns to the age old tactic of censorship as it’s method of attacking a perceived threat. Awful hypocritical of you there guys. For someone who claims to support equal rights for everyone, when you take offense to something, you guys sure seem ready to try to fight against their right to be seen and heard. Censorship is never the answer. My whole point is, it’s a movie. As Krystal Summers herself said “It is not a documentary, but a work of fiction and a revenge fantasy.” I’m not against GLADD as an organization, but trying to shut down movie screenings because you’re offended really sticks in my craw. Unbunch your panties, quit trying to ban things, and calm the hell down.

I know what you’re saying. I’m a straight, white, middle class male. What business do I have speaking on any issue facing a minority? I knew you would, so I got a second opinion. I want to introduce you all to Tina. Say hi Tina. You can follow her at this link. Tell her Nathan sent ya. Anyway, Tina is one of my best friends. She is also one of the blog’s biggest supporters, constantly pimping it all over the place. Furthermore, Tina is a transgender gal herself, so I figured she would be perfect to weigh in on the controversy. According to her, the term Tranny is viewed as offensive by some, but not all, and she doesn’t find it offensive personally. When I asked her if she found the violence in the flick offensive, she said “As far as people within the LGBT community complaining about the use of violence in the film...kind of ridiculous in my opinion. Trans women deal with violence or the threat thereof on an almost constant basis. We shouldn't run away from showing that on film. You have to take the film for what it is, a blaxsploitation-esque "I Spit on Your Grave" with 5 Trans women instead of 1 genetic female.” My thoughts exactly. She did, however, say “I do find the fact that they didn't fill all the trans roles with trans actresses offensive though. There are plenty out there that would have loved to do it.” I can see her point, but as far as casting goes, I would have given it to the best performer regardless of whether they were trans or not. Then again, as Tina says “A queen is never going to accurately portray a trans woman.” I do agree with that. I had a hard time confirming the “status” of the actresses, but at most 3 were actual trans, and they all seemed way more “drag queen” than “transgender woman.” I see both sides of that argument, but at least we agree that getting upset over violence in an exploitation flick is ridiculous.

All of the controversy aside, the movie is very uneven. When Ticked-off Trannies with Knives is good, it’s damn good; but when it’s bad, it’s horrid. The scene of the initial attack and the revenge scene are definitely effective. They’re a lot of fun too. Here’s my suggestion, watch the opening scene to get familiar with the characters. Then go make a sandwich or something, and come back 20 minutes in when the warehouse scene starts. When you see the hospital, go make a drink or let the dog out or do anything else but watch this movie for the next 20 minutes. Then, when you see Bubbles at home in her bathrobe, watch the rest from there. Trust me, it’s an enjoyable movie and well worth seeing if you watch it that way. It’s an endurance test if you watch it straight through. It’s half of a good movie, so I’ll give it one severed thumb up. Nathan says check it out.

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