Director: Max Perrier
Script: James Chancellor, Danek S. Kaus, Simon Perrier
Cast: Paul Burke, Paula Davis, Anastasia Bondarenko
Running time: 82 minutes
Year: 2006
Certificate: 15
Reviewed by: Richard James

Occasionally, a film comes along that refines and influences cinema from that point onwards. A low budget movie that distils all that is great about cinema and pushes upwards to far greater things. I am thinking about John Carpenter’s Halloween, made on a shoestring but with such love for the craft that it was embraced by millions. I am thinking of Reservoir Dogs, a film that came out of nowhere to establish Tarantino as a director of considerable skill and finesse, tied to a screenplay that gripped from the first frame. I am thinking of Christopher Nolan’s Following, a low budget brain scrambler that showed the UK can produce a director unafraid of challenging his audience.

Dead Man’s Luck is nothing like any of these films.

As our hapless and hopeless protagonist, Sam, ends up lost on the back roads of rural Canada, he turns off to follow a dust track to a nearby farmhouse. How prescient the sign ‘Live Turkeys for Sale’ is, having watched the film! Upon arriving at the house, a stilted scene ensues between Sam and the farmer’s wife which would not have looked out of place in Acorn’s Antiques. Reminiscent of Monty Python’s Enid Gumby, adorned in the wellies that will see her through the film, the farmer’s wife exchanges lines with Sam with the gravitas of someone calling out numbers at the local bingo hall. After a mishap with a knife, Sam ends up locked in a toilet whilst an argument erupts outside the door. After escaping, Sam finds signs of a scuffle and a dead mutt on the floor. Upon further investigation, Sam finds the dead body of the farmer. It says a lot about the film that this character has a more interesting character arc than most of the others in the film. Not only does he redecorate the basement, he also gets to car boot, goes wild swimming in a quarry, loses his head before coming to rest in a picturesque orchard. After cleverly leaving his bloody paw prints all around the house, including on the murder weapon, our nitwit hero flees the scene. A little later, the penny drops that he might be being set up by the wife as a stooge for the murder, so with psychic good fortune, manages to get back to house to clean everything up before the police arrive. Which, oddly enough, they do shortly after, much to the annoyance of the farmer’s wife. After much foot stomping and bad acting, they leave her be.

Now you would think that would be the end of it, but, oh no, Sam’s shrewish wife makes her debut. A cold, calculating Russian stereotype cookie cutter character, Jan convinces Sam that they can make huge amounts of money from the un-merry widow by virtue of some insurance scam. As with everything else in the film, it is not explained how they might know this for a fact or why they would risk so much trampling around the countryside with a corpse in tow. Or even a corpse’s head, in a bag, in tow. Anyway, one ludicrous thing leads to another incredulity snapping thing whilst the viewer struggles to care until the whole shebang is wrapped up in a wince inducing final line uttered by our exasperated Sam.

It feels as though the film makers were aiming for a Blood Simple vibe, but unfortunately Dead Man’s Luck falls far short of the Coen brother’s first opus. It is billed as a comedy but falls flat in this respect by virtue of not being remotely funny. Or at least, it is funny for all the wrong reasons.

Although the story and acting is of questionable quality, the actual film making is rather better. The cinematography at times is wonderful, capturing the beauty of the Canadian landscape perfectly. The sound also aids with the worsening mental state of the main character, with a high pitched background whine reminiscent of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This becomes quite unnerving as the film progresses.

The DVD features three trailers and a making of short that seems to think it is documenting the making of Citizen Kane, replete with a portentous voice over. Now this was funny!

Review by Richard James

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